Thursday, July 18, 2013

Seeing the Light of the City

Sometimes, people see the prayer tour deliberately constructed as a tool for making you feel bad or make you feel extreme, unwarranted sadness.  The purpose of a tour in prayer is really to break your heart, not necessarily your spirit. I had an individual in one of my groups some time ago that was in pretty rough shape during and after the prayer tour here in Philly. It can be easy to overlook the eyes glistening with tears in the fifteen-passenger van on the night of a prayer tour, but this time got me thinking; how can I convey to my group that this is meant for exposure, education and, in a way, illumination? The following was and continues to be my response and encouragement to the sadness and empathy:

To feel sad and to empathize is completely alright, but be mindful of the moment you feel yourself sinking into these things. Allow yourself to feel empathy, but empathy to the point of excitement! When we typically feel empathy, we are restricted to doing so at a distance, but rest assured that there will be no distance during the week of service in Philadelphia or another CSM site. You have been afforded the unique opportunity to work with people and ministries that are intent on specifically combating the very things that wrench you. Turn sadness and empathy into love, into grace, into excitement and into motivation. Use it as motivation to help the tired people of this city turn its struggles into beauties and illuminate shadows with new and vibrant light. 

Revelations 21:23 is a fantastic verse to keep in mind. It reads, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” It is important to realize that the light of the city does not really come from the buildings jutting up from the horizon, but from the people that inhabit it and work for the glory of God in it. When you want to hurt for them or feel sad for them, just remember that you have the unique chance to come alongside them, work with them, love on them and "do life" with them. 

This is just as important for CSM City Hosts as it is for the groups they are tasked with guiding. Sometimes, seeing the light of the city through the dank shadows seems difficult. The light can be veiled by frustrations with directions, general fatigue, not getting to eat breakfast at the start of a long day or any great number of things that you face in a given day. These things weigh down on you faster than you may give them credit for in the moment, but when you feel it, just slow down, silence your mouth and mind, step back for a moment and be cognizant of what God is showing and telling you! You, like your groups, are afforded the opportunity to do life with the people of the city, so use this time to really do it, and make a point to do it without overloading yourself with unnecessary burdens and distractions. Do not forget to dwell on who God is and remember that the truth of His word is our ultimate encouragement. The truth of God will always stand.   

- Scott, CSM Philadephia Summer 2013 City Host

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Watching reconciliation happen.

I have been in this city for a little over a month now. I really can’t believe how quickly it has gone by. I feel at home walking down Colfax, the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, I’ve driven the prayer tour countless times, and have enjoyed more meals at ethnic restaurants than my growing waste line would care to remember. I have had my hand (quite literally) in thousands of meals given to Denver's homeless. I've had the opportunity to sort text books being shipped off to Africa, and even help plant fields of vegetables that, when harvested, will go to people who don’t have access healthy produce.  

All of these things are wonderful, and I am so blessed to continue to have these experiences with CSM. However, when I am asked what the favorite part of my job is, none of these things seem to make the list. So what is the best part of the job for this City Host?

Watching reconciliation happen.

Let me explain… 

Being born and raised in South Africa, reconciliation is a word that has been close to my heart my whole life.  I was born just two years before the democracy of my country was, and I grew up with the first generation of people born free and equal by the law. Since 1994, my country has been working tirelessly to break fresh stereotypes of anger and hurt left behind from Apartheid. It has not been easy for the country’s leaders. So much seems to rest on their shoulders, but the place I see reconciliation most in South Africa is not in large-scale government attempts or in politics, it is in the people. 

This is not a South African reality, but a universal reality. In Denver, not only is there a great need for racial reconciliation, but also reconciliation between the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the marginalized and the included. 

Reconciliation doesn't happen when the rich feed the poor, it happens when we all get on the same level, sit on the ground against a tree stump and talk about life's joys and hardships. That is why Jesus sat at the well with the Samaritan woman and went to dinner with tax collectors. Jesus set this example of reconciliation for us as something that we must all play a part in.

Being with CSM, I have been able to watch those walls of separation break down. I get to see the story being changed...
When a 15 year old girl calls a homeless person ‘my friend’. 
When a young student quietly sits and listens to the entire life story of a 68 year old man living on the street. 
When a group of teenagers stand in a circle in a McDonalds, hold hands, and pray with a man that most would simply ignore.

I have seen students hearts changed by these experiences, and I have seen my homeless friends with joy on their faces because of the mere fact that somebody listened.

These are the moments that impact lives and bring reconciliation. These are the stories that will change the future of our churches, our countries, and our world.

I want to leave you with a quote from one of my heroes, Desmond Tutu. When speaking of the role of Christians in reconciling our world, he says:

"We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome..."

And that, friends, is the best part of my job.

- Jordan, CSM Denver Summer 2013 City Host

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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Seeing Him Through the Rain

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

This verse seemed to be a constant theme this week for the group that Krista and myself co-hosted.  This Fourth of July week was one not of sunshine, BBQs and all that would be expected of the 4th. It in turn was a week full of rain, waiting, cancelled plans because of the rain, being wet and tedious-laborious work. It was a struggle to see the true underlying lesson in all of the wetness and cancelled plans, along with the many mundane jobs that came our way. 

Krista and I often worried if our students were going to be able to see God in the things that we were doing. We were worried that the rain and cancelled plans would deter or distract the students from learning to love to serve the city that we love. But despite all of the plans that we had in trying to curb the lessons for our group, we figured that God must have had a different lesson for us. 

No small task is meaningless. Every single thing that our hands find to do can be used as an opportunity to serve our Savior. We were challenged when we were sweeping parking lots, but we swept for our Lord. We were frustrated when we folded 200+ shirts, but found joy knowing that it was all for our King. We were upset when the rain ruined our plans, but were glad to find that God was teaching us to relate to people were this is their reality. 

Perspective was everything this week and our group did an amazing job at being flexible and open to serving the city in a number of ways. God was faithful this week, in showing us Himself in every possible way, even when it was least expected. We are thankful because we didn't expect Him to show up in those moments, but those were the moments that we saw Him the most. 

- Corisa, CSM Nashville Summer 2013 City Host

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Carrying Burdens

This past week has been full of wonderful moments and memories. I certainly feel that I am learning and loving Nashville more and more as each week passes.

An example of that this past week: one of our partners in the city reminded my group and myself the importance of carrying others burdens and what that might really look like. In the book of Luke, we are given an image of Christ on his way to Jairus’ home to heal his only daughter as she was dying. A woman, who desperately sought out for his healing as she had been subject to suffering for nearly 12 years, stopped Jesus in the middle of his travels. Jesus surely had somewhere to be, but in that moment he stopped just to hear this woman’s story of suffering. She was healed in that very moment. 

I was so blessed to be able to spend time with our friends at People Loving Nashville this week that do just that on a regular basis. They have shown me that with every meal, we carry and share the burdens of people’s hunger. With every conversation, we have the chance to carry one another’s sorrows and joys. It's a beautiful picture; every night at the War Memorial in Downtown Nashville, seeing a group of diverse and young individuals coming together to break bread and genuinely share life with the least of these. 

There’s healing in carrying burdens, they are showing me just that. I am inspired by this community and am overjoyed to see others loving their city well.

- Corisa, CSM Nashville Summer 2013 City Host

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