Friday, July 29, 2011

NY Partner Ministry to Expand

One of our amazing partner sites, P.O.T.S. (Part of the Solution), is located here in NYC in the Bronx. After years of trying to get things together for their new and bigger building is finally moving in! P.O.T.S. offers a community dining room where guests are treated as guests in a restaurant and given their dignity back, as well as a food pantry, case managers, legal services, public showers, clothing program, haircuts (read a recent NY Times article), mail services, and provide a justice center. They have needed this space for a long time as their organization has been growing daily. Prayers for them as they make this transition! Feel free to check out their website...

-Jami Howard, CSM New York Associate City Director

Thursday, July 28, 2011

100k Homes

Homelessness can be an overwhelming issue with the numbers of men women and children living without a home on the rise. 100k Homes is a campaign motivating individuals across the country to work together to help people secure and maintain permanent housing. Watch this encouraging video to learn more! It will brighten your day!

-Keysha Boggess, CSM Denver City Director

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"What is Poverty?"

We recently stumbled upon an in-depth look at what it really means to live in poverty. This essay is a first hand account written by Jo Goodwin Parker for the book America's Other Children: Public Schools Outside Suburbs by George Henderson. Check it out...

Learn how you can partner with amazing local ministries that answer the call to love and serve the poor through CSM...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Word for the Summer

What I’m about to share starts all the way back to my very first group of the spring (way back in March). The last day of service for the group started with one of the students leading devotions, she shared that at the end of each day she had written down a word that summarized the day. She shared each day’s word and I so enjoyed the reflection, it started me thinking about words and how they do summarize experiences.

Over the course of the next week, I realized that one word kept popping up in my thoughts, in what I was reading in the Bible, in our debriefs, basically everywhere…that word was generosity (throughout the spring I reflected on 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 a lot to process what I was learning about this word).

When the summer season here at CSM started I knew I wanted a new word, not only would the summer be different and therefore needed a different word, I would also enjoy having a new word to build upon and challenge me.

So my very first group of the summer came. I shared with them my word from the spring and wanted them to be thinking about a word to summarize their trip. A few times the group leader mentioned the word hospitality as we were at a ministry site or driving and I couldn’t quite understand what he was talking about…how did that word connect with anything we were doing that week? We weren’t welcoming anyone into our home for dinner (isn’t that what hospitality means?!)

During our last debrief, everyone shared their word. The group leader shared his word...and as you can guess, his word was hospitality. He said that one meaning of the word is “love for the stranger”. Wow! That is exactly what we do here at CSM. We attempt to love to people we have never met before and attempt to show them the love of Christ through our presence and acts of service.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

What a stretching experience hospitality can be, here at CSM we get the opportunity to daily show hospitality to the city of Washington, DC. And it is not always comfortable but it allows us to extend to others what God has shown us: love & relationship. I’m so thankful for the many strangers I’ve met!

-Ann, CSM Washington DC Summer 2011 City Host

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Washington DC!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Video: Hard times generation: homeless kids

The number of homeless children is on the rise and it is estimated that very soon 25% of US children will be living in poverty. More and more families around the country are finding themselves living in shelters and in cheap motels. Watch this powerful 60 minutes program with stories from different children who are living life in constant transition due to financial struggles.

-Keysha Boggess, CSM Denver City Director

Learn how YOU can partner with ministries that serve local homeless families through CSM!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Robert & Lisa

Two people. Both transformed.

I met Lisa at a food pantry. She was beautiful - not by the world's standard, but by the light of hope in her eyes. She had graduated the drug rehab program recently, and was moving on to complete her GED. During our time there, she told us the story of how she was in her thirties with nine kids, one-third of whom are adopted out. "I always look at people like you and think you have a perfect life," she said. "But I know you all have hardships, too." She wipes her eyes and smiles. "Keep making good choices, you all are going places."

At the "hippie" church Sunday (one of the few remaining communes from the, what, '80s?), we met Robert. Robert was the epitome of a punk rocker. At 40 years old, he could somehow pull off tattoo sleeves, gauges, and a mohawk with ease. He was full of Jesus. In a coffee-skate shop (weird combo, I know), he explained his gothic art and graffiti covering the walls. After studying them for a bit under his explanation, I learned they were his interpretation of the book of Revelation. An ex-gang member who had run away from home to "experience life" on the streets of Hollywood, Robert learned to appreciate the Christians who developed a relationship with him on the streets. Coming with a girlfriend to church on a bet, he was introduced to both Jesus and his future wife.

Transformation: that which brings joy.

-Kara, CSM Chicago Summer 2011 City Host

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Chicago!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Teens encourage NY neighborhood to eat healthy

A Brooklyn farmer's market is being run by teens who have a passion healthy eating. Check it out...

-Tracee Henneke, CSM New York City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in New York City!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Denver churches partner with homeless families

Denver churches are having a great impact on many homeless families by becoming mentors. This mentor program began through the Denver Rescue Mission partnering with churches in the city as a way to provide support, care and resources to our local homeless families. Listen here to the podcast of this positive story!

-Keysha Boggess, CSM Denver City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Denver!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stepping out and meeting Jesus

The folks over at Rethinking Youth Ministry have an amazing blog - full of resources and encouragement for youth workers. Yesterday's blog post is a great reminder that if we're willing to step out on faith, God will meet us there. Check out "Meeting Jesus Over a Cup of Cold Water."

Learn how you can meet Jesus on the streets with CSM!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Have you figured out why you’re here yet?

Earlier this summer, I asked myself, ‘Why am I here?’, ‘Why has God brought me to Host with CSM?’. What made me apply, accept and pack my bags? It has taken me a while to be able to answer that question. This is also a question we asked of all our students: Why are you here? What made you decide to come this week?

God has brought each and every student and leader to CSM Toronto, at the right time, for the right reasons, even if they don’t know anything about it, yet. Something I usually say to my groups is, “God has brought you here for a reason, and your job is to figure out what that reason is. It might take a while for this reason to be clear. You might think that you have come to serve, to learn or to hang out with your friends. But God has something else in mind, He is going to take this opportunity to challenge you, to reveal Himself to you, to draw closer to you and transform you into being more like Christ, are you ready?” Am I ready?

One week this summer, I had one very quiet and shy young man is my group. His leader said, “It was a surprise he came at all but, I’m glad he did”. And so was I!

What made this young man join in, pay up and hit the open road, when he neither knew anyone in the group, nor the church’s purpose of the trip? My answer to this question is, GOD! God lead him to sign up and come because He had something amazing to show this young man. Was this young man ready for what God was going to do? Probably not, but each day he was challenged to face God and all His glory and goodness. After a week of teaching and serving he said to me, “I never thought about God in that way, but, now I see things very differently”. Seed planted, God moved and I got to participate in it and witness it! I saw the moment when someone comes face to face with God and can’t say ‘no’ to Him. And it happened on a short-term mission trip to Toronto.

In ministry, I get to watch God take a hold of peoples’ hearts and minds. The joy of hosting, for me, is opening God’s Word and letting him speak to his kids and this happens while serving with and journeying alongside students and their leaders toward the One True God we know in Christ! It is through this that God challenges me, reveals himself to me, draws closer to and transforms me. This is why I am here! And Yes I am ready!!

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15).

-Adele-Marie, CSM Toronto Summer 2011 City Host

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Annual Homelessness Report

The annual homelessness assessment report is out with some good news and unfortunately some number increases as well. Check out this link to see some of the updated stats on homelessness.

-Keysha Boggess, CSM Denver City Director

Sign your group up to serve in the city with CSM today!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Encouragement from back home

At the beginning of the summer, I received an encouraging e-mail from a friend who came on a mission trip to CSM this spring. He was giving me an update of what he was able to “take home” to Oklahoma City.
In his note, he says “over the semester with my friends [I went] downtown at least every other weekend [to meet] some street people. One man, Orlando, was in a wheelchair and slept by the art museum every night--we bought him snacks, water, and a blanket and had discussions with him several times. I'm excited to go back and try to see him when school starts back up.”
How refreshing it was to hear what someone else started doing after they came to serve with CSM! I was surprised to get this blessed update and it affirmed me in the great work that CSM is doing, I hope it is an encouragement to you as well.
-Adrienne Lamar, CSM Denver Associate City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Denver!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Looking beyond the surface

He sits by himself, mumbling. Occasionally he lifts his head to yell at whoever passes by, asking for change. He's drunk. Most people ignore him. Some offer the courtesy of informing him off his laziness. Yesterday, he stood in the middle of the road and screamed at the morning commute parting around him.

What if I told you he used to be a lawyer? What if I told you he used to have a big home and a loving family?

And what if I told you that the day that that all changed was the day his daughter was killed in a car accident. What if the reason he sleeps on sidewalks and roots through trash is because when his daughter was stolen from him he couldn't cope with the pain and turned to alcohol.

What if I told you that what he needed was not a job, or a home, or even a church. What if I told you that he needed to grieve. And he needed healing.

What is your story? Where do you come from? What have you been through? Is the reason you don't trust me because your dad left you when you were three? Is the reason you talk about yourself so much because nobody has ever taken the time to listen? Do you fake yourself because you're afraid I won't like who you really are? Do you stand in the street and yell at me as I drive by because once upon a time somebody hopped into a car after a night at the bar and killed your daughter?

What's your story?

Will you be patient with me when I snap at you because panic attacks are robbing me of my sleep? Will you forgive me when I am rude to you because my heart is full of only stress?

Everybody has a story. And I'll try to love you, if you try to love me.

[Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. ] - 1 John 4

-Chadwick, CSM Toronto Summer 2011 City Host

Friday, July 08, 2011

Chicago Immersion

We practiced Immersion for the weekly groups. I'm handed $8, a map and a ticket for the L that will cover a four-person team. Our goals: find the assigned Chicago neighborhood, talk to people, experience a taste of homelessness and buy ourselves dinner with a couple of bucks.

My team was directed to Michigan Ave., which is pretty much the wealthiest street in the city. The restaurants and malls were decadent. The Chicago Tribune, the Hancock Tower and the Trump Tower overshadowed us. Then, my forte: journalism on the streets. We were also supposed to ask questions of Chicago-ites pretending we were part of the "working poor." I asked for job applications at several locations, claiming I was new to the city and didn't own a computer. The women returned my questions graciously and pointed me to the public library.

Seeing a magician, we stopped to ask him some questions about Chicago. He answered in a British accent, and after a 10-minute conversation, he pulled a dollar out of a lemon for us. But that dollar was one we were supposed to use for food. So with $7 to buy four people dinner, we explored Walgreens and exited the store 30 long minutes later with a loaf of bread, bananas, pop tarts, and $0.50 peanuts. Not quite a satisfying dinner, but it worked.

Beyond the stress and exhaustion, it will be a thoughtful summer. Reflections from today and last night--things I know, but needed to be reminded of:
The difference between the wealthy, the middle class, and the poor is incredible when you walk through all neighborhoods in one day. They all live as if the others don't exist. I learned to re-appreciate all that I have, which is a necessary realization to have often, especially coming from affluent school, peers and neighbors.
Last night on the prayer tour of the city, I realized how much racism and segregation still exists, especially in Chicago. We drove through the city and I literally saw the neighborhoods turn from white to Asian to African-American to Hispanic. The visual impact hit me full force.
It's humbling starting over on a new team--we're all learning humility as we all start again. I feel very prepared, especially with ministries and RA-ing experiences at Gordon, in the D.R., etc. But I know God will show me true brokenness. We can all feel it.
My new favorites:
Crispy butternut squash fritters from Afghan Kabob (awesome name, yes?!).
It's the L , not the T! And it's above ground! Boston, get on that.
Having a room to myself for the first time life. What?!
This is a whole new world. Pavement. Gangs. Spotty Internet. Diversity.

I'm excited.

-Kara, CSM Chicago Summer 2011 City Host

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Chicago!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Green Monster

There will always be critics of city government, and they’re right that alliances are made for the wrong reasons about all of the time. But the doomsday criticism from Mike Davis’ article “Fortress Los Angeles: The Militarization of Urban Space” might bee too much.

He writes: “Here, as in other American cities, municipal policy has [answered] the middle-class demand for increased spatial and social insulation. Taxes previously targeted for traditional public spaces and recreational facilities have been redirected to support corporate redevelopment projects. A pliant city government…has collaborated in privatizing public space and subsidizing new exclusive enclaves (benignly called "urban villages"). The celebratory language… is only a triumphal gloss laid over the brutalization of its inner-city neighborhoods and the stark divisions of class and race represented in its built environment. Urban form obediently follows repressive function.”

Self-sufficient redevelopment areas aren’t like old city streets; they are designed to keep some in and others out. They are "hermetically sealed fortresses" and random "pieces of suburbia [in Downtown]”. Apparently, they have “killed the street" and "dammed the rivers of life.” More devastatingly, they have slaughtered any dreams of “pedestrian democracy”: an intermingling of races and classes where they can see each other and must learn to deal with one another.
It is absolutely true that the redevelopment zones of LA Live and the Financial District, a few walkable blocks from Skid Row, have brought money and foot-traffic back to a formerly derelict part of the city. It is also true that the more natural process of gentrification, which is happening, for example on the periphery of the fashion district, needs no city funds or state tax breaks to push the homeless, the trash and the working poor into other corners of LA. Sure, there’s some elite misunderstanding of poor plight alongside natural processes here, but authority has always aligned to push the unsavory sights and smells somewhere else.

With regards to open space, though, the City of LA is not entirely the green(stealing)monster. In my area of South LA, the Nature Park is bed to migrant workers, play space to small children and educational facility to bored kids in the summer. It is social space for middle-aged walkers and a safe running spot for the health conscious. Near China Town sits Elysian Park, where people dating each other watch businesses light up the night skyline. Not much further north, Echo Park’s central fountain is surrounded by hipster couples, Latino families and weekly, my group of suburban teenagers debriefing their week of city volunteering. My favorite public space is Pershing Square. There, I can eat my pastry or read my book next to four homeless people, all of different races, who are in different levels of sleep and stages of sobriety. Security guards make sure all are sleeping on the grass and not on the walls or benches and that the peace is kept. I find the area to be benign and the true definition of mixed-use; Pershing is a bathhouse, a library, a bed, a romantic picnic spot and a morning coffee hang out, depending on who you ask. In McArthur Park, migrant workers, homeless families, recovering users from the halfway house and other locals use the city's outdoor exercise equipment and walking paths around the central fountain.

-Rachel, CSM Los Angeles Summer 2011 City Host

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Los Angeles!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A new take on "me-time"

It's not about me.

Here I was walking to the nearest coffee shop, as my group was out experiencing a different culture during our 'ethnic plunge' activity. I had been looking forward to this block of time to myself all day - better yet, all week - in fact, I needed it desperately.

So here I was, a few steps away - I could smell the coffee. I could feel the caffeine rushing through my veins. I grab the door handle and ... "Excuse me, ma'am, can you spare some change so I can get a drink?" I look down and notice a man in his mid 30's sitting on the ground.

"Hi, sir", I said. "I don't have any change for you, but I can gladly get you a drink". He smiled and I went in and bought him a hot chocolate.

Alas, a moment to myself. Drink in one hand, a book in the other.

"Hi ma'am. You look like a nice lady. Do you mind if I sit down with you?" I didn't even have to look up. I knew exactly who it was.

"Of course I mind. I need time to myself do you have any idea how busy I am?", I thought. [thankfully, I have a filter].

"Of course not", I said. and with that, he sat down.

For the next hour and a half, John and I got to hang out and talk about life and laugh. I felt like we knew each other forever, and I certainly walked away feeling blessed and more rejuvenated than I would have been had 'he left me alone' with my book.

I saw john again the following week as i was waiting for the subway. our eyes locked. he smiled and waved, and i walked away reminded of something i need to be reminded of each day as i serve God here at CSM Toronto:

It's not about me. [And it's not about you, either].

"Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others" [Philippians 2:5]

-Paula, CSM Toronto Summer 2011 City Host