Thursday, June 27, 2013

June is National Refugee Awareness Month!

If you are coming to Denver this year you may get the opportunity to serve at Safari Thrift. Safari is much more than a regular thrift store, it's a job readiness program for newly arrived refugees and is also connected to the African Community Center (ACC). Each year close to 2000 refugees relocate to Colorado. ACC welcomes many to Denver, providing housing, case management and assistance assimilating to a new culture.  People are given the opportunity to participate in a program like Safari Thrift.  

In the front of the Safari Thrift store there is a boutique of specialty items handmade by refugee women in another ACC program called "We Made This".  Check out this news video to see how this sewing program gives women the opportunity to learn a new skill that will help them with their future. 

- Keysha Boggess, CSM Denver City Director

Monday, June 24, 2013

Help a CSM New York Ministry Partner!

Can you help out one of our CSM New York Ministry Partners?

Our ministry partners at Flatbush Reformed Church sponsor an 8 week summer camp for 
kids in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. They are in need of a few things to make 
the camp successful this year! If you can donate any of the following items, please send 
them: c/o CSM, 890 Flatbush Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11226

Game Supplies
Red rubber balls
Jump ropes
Footballs (Flag Football)
Kickball and bases
Wiffle Ball and Bat
Pool Noodles
Sidewalk Chalk
Water toys

Craft Supplies
Construction paper
Brown lunch sacks
Coloring Books
Embroidery thread for friendship bracelets
Glitter Glue
Pine Wood Derby Supplies
Bird House or other Wood Craft Kits

Educational Supplies
Books for 5 - 10 year olds
Notebook paper
Brain Quest games and workbooks
Educational games
Food Supplies
Ice Pops
Goldfish Crackers
Fruit Snacks
Snack items

TV for movie days
DVD player
Movies for kids

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A dream come true.

Over the course of the last 4 years I would catch myself daydreaming about the life I would one day live in Colorado.  I've planned out the trails I would walk my dog down, the coffee shops I would go to when I wanted to read, the friends I would make and the food I would eat.  When I had trouble falling asleep I would mentally plan a layout for my house; I planned everything from where all the furniture would go to what I would see when I looked out each window.  Yesterday, as my coworkers and I were climbing up the side of a mountain, my sweet new friend Brittany said, "We live in Colorado, how cool is that?"  I then proceeded to proclaim over the Continental Divide, "I LIVE IN COLORADO!!"  This is an absolute dream; a dream I've been dreaming since I was eight years old.  My soul is SO happy and SO content.  

I have learned more than I ever thought possible about the city of Denver over the last week and a half.  Early mornings and late evenings of training and preparing for this summer have been a lot of work, but there is something indescribable about getting paid to live in a city you love, while serving a God who knew I would eventually end up here.  His plan for my life was perfected during the first 6 days and He has so divinely orchestrated every single one of my steps and that gives my heart a new kind of joy.  

Part of our training has included visiting a large number of the ministry sites we will be taking our groups to while they are here on their mission trips.  We have gotten to serve our homeless friends, we've gotten to fellowship with our homeless friends, we've gotten to work in a thrift shop that hires refugees, we've gotten to go door to door with burritos and prayers at motels throughout Denver.  

I've seen a lot of brokenness, a lot of healing, a lot of joy and a lot of sadness over the last week and a half, but you know what - the Lord makes NO mistakes.  I have been dwelling in Psalms 139 for a good 3 months now.  I read it a good two to three times a day because those verses describe exactly who I am in the image of Christ. I am nothing less than what those verses say and neither are ANY of the people I've met here in Denver.  The Bible is a book written for everyone, and there are no exceptions to that.  

My new friend Devin, that I met at the BAC, who is 20 years old moved to Denver from San Antonio to live with his mom, but for different reasons his mom and him don't talk anymore so I have no idea where he is living now.  However, there is not a doubt in my mind that The Lord is holding Devin in the palm of his hand.  

Steve, a vender for the Voice (a homeless newspaper written by the homeless for the homeless), is the most brilliant person I have ever met.  We all decided if he were to cut his hair a little bit and take off his hat he could be a professor.  Really though, he was BRILLIANT.  

Saybien (I am probably spelling his name wrong) is our sweet homeless friend from Alaska.  We've spent a lot of time getting to know him because he hangs out at the church across the street from our house.  We've bought him Burger King, talked with him, prayed with him and let him cry to us.  His two favorite verses are, "Jesus wept" and "What you do for the least of these, you do for me" and he will let you know it every single time you sit down to talk with him.  

Psalm 139:15 says I was created in a secret place, and that I was woven together in the depths of the Earth.  My friends Devin, Steve and Saybien were also created in a secret place, and they too were woven together in the depths of the Earth.  I am a joy to the Lord and my new friends are a joy to the Lord.  I am no more and no less of a person than Devin, Steve and Saybien in the eyes of the Lord.  Thank goodness for that!!

Just because I want to brag on this cool city I get to call home for the next 2 months I'm going to, very quickly, share some of other REALLY cool things I've seen in the last 11 days:

Purple door coffee:  They hire homeless runaways and serve the BEST vanilla lattes.  
Hanging out with day laborers:  These are the people who stand out in all kinds of weather hoping someone will come pick them up and take them to work.  We got to serve them coffee and pastries while they waited for work.
Mean Streets: A group of people go out every Monday and Tuesday to love on the people living in Motels off of Colfax.
S.A.M.E. Cafe: You can pay what you think they meal is worth or you can clean tables, sweep the sidewalk or other work for your lunch.  They served some of the best pesto chicken pizza I've ever tasted!

This is the sweet life.  I get to love on people every single day, for the Lord's glory.  All I have to do is look west and I'll see mountains.  I am working along side some of the most beautiful souls.  God reigns over all and I am secure under His hand of protection. 

The city of Denver is blessed by this place. 

12,000 feet up in the sky.  

- Heather, CSM Denver Summer 2013 City Host

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Denver!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Life is a Labyrinth

Walking along the pebbled path, weaving between the roughly trimmed hedges, I was hit with the most cliché, yet simultaneously most significant, realization. Life is a labyrinth.

As part of our staff training last weekend, we embarked on a scavenger hunt throughout Houston to familiarize ourselves with the city. Amidst the white noise of the city, the honking cars, the chattering people, the wafting wind, we stopped at a haven of silence: a labyrinth lush with greenery and life in the middle of a concrete jungle. It was when I walked through its twists and turns, reflecting on life and my relationship with God, I became aware that each one of us is given our own maze, with numerous pathways, but one final destination in the center. Sometimes we walk around it aimlessly with our eyes glued on the ground, too preoccupied with little bumps in the road. But with this method, we often forget to look ahead and around at the beautiful things God has planned for our walk with Him.

This past week, my first week of hosting, many times I maintained such a mindset to approaching the life labyrinth. The junior high girls I hosted were an amazing group of people, with so much obvious love and passion for serving the Lord. But along the way, there were several small obstacles that often caused me more stress than they probably should have. Confusion with directions, searches for parking, issues with timing - they all added to the heightening sense of anxiety I felt about hosting. But over the days, as I became more familiar with the rhythm of hosting, the little bumps in the road smoothed out underneath my feet, and I was able to look around and see the amazing ways God was working in the girls.

It was bittersweet to see my first group leave yesterday. It’s beautiful to look back and remember the great times I had with that group of girls as well. I think that through this week, they opened their eyes to see things that they were not familiar with, such as poverty and homelessness, from a different perspective, from a God perspective. For all the times we made a wrong exit on the highway or arrived early or late to a ministry site, it was the journey and the final destination that truly mattered.

Every labyrinth comes with its own obstacles: weeds sprouting out of the ground, rocks in the pathway, or most frustrating: dead ends. Only someone standing not just in the center, but above the center can see the pathways that lead to the final destination. And that someone is God. Through this week, I realized that if we really listen to Him and His direction, that the obstacles will not pose a threat, and that we will be able to navigate our way through this labyrinth of life.

- Cathy, CSM Houston Summer 2013 City Host

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Houston!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer Staff Training Tales

When we say training, we don't take it lightly. 
CSM Philly summer hosts
We've got our hosts out from 9 am until at least 9 pm, and every second of the day we are pumping them full of information about Philly, having them build community with one another, or testing their understanding of maps and one-way street grids.

I may have semi-maliciously gotten them lost a few times to see how they could handle it.  "Oh, did you want me to turn left here?"


"Well, it's a left-turn only lane, so I have to now."  It was moments like these that made them request to have "Smart Nicole" back as I pretended I didn't know where I was.  But you know what?  Now they'll always remember to stay in the right lane on that road.  And they got a nice tour of the Horticultural Gardens.

And it's busy for Brittany and I as well.  My desk starts to look a little like this as we attempt to train and keep up with the demands of the rest of our job:

Despite the craziness, my favorite things about having the hosts finally arrive is... everything.  They bring a new energy and excitement to the CSM house.  They get excited about this city that I love along with me.  They have inside jokes before we've even officially started training.  They laugh and shriek with joy when we hand them their schedules for the first week as they compare where they get to go serve.

How blessed are we!  I just can't get over how excited they are to serve and daily make small differences in this world.  I just pray that their energy and commitment to positive relationships can make a difference in the many lives they will meet this summer: people who may be homeless, hungry, or far from home on a mission trip.

So training is finally over, and students are already out serving.  These guys are helping MANNA reach what will soon be their 10 millionth meal served to those with terminal or life-threatening illnesses!  It's so great to be able to be a small part of that.

This quote is attributed to Margaret Mead, and I've got it hanging over my desk: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

This summer our "small group" consists of two full time staff, six dedicated city hosts, 31 groups representing over 600 students and amazing leaders, 27 non-profits including ones with over 200 employees all the way down to ones run by single individuals, and the thousands upon thousands of people that will be served this summer.

Some say Philly is a broken, hopeless place, filled with murder, disease, drugs, and trash.  But I think I, and the hundreds of others involved with CSM this summer, choose to see the opportunity to love one another, clean a street, or simply enjoy life in the community that we create.

- Nicole Engelhardt, CSM Philadelphia Associate City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Philly!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

And we're off!!

CSM Denver Summer 2013 Staff

The summer season has started in each of our cities and we couldn't be more excited for ALL that God has in store - for our summer staff, ministry partners and the groups coming to serve. Amazing things are on the horizon for everyone! 

Being a City Host for a summer with CSM can be a tough job - long hours, hot and humid temperatures, and many are in a new city. It's not for the faint of heart! But God's faithfulness shows up where our weakness stops, and seeing Him shine through an amazing debriefing session, the kindness of a ministry partner offering a glass of cold water (or a truck full of pumpkin pie ice cream - it's been known to happen!), or the smiles of the neighborhood kids waiting at the stoop to play re-energize our amazing staff and keep them going for the entire season.

We ask the hosts, "Why are you excited to work with CSM this season?" and here's what we heard from some:

“I have a heart for service and a passion for empowerment in urban communities. Being that I am a future educator, studying urban education, and a Christian; I thought that working with CSM this summer would be the best experience for me!” - Ariel, CSM Chicago

“I have always had a passion for urban service and a heart for those in need. However, this is not a passion that I want to keep to myself, but I want to be able to introduce it to and share it with the people around me, whether that is the students with whom or the people for whom I’m serving.” - Cathy, CSM Houston

"I would love to be the hands and feet of Jesus in Nashville and to invite others around me to do the same, not only in Nashville but in their home cities and wherever else that they will find themselves." - Corisa, CSM Nashville

"My hope is that the Gospel and God’s love take the city by storm this summer, and that the students who come here will have their eyes opened to the brokenness that exists in the city and be excited and passionate about serving New York and honoring Christ.” - Alex, CSM New York City

“I know God will be doing crazy things in the hearts of those serving in Philly this summer, and I pray that our hearts can just be open and recognize that. I decided to serve in Philly because it’s here where my heart was first opened to the Lord’s love and I first felt His presence in my life. I’m so excited to see what He has planned for us all this summer!” - Brandy, CSM Philadelphia

 “I fell in love with urban ministries during my first mission trip through CSM, so I am excited to see what new things God has in store for me, the students, sponsors, and staff this summer.” - Susan, CSM San Francisco Bay Area

“Frederick Buechner once wrote: ‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’ For me, CSM is just that place." - Kelsey, CSM San Francisco Bay Area

Wow! We are excited to have each and every one of our summer staff on our team this year. And we can't wait for you to meet them when you join us in the city!