Tuesday, June 24, 2014

When worlds COLLIDE

This week was a fantastic week. I was privileged with the opportunity to host a large youth group from Midland, TX. 

Now, I grew up in western Washington State and go to school in Idaho, so I'd be the first to admit that the Pacific Northwest (and all its stereotypes) have left obvious marks on my life. I drink too much coffee, have a beard, and shun all those who carry umbrellas in the rain. These students from Texas similarly embodied the stereotypes of west Texas that I've heard. There were students with parents who were ranchers, oil field workers, and football coaches; all of whom would be on the trip. Oh, how different we are.

These two worlds collided for a week in Nashville, a beautiful city and my home for the summer. Every morning, my group and I went to YCAP, a summer program ran by the YMCA of East Nashville and staffed by Vanderbilt football players (sidenote: never have I felt more physically inferior - I wish I would have started working out when I was 12 and never stopped, because maybe then I would be able to lift half as much as some of those guys). We spent every morning playing at least one five-on-five basketball game with some of the participants of YCAP, with teams mixed with Texans, YCAP students, Vandy football players, and me. What resulted was something beautiful, sometimes horrendous, but always basketball. At least you could call it basketball.

Since arriving in Nashville, I have recognized my otherness, or just the general differences between myself and the people that live here. I am from a white, middle-class, educated family from the Pacific Northwest. Most of the people I have met here do not share this same cultural upbringing or background. The beautiful thing I have noticed in the four weeks I have been here is that, to be honest, it doesnt matter.

As cliche' as it may sound, it doesnt matter if youre black, white, purple, or green - we are all Gods children. Likewise, we all have a place in the Kingdom of God and the redemption of the world that is already underway. The students from Texas and Nashville, despite their differences, bonded because we were all able to laugh when I air-balled again, again, and again. My serving group was able to get a glimpse of ecumenical and inclusive ministry at all of the sites we participated in this week, and see the beauty of the melting pot of Gods Kingdom.

As this group leaves to go home to west Texas, they are taking with them invaluable knowledge: people in Nashville, no matter how different they are, are people, too. Believing that statement with your head and heart is what it takes to make a difference towards equality and justice in a broken world. This is a piece of the knowledge that it takes to co-labor with Christ in the bringing of the Kingdom.

- Shaun, CSM Nashville Summer 2014 City Host

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Happy Summer!

(from left to right) Alexis, Miranda, Olivia, Ashley, Caitlin.  

Winter has faded away as summer rains are sweeping across Philadelphia and flowers are blooming sweetly.  At CSM, groups are arriving and our staff is thriving. 

We have five wonderful young women who have joined us for the summer.  They have learned as much as we could teach them in two weeks of training- Philly roads, leadership styles, conflict resolution, customer service, meeting our 28 ministry partners, and more!  They are ready and excited, and they are currently out with our first groups of the summer, serving Philly and learning to walk in love.

Over the past few weeks, I've noticed that the staff is preoccupied with getting every aspect of hosting right.  They're worried about if they happen to get lost, or where the best spot is to eat lunch.  And Brittany and I tell them over and over again- it's not in never making mistakes that we find their competency.  Rather, we know they are competent not because they get everything right, but because, even when it's hard, they choose first to love.

I've been inspired a lot by this quote from Mother Teresa as I've watched the staff get excited for the summer and felt the responsibility of caring for and teaching them:

"The success of love is in the loving- it is not
in the result of the loving.  Of course it is
natural in love to want the best for
the other person, but whether it turns
out that way or not does not determine
the value of what we have done."

We're not going to get it all right.  We're just not.  So where we lose out is not in making mistakes, but in not trying at all.  It takes so much effort, trust, faith, and caring to try- but when I see one of the staff step out of their comfort zone to heal a conflict when they're tired, or listen to each other's stories, or confess jealousies in order to heal, I know that I have seen something marvelous and perhaps otherworldly.  It takes a strength I cannot describe to go beyond ourselves to care.  And whether it works or not is not the important part.

I have learned so much from this staff, as I always do.  They inspire me with their excitement and selflessness.  I am grateful to work with such amazing women.

Here's how you can pray for us:

  • Pray for the groups as they prep for their time in Philly; pray for safe travel as they arrive
  • Pray for Brittany and I as we schedule the summer and prepare for all the groups coming
  • Pray for us as we develop new relationships with non-profits in Philadelphia, and pray for our 28 current ministry partners and the good work they do day in and day out
  • Pray for our staff: Pray that they would build wonderful community and lean on encouragement and grace as they grow and serve.

- Nicole Engelhardt, CSM Philadelphia Associate City Director

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Help kids experiencing hunger!

Check out the newest video from Kid President. Each view will help provide children across the US with food for the summer! It's a simple way to help make a difference in the life of someone else.