Thursday, July 30, 2009

Getting Past Judgments

This morning we visited LOTS (Lord of the Streets) where a Bible Study for the homeless was taking place. It was such a humbling experience. I went into the Bible study, hoping that the leader would preach truth, but, with out even thinking about it, judged the people. I did not go into thinking about judgments on these people, but thought about how I am sure these people probably don't know much about the Bible; they just come for coffee or just come because they feel like they should...I was not thinking about this judgment until I was completely surprised to hear what was coming out of their mouths. God really spoke to me. These people are homeless, not stupid and certainly not on a lower understanding of God or their relationship with God than me. In fact, I would be willing to bet that many of my new homeless friends had a greater faith and relationship with God than I did. I am even embarrassed to admit this, but I was truly humbled by this experience and want to show you how our GREAT God has been working in my life.
We studied spiritual gifts in 2 Corinthians 12:1-12. These people spoke of how some of us have different gifts than others, even the homeless have gifts! I know this shouldn't come as a surprise to me, but I NEVER once thought about it. I never thought about this subject, but I obviously had a underlying opinion on the subject since I was so jolted by those words. These homeless people are the same as you and me. We all have God given gifts and just because I am middle-class does not mean that God would give me a gift that He wouldn't give a homeless person. Our circumstances are different, but our God is the same! What an epiphany that I had, but sad that I did not realize sooner. I am ashamed!
They also spoke of God's grace being shown to us in the sun. It rose today and we did not even have to pay a bill or anything for it. It was a gift from God. They also spoke about how some of us slept on beds and some of us slept on concrete, but we all slept. They were so happy that God had given them rest and were grateful for the things I take for granted. I can not even explain all I learned from these men and women of God, who are homeless on earth but have a home with their heavenly Father. Could I praise God as they do and speak of Him as they do if I were in their circumstances? I pray I would, but I am not sure I could.
-Jeni Ellis, CSM Houston Summer 2009 City Host

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wanted: Compassion for Homeless

A new program has started, encouraging high-schoolers to understand homeless populations in an effort to reduce hate crimes against the poor. Keep praying for the government, as this is surely a step in the right direction!!

Wanted: Compassion for Homeless

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in the city!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Simply Serve; Serve Simply

"Simply serve; serve simply" is our little catch phrase for the summer and as each week passes it seems to take on a whole new look in my life.
Each week I discuss with my groups how to take the lessons they have learned here home with them. When we first start looking at how to love and serve outside an environment that fosters that attitude it seems like a daunting task.
Enter Matthew 25.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Yup. It is a huge task to go and serve in our hometowns. It is a huge task to create in us a lifestyle of service and love. It is a huge task to be the image of the invisible to people. It is a huge task to be the aroma of Christ. It is a huge task to take care of the poor, the poor in spirit, the hungry and the needy.
But He makes it clear that we are called to do unto the least of these as we would do unto Him. He makes it clear how to do that. If we see someone hungry we should feed them. If someone needs clothes we clothe them. I love how in this passage He takes a huge task and simply tells us how to take care of it. He doesn't tell us what feeding the poor and clothing the naked and visiting the sick and incarcerated looks like in our hometowns. That he leaves up to us to figure out how that plays out. But He clearly tells us to simply serve and that serving can be simple.
I like that.
It leaves room for you and I to be creative in how we meet these needs. It gives us a clear outline of what is expected of us though. And it reminds us that in all we do that we are doing it unto God. That every time we meet the needs of others it is like we are meeting a need of God and each time we ignore the needs of others we are ignoring His needs.
It really can be simple.
So as I begin to think about returning to school I have to start thinking how this summer will go with me and how I will continue what God has started here. I challenge you with the same task: to find a way to serve where you are. Who are the least of these in your town or life? How will you meet the needs of God through them? Or will you be a goat...
-Jody Glazner, CSM Nashville Summer 2009 City Host

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Living as Strangers

“Since you call on a God who judges man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.”-St. Peter

Wooh! What a weekend, I think to myself as I drive down the road on Sunday morning back to the housing site. My family had left DC this morning, after coming for the weekend to visit and see the sites. After two full days of walking back and forth across the Mall to various memorials, standing in line to see precious national treasures, or slowly maneuvering through the various Smithsonian exhibits, I was exhausted. What is more, I realized I had another group coming in this afternoon around 4 that I needed to be spiritually and physically ready to greet and lead through an exciting week of seeing Jesus through serving in the city.

Having a new group come in is always exciting, not simply because it is a new batch of kids and another full week of work, but because when the kids arrive they come as strangers to the city. Being a city host involves taking these strangers to the city and letting them see the issues, but more importantly, to put a personal face on these issues and in the process see Jesus behind it all. But there is a strange tension that emerges the longer the summer goes on, which I never had realized until today, after my weekend of being a tour guide to my family. City hosts become familiar to the city and forget that they too are to be strangers here.

When I first arrived in the city, it was a drastic change from the cornfields of Illinois to the historic sidewalks of the Capitol. I was the only one who had never lived in a ‘big city’ and was a complete and total stranger. And at that time, my prayer was not for survival, but to have eyes to see what God was doing here in DC and to respond in obedience. However, over time, familiarity took control. The ministry sites became comfortable, surface conversations with the homeless was easy, and even navigating the city became second nature. I was no longer a stranger to the city, but a native. And this was clearly the case, as I led my family around the city, no longer being upset about the homeless people I walked by outside along the Mall, or passionate about sharing Jesus with those I interacted with at museums. I was a native to the world, not a stranger.

When Peter asks us to live as strangers here, it is a stark challenge to the idea that one needs to be established and set up before effect Kingdom work can happen. When we forget we are to be strangers, we become comfortable and complacent, putting off to tomorrow what we can do today, biding our time until the time is up. New groups always have an amazing and eye opening experience because they come and leave as strangers to the city. As a host, I have missed the fact that no matter how long I live in the city (or for that matter, with my family, or at my college, or wherever) that I am a stranger and long for a home worthy of the Christ who lives in me.

So this week, Jesus, I pray that the new group that comes as strangers to the city, will allow me to reorient my life to being a stranger that I may not be lazy and complacent, but be actively doing your work at each opportunity given me. May I be uncomfortable again, and stand anxiously awaiting my home to be revealed from heaven. Help me be a stranger to the world, living in reverent fear only of You. Amen.

-Alex Thompson, CSM Washington DC Summer 2009 City Host

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Step by Step

In a blog post from last year we featured a new ministry out of Philadelphia called "Back on My Feet". Aimed at encouraging homeless individuals to gain a sense of accomplishment and lead them towards healing, many hope this new type of ministry will lead to even more transformation in the community! Check out a more recent article about all that's happening within "Back on My Feet"...

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Philadelphia...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

God is at work in Toronto!

As I sat down to blog about what has occurred at CSM Toronto over the last 2 weeks I found myself at a loss. Not because God was doing little, but instead because He has been doing so much. Do I talk about how God has matured each of us hosts and formed us into a group that is closer than I could have imagined? Do I mention how impressed I am that God has brought drastically different groups to serve Him in Toronto?
When it comes down to it, I think the thing that has impressed me the most with God and His work is how I have seen Him challenge the kids, whom I have been blessed to lead in service. Over the last two weeks, I have seen kids come to Toronto with presuppositions about the homeless and a strong "Us/Them" mentality. I have been blessed with the opportunity to hear one girl articulate her emotions so well, "When I came here, I thought that all homeless people were lazy bums. Through this week, I have seen that people who live on the streets are no different than I am. Many of them have not been blessed with the family that I have grown up in or have had a couple of events reshape what their life looks like."
This is just one of many ways that I have seen God work though the youth who have spent a week here in Toronto. I thank God that He has called me to be a part of CSM Toronto and their mission to raise up leaders in the Church who desire to live out James 1:26-27. "If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

-S. Daniel Hendon, CSM Toronto Summer 2009 City Host

Monday, July 20, 2009

No Hablo Español

This week I met a nice Hispanic man name Juan. He came to the US by himself to try to earn money to bring the rest of his family here. Now he has found himself with very little English words and on the street.
When our group met him we were raking up cigarette buts outside. He got on his hands and knees and starting scooping them up with his hands. His attitude and work ethic were amazing. I began talking to him and he just smiled the whole time and kept nodding his head in a way I knew he only understand one out of every five words I was saying. He asked if I spoke Spanish and I told him "un poco" We then proceeded to put together a very rough conversation but he had a great time laughing at me as I kept using the phrase "Como se dice _________" (“How do you say_________”). Then I pointed him to one of our leaders who spoke just a hair more than I did and helped him figure out how to get some new socks.
A little later I sat down with a guy named Derek and we were looking at Hebrews 11 and what faith meant and discussing how to read the Bible. Juan came up and asked me to translate it to Spanish but I couldn't. And it made me sad.
Sometimes you just don't have the skills or means to help someone they way they really need it. I had to remember that God is Sovereign and in control. I have to believe that God can meet the needs of Juan and others that I am not able to fully help. I love it when God uses us to meet the needs of others and in turn glorify Him. And one day I will fully grasp how Big He is and that it's not my job to help everyone. It is my job to be ready to go where He sends me.
Pray for Juan. Pray that he will continue to learn the language and that he will come across Christian resources that are in Spanish.
As for me, I'm off to practice my español skills.

-Jody Glazner, CSM Nashville Summer 2009 City Host

Friday, July 17, 2009

Groups survey 20 ‘meanest’ cities for homeless

A recent MSNBC article shows the ugly side of 20 cities - their intolerance and "meanness" towards their homeless communities. Unfortunately, a few of CSM's cities did make the list - Houston, TX (#7), San Francisco, CA (#11), Chicago, IL (#12), New York City (#14) and Los Angeles (#18).

How does your city rank? What are some things you can do to make it OFF the list??

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Neighbors

Homelessness is growing in America - especially in suburban communities. Read a recent article about growing homelessness trends...

Watch the Urban Entry video entitled "New Neighbors: The Suburbanization of Poverty"...

If you are a suburban group that serves with CSM, we have a question/challenge for you: How are you answering the call to serve those living in poverty in your very own community? Tell us how!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jesus is Free

One thing that I love about working in the inner city is getting back to the basics of the gospel and who Jesus is. I think that we as Christians tend to view Christ's atoning death on the cross for our sins and His resurrection as something to accept and believe at the beginning of our faith, and then to move onto the meatier doctrinal issues. I say this believing wholeheartedly that doctrine is essential for understanding how to live a life pleasing to the Lord, but never at the expense of ignoring or minimizing the cross. The cross should be the center and focus of our relationship with Jesus and our ministry to others. And in the inner city, that beautiful simplicity becomes more apparent and real.

A couple weeks ago, the Houston interns, along with the large junior high group we were hosting, attended a church service underneath a bridge. It was hosted by 1000 Hills Ministries, a mobile church that reaches out to the homeless community with multiple outdoor public services per week around the city. Sitting in folding chairs, hearing the trucks and cars rumble above us on the highway, we listened to a special guest choir and heard testimonies. As I sat in the folding chair, watching the people around me, I was struck by the sense of utter simplicity and purity of Jesus' presence under that bridge. I thought of the budding Church told about in the book of Acts, and felt tears in my eyes as I saw something very similar before me.

The emotion followed me back to the housing site, and I sat down to write the following poem. Who was Jesus, really? What kind of Savior was relevant to everyone from a middle-class teenager to a graduate student like myself to a homeless person who would later curl up on a piece of sidewalk to sleep? I think God let me see the answer that night:

Jesus is Free

Every thing and every person in the world requires something of you.

But Jesus is free.

You don't have to be rich,
or white.
You don't have to be powerful
or beautiful,
You don't even have to be clean (in any sense of the word).
You don't have to be eloquent
or be fluent in English.
You don't have to be educated,
or even sane.
You don't have to be 16, 18, 21, 25, or 55 years old.
You don't have to have it all together.
You don't have to come from a good family,
You don't have to have a clean record,
You don't even have to be out of jail.
You don't have to be married,
have children,
be talking to your children.
You don't have to be straight.
You don't have to be healthy,
or belong to a particular political party.
You don't have to have an address,
you don't need a bank account or good credit.

Because Jesus is everything, and everything He has is for all who ask.

Jesus is free.

-Katie Phelps, CSM Houston Summer 2009 City Host

Monday, July 13, 2009

Let Freedom Ring

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” –St. Paul to the Galatians
It is the 4th of July in the nation’s capital. The Mall is lined with tourists eager to celebrate this great country, vendors looking to make a buck off the national holiday as they wave American flag bandannas and umbrellas they wish to sell, and the average Washingtonians (who are almost indistinguishable from the tourists today, other than they aren’t running around looking at the city with wide eyes). Everyone gathers around the monuments and other politically important edifices. All of them are here to celebrate one thing: freedom.
As the celebration commences, I sit on the Capitol lawn watching artists such as Aretha Franklin (who opens the evening with a soulful adaptation of the Star Spangled Banner), Barry Manilow (who is still rocking the mullet), and many others. Then come the fireworks and cannon shots that echo through the streets and illuminate the night sky behind the Washington monument. All of the city is on the same page tonight: celebrating freedom.
On Sunday, things go back to the normal way of life. But tonight, the whole town acknowledges the fact that they have freedom and jumps through all sorts of hoops to celebrate it. But are they really free at all?
When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he stated that despite the rules and regulations of the written code; despite the laws of circumcision, dietary restrictions, and Sabbath keeping, Christ had come to bring real freedom. Now in the Roman world, freedom was a rare thing-often paid for at a high price by a slave, for the majority of the rule of the Empire restricted to the area near and around Rome, only being given to the rest of the rich male property owners in the area where the Galatians lived much later in history (around 212 CE, a century after Paul). But Paul insists here that freedom has been given through Jesus Christ, not from the Jewish law or through the hands of the Roman emperor. It is Christ alone that gives freedom. Surely Americans, with their rich history of ‘fighting for freedom,’ realize the cost of being truly free. Freedom is all but cheap, now as it was then, and yet Paul has the audacity to say that true freedom is available to all simply by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And it is this freedom alone that sets one free.
As I sit and watch the masses celebrate freedom, I wonder if they are even free at all. What is keeping them slaves? Is it drugs and alcohol, cheap substitutes for the joy given in Christ Jesus? Or is it pride and materialism, the American dream that sets the self as the sole focus of living, with desires to be satisfied immediately? Or perhaps it is slavery to fear, whether it is fear of the unsure future or fear of the past being uncovered, fear of not being good enough or simply fear of death itself. If only these people were celebrating the freedom we have in Christ, the gift of Christ, not the gift of the American political machine, would they have a reason to celebrate. No Declaration, Constitution, or Bill of Rights will ever bring full freedom-for these documents never conquered sin and death, were never raised from the dead. No, Christ alone gives freedom because through the cross and the empty tomb he has been demonstrated by the power of God to be the bearer of freedom.
As the masses disperse, filing out of the Mall and onto buses and subways to head home, perhaps to sleep off there full bellies or to begin a smaller fireworks display of their own in their backyards, I pray that America would finally let freedom ring. Let Christ ring out in this city and bring true freedom to a Capitol in invisible chains. “It is for freedom that Christ set us free.” Freedom is waiting.
-Alex Thompson, CSM DC Summer 2009 City Host

Friday, July 10, 2009


This past week my group had an opportunity to partner with a ministry called the Magdalene Project. Magdalene is designed to help women who prostituted get back on their feet and heal. They discovered that due to criminal records many of these women were having trouble finding jobs. So they created Thistle Farms to provide job opportunities for the women who have completed the program.
Thistles have to be harvested to make the paper that their products are packaged in...enter my group from Shreveport Louisiana!
Yup. They harvested all of those (plus some) in about an hours time. I don't think I have ever sweated like I did that day. We had fun and laughed as the thistles poked us from all angles, but the sweat was pouring down my face like nothing else! And it's only JUNE!
The best part about this particular excursion was the reason we were there. Now, all my people from back home know I love metaphors and word pictures. And a thistle creates ample opportunity for that!
The thistle is a weed. It's not wanted by gardeners and not welcome among the pretty plants. It has pokey leaves and a sharp sting. Its roots dig deep into the ground and are able to grow through concrete.
These women come from lives of being an outcast of society. They have pasts that are rooted in a number of things: a desire to be loved, a need for quick cash, addictions, abuse, neglect, self-mutilation, a void.
But there is beauty in both! The thistle has a bright purple center that can be pulped down into a new creation of paper with some hard work and dedication.
These women are beautiful! They are created by a loving, forgiving God who can renew them into a new creation with a little work and dedication from the women.
No matter where we are, God is faithful.
He is ready to pull us up from the roots of sin and make us a new creation in Him.
I love my job because I get to see this and be a part of this everyday! But no matter where we are or what we are doing, God is moving. If we are willing to be uprooted and re-potted by the Master Gardener beautiful things can happen!
2 Corinthians 5:17
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Get excited about that! Our God LOVES us and FORGIVES us and USES us. We are blessed.
-Jody Glazner, CSM Nashville Summer 2009 City Host

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Learning to Live out Jesus' Words

This past week was an amazing time here at CSM Toronto. I was blessed to have a small group of high school students in from the States. What was absolutely amazing about this group was its collective spiritual maturity and their passion and willingness to step up and do whatever the ministry sites needed. The week started with a little apprehension about what they were to do or how to act or what to say, but with just a little encouragement every student opened up and became confident in their role as a servant.
We encountered a few trials along the way, but the group was amazing!! When I sent them out on their own to practically live out the Words of Jesus, they came back pumped and full of amazing stories and energy. It was amazing to see them, see His words come to life – how their direct initiative impacted someone’s day. I was encouraged by their stories; I was encouraged by their excitement and passion. I was spoiled by the group this week – they are amazing and the God working through them is amazing.
-Kristine Brereton, CSM Toronto Summer 2009 City Host

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Valley Shepherd Church Serves in LA

Check out Valley Shepherd Church of the Nazarene's video from their CSM LA trip!

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Los Angeles!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Hurricane Ike Update - Approaching One Year Anniversary

Almost a year ago Hurricane Ike swept through Houston and the surrounding area. It brought destruction to many, including CSM's housing site. The roof was torn off and a lot damage occurred in a very short time. We blogged the initial update and then gave an update to how the recovery was happening. Here's the latest, now coming up on the one year mark since the storm hit:

Servants of Christ has finally received their insurance settlement and is able to begin reconstruction of the Activity Center. Work is expected to begin before the end of July. The church has a Building Committee which is designing a long-term plan for the parish. I have been invited to sit in on these meetings and am impressed with the architect who is helping to guide their plans. We'll keep you posted as other significant developments occur.
-Paul Randall, CSM Houston City Director

Please be praying for Servants of Christ (CSM housing site) as they rebuild their walls and for the rest of the community as many people are still affected by the devastation.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Poverty in America - MLK's Perception

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered an address to the National Cathedral, challenging our nation to step up and eradicate poverty. Here's an excerpt:
"And this [being a "conscientious objector in the war against poverty"] can happen to America, the richest nation in the world—and nothing’s wrong with that—this is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The question is whether America will do it. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will."
Keep on reading...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

New Friend and Ministry Partner in Houston

I want to share with you about a new friend I have made. Ed Small is the pastor of City Church Houston and the director of the Martin Luther King Center here. The MLK Center is the oldest in the country and home to significant history and heritage for the black community in the 3rd Ward of Houston. City Church is a mission outreach to the children of the 3rd Ward—Pastor Ed laughs at the irony that God waited until he was 68 years old to call him into youth ministry! But his calling is evident through the tears that flow from his eyes as he talks about feeding children and loving them in the name of Jesus. He articulates how a track coach in New Jersey, just across from NYC, reached out to him in his wayward, teenage years. Again with tears welling up, he whispers, “He saved me!…That’s what I’m doing here.”
When I met him for the first time last week, Pastor Ed regaled me with story after story of God’s provision for his ministry, which functions with two full-time staff members, neither of whom draws a salary. He has seen strangers bring donations just in time to keep the lights on. He has seen suburban churches bring truckloads of food to help feed the children—another story which prompts his easily-flowing tears. People ask him how he pays for his ministry and he says genuinely, “God is not broke!” Many groups have come to City Church to help in a variety of ways, but as I sat with him in the shade last week, he told me how much he appreciated my listening to his story. It was evident that he valued our relationship over what I could do for him. As do I — Pastor Ed is a humble, passionate, gentle, deep man of God from whom I hope to learn a great deal in the years to come.
We took our first groups to serve with City Church this week. Through them we connected with children in Cuney Homes, a government housing project, and loved on other children in the 3rd Ward. It is a site where our groups will be able to share and experience the Kingdom of God in some beautiful ways. I am excited that our groups will be able to hear from Pastor Ed and catch his passion and heart for the children of the 3rd Ward.

-Paul Randall, CSM Houston City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Houston!!