Monday, December 23, 2013

Another year, another adventure

I have been so blessed to be able to continue serving Denver as I work with CSM as one of this year's apprentices...

So much has happened in the past two months since I've returned to Denver. I have a new roommate and co-worker, Amanda, who I am so blessed to be able to grow and learn with for this next year. We have an adorably small studio apartment so getting to know each other well hasn't been too difficult. Amanda and I have been working on lots of different projects and coming up with new and exciting things for our groups to experience as they come into the city.

We've also had the privilege of hosting three groups in the past couple of months and it 's such a great reminder of why I fell in love with Denver and CSM in the first place. This is a picture of my Utah group and I serving at Capitol Hill, a lunch soup kitchen that serves about 200 of our homeless friends everyday.

My favorite moments in life are the ones when God jumps into your daily routine and surprises you with something or someone totally unexpected, like Marie...

Marie is a 10 year old little girl who loves to color pictures, eat candy, and play with friends. We have a lot in common, except for one thing, Marie is homeless. Earlier in the day I had bought a coloring book and crayons for myself while waiting on a group to finish an activity. I had no idea that God would use that coloring book as a way for me to start a conversation and spend an hour with such an incredible little girl. When we finished coloring, she simply thanked me for being her friend and left. God is constantly teaching me that all He requires is that I'm available and ready to do whatever it is that He asks of me, even when it's as simple as sharing my coloring book.

- Brittany Johnson, CSM Denver Apprentice

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Denver!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Inequities across Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Stations

Living in Oakland, a commonly known fact is that the "flats" of Oakland have many more children with asthma compared to children living in the hills. This article uses BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) stops to show huge differences between life expectancy, household incomes and childhood asthma hospitalizations of people living next to each other in The East Bay. 

I'm thankful CSM has the opportunity to work alongside organizations involved in community development, like the SF Reserve, author of this article. 

- Kim Foster, CSM San Francisco Bay Area City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in the San Francisco Bay Area!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Roots of homelessness in Chicago

Here at CSM Chicago we focus on a lot of the reasons why our ministry partners such as homeless shelters need to exist. The homelessness issue in Chicago is deeply rooted in Chicago Public Housing. In this segment, NPR digs up the causes of why it is so hard to get ahead, to get housing, and to ultimately get a job while living in urban areas.

- Lauren Maniaci, CSM Chicago Associate City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Chicago!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bike Club Opens Up World of Possibilities

What a wonderful example of how to open up children's imagination to a world outside of gunshots and limited possibilities. Terry Key exemplifies what can happen when you trust and seek Gods restoration in your own life and your community.

Thank you, Edgehill Bike Club! "South Side. Let's ride!"

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

DC Mission Relocates

The Central Union Mission has been on of our ministry partners in DC for years.  They provide gospel-centered assistance to those living on the streets.  We frequently send groups there and are excited about their move. 

Our staff in DC has already received tours of the new location.  It's truly amazing to see the blessing God has provided for them as an organization and the people they serve.  Check out the video! 

- Chris Zwakenberg, CSM Washington DC City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Washington DC!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Beautiful Boston

Experience the true beauty of Boston in this video by filmmaker Joerg Daiber. From incredible views of Boston's skyline to the Charles River to the beautiful fall foliage - how could you not LOVE Boston! Boston truly is America's most beautiful little big city! Learn how you can experience this beauty for yourself by signing your group up for a trip to Boston with CSM. Email us or call 267-928-2620 to find out what dates are still available!

- Chris Nazareth, CSM Boston City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Boston!

Monday, December 02, 2013

Christmas Is Coming!

Advent is here!  

In a season filled with decorating, gift shopping, and  travel planning, the last thing we usually think of scheduling is time to be still.

But that is what we are called to do.  Advent is a time for us to be still, reflect, and prepare ourselves to be a dwelling place for God's presence here on earth.

It is during this same season CSM-Nashville does tithe visits; when we give a portion of our groups' payments back to our ministry partners. I treasure these times because they force me to step away from the busyness of managing a ministry and go to the places where Jesus is being born in our city each day.  Through their unconditional love,  creative programming, and steadfast commitment, these ministries have prepared themselves as dwelling place's for God's presence.  It is encouraging and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to pause and celebrate them every year.

- Jes Williams, CSM Nashville City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Nashville!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nashville's Growing Pains

As gentrification and urban renewal is rapidly growing in Nashville, our city is having to band together to face some tough conversations about what this means for our community. This past weekend, Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH) brought together leaders in our city to 'envision Nashville as a new kind of “it” city, one with an inclusive, sustainable economy, a diverse and vibrant music community, and a commitment to eliminate poverty through living-wage jobs, educational opportunities, and safe, livable neighborhoods for all residents.' 

Take a moment to read the full article....

Please be in prayer as we continue to grow and change, and that in the midst of the transformations God would breathe life and unity into the leaders and relationships within our home.

- Meredith Whitsett, CSM Nashville Associate City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Nashville!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Reversing the Tide of Homelessness in Boston

As the Associate City Director in Boston, I’m extremely blessed to have the opportunity to host groups that come to serve in my hometown during the non-summer months. One of my favorite parts of hosting is taking groups out on the prayer tour. One thing that you all may not know, each city revises their prayer tour at the end of every season to update statistics, add data and topics and to keep it relevant and interesting (even for repeat groups!).
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reworking our Boston prayer tour, adding a segment that discusses race relations in the city, changing the route a bit and updating statistics on education, homelessness and human trafficking. I love writing about my city. I love taking people on a prayer tour of the place that has my heart. There is no greater joy for me than having a whole van full of people praying for my home. It really is the greatest.  I thought I reached a point where I was almost finished writing and ready to begin editing, when my mayor released this tweet:

I absolutely encourage you take 20 minutes to read this amazing and comprehensive plan to significantly reduce homelessness here in Boston!  (Click here to read the plan)
Being a realistic lady, I know that you probably would be more interested in the highlights, so here are some amazing tidbits I’ve pulled out of this plan!
·       Nearly 97% of Boston’s homeless are sheltered. This is the highest sheltering rate in the nation.
o   At the end of 2012, the City of Boston’s Homeless Census counted 193 people living on the street.
o   The goal for street homelessness is to reduce the number of persistently unsheltered individuals by 50%
·       80 homeless individuals use Boston hospital emergency rooms as a regular shelter option and health care provider.
o   These individuals are among the most medically fragile, and by far the most costly, subset of Boston’s homeless population in terms of health care costs.
o   Since 2010, housing and supportive services resulted in a 56% reduction in Emergency Department visits, a 33% reduction in hospital stays, and a tenancy retention rate of 88%
·       Of the almost 10,000 individuals who enter one of Boston’s shelters over the course of a year, 68% are able to exit the system in less than 30 days and with relatively little assistance
·       The goal for Long-Term Homelessness is to further reduce the number of long-term homeless in Boston’s shelters by 50 percent, reducing long-term homeless from 439 to 220 by 2016.
o   extended-stay (120-364 day) residents represent only 12% of the individuals using shelter in a year, but utilize 52% of the shelter system’s annual capacity
o   The number of long-term homeless individuals in Boston has declined by 23%: from 569 in 2009 to 439 at the end of 2012
·       The goal for Family Homelessness is to reduce by 25% the number of families with housing subsidies who are evicted solely for rent arrearages by the end of 2016.
o   In 2010, the average subsidized tenant had an arrearage of only  $1,552; in 2011, the average was $1,670. The cost of repairing that delinquency is a fraction of what it will cost the State for emergency housing if that family becomes homeless

These are just a few of the amazing plans and goals that the City of Boston has established for our most vulnerable citizens. I am so excited to not only SEE how they are implemented, but to PARTICIPATE in the implementation, as well, by bringing CSM Boston mission teams into shelters and outreach organizations to be a part of this wonderful Kingdom restoration work!!

- Jess Fothergill, CSM Boston Associate City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Boston!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Creative Partnerships

I love our ministry partners!  All of them. All of the time.
But this year in particular, I have been so inspired by the way they have come alongside each other....supporting each other's ministries and thinking outside the box.
Here are just a few examples
  • Nashville CARES can now provide their clients fresh produce, thanks to Nashville Food Project.
  • East Nashville Cooperative Ministries has begun hosting Open Table's resource shelters.
  • CCF-Trinity Lane invited Nashville Food Project's mobile feeding ministry to host potluck dinners for their neighbors.
  • Hands on Nashville's Urban Farm invited YCAP's youth to come be a part of their summer programming.
Each one of these organization are unique in their vision, yet they are not blind to the value that the other organizations have.  I am grateful to see humility, grace, and creativity moving in Nashville through these people.

So grateful.

- Jes Williams, CSM Nashville City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Nashville!

Friday, November 08, 2013

Meeting New Challenges After 25 Years

Center for Student Missions was started 25 years ago. The context we work in today is almost unrecognizable through the lens of a generation ago. Our culture has been shaped by urbanization.  Our national landscape has been rearranged by immigration. Our worldview has shifted from a modern and Christian/Judeo assumption to a postmodern and post Christian set of values and beliefs.

I really don’t like to put labels on people or generations but, call them what you will, the “Millennials”, or the “Y” generation, THIS generation has a culture all it’s own and brings exciting challenges to those who are willing to help shape it with a Biblical world view and heart for wholistic mission. Nothing has had more implications for CSM than the shift in youth culture and youth ministry.

 Here is a simplified list of some of these shifts:
  • Modern to Postmodern
  • Evangelism to Wholistic and Justice
  • Suburban to Urban culture
  • Pop music to Hip Hop
  • TV to Internet to Smart phones
  • Access to porn magazines to Free and open Internet
  • Longer attention spans to Short attention spans
  • Biblical spirituality to Smorgasbord of spiritual experience
  • Work and career first to Play first
  • Career to Job hoppers
  • “Friends” to Community
  • Independence to Expectation of mentoring
  • Tech savvy to Tech addicted
  • Task focus to Famously multi-taskers
Everything about youth culture is consumed by technology. Though this generation is more focused on “me”, it provokes the internal challenge about a social conscience.

Can you think of implications for reaching, discipling, training and nurturing this generation?  I’d love to hear some creative and innovative ideas on how CSM can continue to be a relevant part of shaping this generation’s values, beliefs and actions, especially in mission to their world. Please share your ideas on CSM's Facebook page...

As for me, I wake up in the morning with this prayer from Psalms 71:18:

“And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Thy strength to this generation, Thy power to all who are to come”!

- Dan Reeve, CSM President

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

A Brighter Day in Philly

How much time you've spent in Philadelphia is directly proportional to how much trash you've seen here.  And if you've come on a CSM trip with us, more likely than not, you've helped us fix the problem of being the dirtiest city to live in in America.  And you've probably done it by cleaning a street, lot, or playground with one of our most longstanding ministry partners, Ray of Hope, led by Raymond Gant of North Philly. Well, Ray has become the face of clean streets here in Philly, and describing more of his fame is this excellent article about his passion for beautifying communities.  

He's best known for his relentless cleaning of McPherson Square where there is a park and a library. It used to be dubbed "Needle Park" because of the rampant drug activity that made it incredibly unsafe for children. But now, after years of hard work, organizing volunteers and mobilizing neighbors to come out and help, Ray says of the community that "that dark cloud that used to hang over folks there is gone. It's a brighter day."

- Nicole Engelhardt, CSM Philadelphia Associate City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Philly!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

"The One who calls you is faithful..."

Over the fall, we have had the privilege of meeting with several of our ministry partners, with the intention of hearing stories from their summers and to thank them for all that they do to serve Philadelphia.  After each meeting, I left with a feeling of joy and excitement over the way that they have chosen to give and to celebrate and to be beacons of hope each and every day.  I was deeply challenged by their stories and so honored to be able to be a part of a ministry has the opportunity of partnering with them.  

A glimpse into some of the stories:
1. One woman that CSM has worked with for many years began to share with us some of the ups and downs of working with the homeless population.  We asked her how she stayed anchored when the days were long and discouraging, different than she ever thought they would be.  Her response was a simple, "Jesus is always better.  I have just given my life to the fact that Jesus is always best."  

2.  We had lunch one afternoon with some friends who run a rescue mission.  They told us stories of overflowing grace and forgiveness.  Their reason for continually forgiving and giving their guys a second (or third or fourth...) chance?  "We love these men and so desire to see them transform.  I'm a person that desperately needs a second chance every day, so I'm in no position to not extend the same."

3.  Over eggs and toast one morning, we asked another one of our ministry partners how she got involved in her ministry.  "I heard God was doing big things here and I wanted to be close to that.  So, I came."

4.  One after-school program that we partner with is headed up by a powerhouse leader.  As we met with her, she told us story after story of adversities that she has encountered in the world of education.  Yet after 25+ years of serving, her passion for seeing change within the school system has only grown.  She spends her time off taking her students on trips to further increase their worldview and love for one another.  "As long as the kids stay safe and learn something, I'll probably do it."

Their stories challenge me to expand my horizons.  To satisfied with Jesus alone.  To be full of grace.  To be deeply passionate.

Thank you, faithful ministry partners, for building up the kingdom.  Thank you for allowing us to glimpse your worlds and to walk alongside you.

- Brittany Nyce, CSM Philadelphia City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Philadelphia!

Monday, October 28, 2013

We love our ministry partners! Kid's Meals (Houston)

We are SO grateful for our partnership with Kid's Meals. Thanks for your sweet words! 

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Houston!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Heeding the call to serve those in need

Not only do we see poverty in CSM's 10 urban cities, and even your own town or city, but this is an issue the world faces every day. Take this quiz to see how much you know about poverty in the world. 

Or you can take a look at this US poverty map to learn the statistics in your backyard. 

"Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12.13

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A True Redemption Story

This is such a beautiful story of redemption. So thankful for God's healing power on the streets on Nashville!

- Jes Williams, CSM Nashville City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Nashville!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Government Shutdown Affects More than Monuments in DC

The government shutdown has is having a unique impact on the city of Washington, DC. All monuments and memorials are closed and many city services are currently running on an emergency fund, but even more difficult is the closing of many government-run services that help DC residents. 

Mental illness is very common among our homeless population and is close to our hearts at CSM, because these are the people we serve. Read a recent article about how DC may end up losing many of it's critical services because of this decision...

- Chris Zwakenberg, CSM Washington DC City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Washington DC!