Monday, September 29, 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Embracing Identity and Equality in Christ

Before I left my hometown of Wichita, KS, to come work at CSM Houston, I promised a lot of people that I would keep them updated. Here are some insights from my first few posts...
 “I have spent my whole life hiding behind my misplaced identity. Since taking an extended break from all physical beauty "enhancers", I’ve noticed a sad but very real change in myself. When people allow physical beauty to outweigh inner beauty then character slips are easy and often go unaccounted for. Having a bad day is never an excuse to make people feel any less than what God created them to be: treasures.” (June 4, 2014)

“I occasionally got the opportunity to actually interact and have conversations with the people I was serving. One by one, the stories I heard began to tear down my pre-existing opinions towards these people...We are equally worthy. We are equally human. Most importantly, we are equally loved by the God who created us both, and it is my duty to serve and enable my fellow humans with the resources I have been blessed with.” (June 14, 2014)

I'm learning that these posts are more than just documentations of things that have happened during my time here at CSM Houston - they tell the step-by-step story of my personal growth. 

I came to CSM Houston with a misplaced identity, and a false perception of beauty. Within my first two weeks of being in Houston, I found my identity in Christ and grasped what it truly meant to be beautiful. 

Once I began to embrace my identity in Christ, I began to see the world through His eyes which instantly triggered the change in my perspective towards the people we serve here at CSM. It was during that time period, also, when I began to grasp true equality in Christ.  The dividing walls consisting of social, racial, economic, and religious bricks came crashing down and there was nothing standing in between me and the people I came here to serve. 

Galatians 5:13 started to unfold in my life: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” 

When I started living my life with a servant’s heart, a life full of intentional service to others, the life God intended for me to live, I was changed. Working at CSM is much like a race. Everyone eagerly begins the race with a fast pace, mostly unaware of all the roadblocks along the way. Together, we have learned what a life of service looks like: the beauty, the pain, and everything in between. 

Our race isn't over yet though, guys! My hope is that both myself and my fellow City Hosts are able to finish these last couple of weeks strong, serve with the eagerness of a child, and long for more of Jesus. 

Fight the good fight. Finish the race strong. Live with the goal of hearing The Good Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” I will leave you with these words
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

Go in peace.

- Morgan, CSM Houston Summer 2014 City Host

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Oakland Pastor Encourages Us to Take Multiculturalism Beyond Photo Ops and Potlucks

Dominique Gilliard is a pastor in Oakland and was one of our guest speakers for summer staff training in 2013.  I am always challenged by what he says and the way he follows Christ, even when it's hard.  I appreciate him as a Christian leader in our community.  Dom makes me think and put my faith in Jesus into action. 
Check out this interview with him....

- Kim Foster, CSM San Francisco Bay Area City Director

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Can We Tawk About When Helping Helps?

Dan Reeve has been president of CSM since September of 2008. Before coming to CSM, Dan served seventeen years as Urban Mission Director for the Evangelical Free Church Urban-Intercultural Mission. He is passionate about serving the often-forgotten people in urban America and raising up the next generation of urban leaders. Dan and his wife, Kimberly, reside in Brooklyn, NY.

So often, short-term mission trips can do more harm than good. 

There - I said it! 

A lot of us currently working in the short-term mission field are reading a very import book these days entitled “When Helping Hurts” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. The book reminds me, as the head of a short-term mission organization, that despite all the good intentions - most of us don’t even realize that we’re not really helping. 

All too often, I've seen how we, the Church, can hurt the poor in our “good works” efforts when we... 

  • Fail to see that the real problem isn’t the need to paint a peeling wall, but reconciling broken relationships with God, ourselves, others and even with God’s creation. 
  • Try to do “relief work” - when what is really needed is Restoration or Development.  (And when we don't stop to learn the difference between “relief”, “restoration” and “development”). 
  • Look for needs we can meet, but neglect the assets and people already in the community that we could potentially collaborate with. 
  • Get wrapped up in the moment - telling people we love them and then flee back home. 
  • Fail to “empower” existing, long term ministries. 
  • Fail to leave resources in a community, rather than solely take resources out. 
  • Do not include the local church. 

It’s understandable that we make these mistakes, after all, we’re only trying to help. After years of being a local urban pastor on the receiving side short-term mission groups, I have learned some lessons on how helping can truly help. 

Here are 11 suggestions that I'd recommend using as a guide when serving short-term... 

  1. NEVER go serve where you’re not invited. Plain and simple. So many times we go to a community assuming that we are wanted and that we know what is needed. The result is sometimes resentment and other times damage to the ministry that has been there building rapport and long-term development. 
  2. Don’t go where you’re not needed. There are so many opportunities to serve the poor and often-forgotten, so make sure that what you have to offer really is needed.
  3. Go to be servants, not saviors. God uses servants like Jesus! 
  4. Go with a plan to build genuine and lasting relationships that are mutual and develop reconciliation between God, others, people themselves and God’s creation. 
  5. Look for assets in the community you seek to serve. There are already many ministries, churches and social service groups that have been serving that community, often for many years. Reach out to them and ask, “can we help you”? 
  6. Leave more resources in the community than when you came. CSM uses small “mom and pop restaurants” for dinners, enabling these small community assets to be successful. 
  7. Don’t be a burden to the ministry you partner with. So often, we ask a very busy pastor, social worker or social service staff to lead our groups, taking them away from the vital work their doing. It’s better that you find out where you’re needed, learn how to do it and support the staff that’s there, rather than being cared for by over-worked ministers. 
  8. Learn the difference between relief, development and restoration and which ministry is most needed and can be served with your group's gifts and capacity. 
  9. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you are building loving relationships in just a few short days. Those relationships can happen if you have a plan for on-going partnerships, but please don’t tell a child you love them and will write them and then not do it. 
  10. When possible, work with a church that is doing holistic ministry. The greatest need of often-forgotten people is intimacy: frequent and informal contact with people who care. The Church is the very best provider of intimacy in a wholistic way. 
  11. Remember that the Gospel is good news that can be shared by proclamation, testimony, teaching, acts of mercy, connecting people with those who know Christ and a host of other venues. 

John Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association, reminds us constantly of this poem by Lao Tzu. It sums up my thoughts on how we can best "be a help" to those we serve:
“Go to the people. 
Live with them. 
Learn from them. 
Love them. 
Start with what they know. 
Build with what they have. 
But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say 'We have done this ourselves.”