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

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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!