Friday, March 27, 2015

March 2015 City Journal

In there, you'll find...
  • New York City Highlight
  • Food Insecurity in the Land of Plenty
  • BIG NEWS about our Urban Intensive!
  • We're hiring!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Food Insecurity in the Land of Plenty

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the wealthiest regions in the United States, with the highest per capita income in the country among large metropolitan areas (  It also boasts a hunger rate among residents that is almost ten percent higher than that of the nation as a whole (one in four residents in San Francisco experience hunger annually compared to one in six nationally). The Bay Area exemplifies a wealth disparity far too prevalent in our nation. Students who come to the city will see that the very rich and the very poor often live only a few blocks apart. Food insecurity is rampant in the area despite San Francisco’s proximity to the Central Valley, the hub of California agriculture, only 200 miles east. For decades, the West Oakland community has been a food desert, an urban area where it is difficult to purchase fresh nutritious food, thus forcing residents with limited access to transportation to purchase food at the numerous liquor stores and convenience stores in their area, which offer much less healthy options. (

Food security is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization as the availability, access, utilization, and stability of food. It exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences (  Limited access to nutritious food is one of the significant ways that inequality plays out in the Bay Area. There are many barriers to food security in the city, including unemployment, physical or mental disability, poverty, racial inequality, and the recent price surges in the housing market. Many of those who benefit from food assistance in the Bay Area are working families struggling to make ends meet. Almost half are children, who are less likely to succeed academically and more likely to drop out before completing high school.  A growing number are seniors experiencing mobility and health issues, struggling to live on a fixed income. Those suffering from hunger are truly the poor and oppressed, the sick and the lonely; God’s chosen people.

The Center for Student Missions is committed to following God’s mandate to do good works through our faith (James 2:14-17) by working to end chronic hunger in the Bay Area. We have the opportunity in this region to affect change in real and tangible ways. Student groups serving the city may partner with the SF Marin Food Bank or Alameda County Food Bank, which rely on thousands of hours of volunteer support to bring a combined 46 million pounds of food, 60% of which is fresh produce, to the residents of San Francisco, Marin, and Alameda counties every year. The food banks also provide home delivered groceries and support brown bag pantries specifically for seniors. Many of our partner ministry sites are supported by food from the food banks, including the homebound hot meal program and the kitchen and grocery center at Project Open Hand, the St. Vincent de Paul Society free meal dining room, the dining room and rehabilitation center at City Team International, and the senior meals program at the Salvation Army. Along with working to serve and uplift “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40), students serving at these sites will have the opportunity to learn more about the causes and consequences of hunger in the Bay Area, get to know staff and volunteers working to bring God’s Kingdom to earth, and to meet and learn from those fixed in a daily struggle against hunger. Chronic hunger is often an issue that goes unseen. Yet in this country, we allowed 133 billion pounds of food to go to waste in 2010 ( With a little intention and diligence, Christians can make a huge impact on the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those made in the image of God.

- Mary, CSM San Francisco Bay Area Spring 2015 City Host

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Friday, March 06, 2015

Interrupted: Eric Peng

CSM Chicago will be posting a blog series called "Interrupted: The Unexpected Movements of God Working Through CSM's Ministry". If you have a story about how God interrupted your life through a CSM trip, please email it to!

Eric Peng
CSM Group Leader
Every so often, God causes individuals to make small cameos in our life stories in such a way that they drastically alter the plots of our narratives. Such was Eric Peng’s experience with Robert*, whom he met on a CSM trip to Chicago. At the time, Robert was a homeless man begging on the streets. It would have been easy for him to fade into the background of Eric’s story, but God had a different plan. He amplified Robert’s voice to the point that it awakened a dormant passion for inner city ministry. This is the story of Eric Peng’s life interrupted.

Eric Peng is an associate pastor at The Ninth Hour in Chicago. During his years attaining his Master of Divinity at Moody Theological Seminary, he was a youth pastor at Hanmee Presbyterian Church in Itasca, Illinois, where he met his wife Janice, who was the children’s pastor at the time. He would lead mission trips with his students to Honduras. As he saw the problems going on in Chicago, he questioned why the church was not addressing the issues in its own city before sending people abroad. He researched inner city missions organizations and came across CSM. He brought his students for a week-long trip in Chicago, during which they served at By the Hand Club for Kids, a children’s ministry and after-school program that serves four of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Chicago. In a CSM activity called “Immersion” in which his group was sent to explore the downtown area, they spotted a homeless man named Robert holding a sign that said “God Bless You.” He was begging pedestrians for a week-long train pass so he could sleep on the train. As Eric and his students talked to Robert, they were encouraged by his godliness and positivity as well as his thankfulness despite his circumstances. A year later, they came to Chicago with CSM again, and they came across Robert, still in the same place begging. He was genuinely surprised that Eric recognized him. As his group left Chicago, Eric was troubled by the brokenness of poverty. He thought to himself, “The gospel has to be good news for people like Robert, for the least of these.” He noted that to love neighbor as self is an inextricable part of God’s greatest commandment that we often forget. He later attended a conference where Francis Chan spoke, and he was convicted by the heart Jesus had for the marginalized, healing them spiritually, physically, and socioeconomically.

Eric could not ignore the change that had taken place in his heart. He became an associate pastor at The Ninth Hour, a church on the Near West Side of Chicago that strives to address inner city issues like racial and social justice. For a year, he commuted to work from Palatine, a Chicago suburb. Finally, God called him to dwell in the inner city as well. At The Ninth Hour, Eric and Janice, along with several other church members, helped launch The Ninth Hour Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization that strives to improve the surrounding impoverished community; Janice is a board member of the organization. As a part of his job, Eric constantly works to partner his church with ministries that understand the needs of the community and are working to bring about social justice, which Eric has come to firmly believe is at the heart of the gospel. Furthermore, after initially falling in love with the holistic ministry of By the Hand Club for Kids on his first CSM trip, Eric started working as a volunteer recruiter and trainer for the organization.

God has a habit of shaking up our plans. Eric Peng could not have anticipated the degree to which his encounter with Robert would redirect his life. What is truly incredible is the heart change that took place in Eric as a result. The human heart is a force to be reckoned with, and it cannot be changed apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. Years later, as Eric visited one of By the Hand’s ministry partners, he saw Robert at the intersection where he had seen him twice before. God reminded Eric of how profoundly He had interrupted his life. Eric is an example of what happens when we allow God to speak louder than us over our own lives. As Proverbs 19:21 (ESV) says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” May we eagerly await God’s divine interruption of our plans on a daily basis.

*Name has been changed

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Oh, Canada! (why serving with CSM in the US is a great option for our neighbors to the north...)

Did you know that many groups come from our lovely neighbor-to-the-north, Canada? It's true! With many cities across the United States being extremely accessible to our northern friends (such as Chicago, Detroit, Boston, and New York City), an ongoing relationship with CSM has become quite easy to maintain. 

Hear from one of our consistent, faithful group leaders, Duane Reimer, Pastor of Youth & Young Adults at Trailview Alliance Church in Swift Current, Saskatchewan:

Since 2011, I have been partnering with CSM in Los Angeles and have always had positive experiences for both myself and the groups that I have been a part of.  One of the main questions that always comes up is why Los Angeles? Why the USA? Why not stay in Canada? 

I have chosen to go down to the US for a few reasons:
1) Cost - can fly cheaper from Saskatchewan/Alberta to California than from Saskatchewan to Vancouver/Toronto.
2) New environment - Although there are needs in bigger centers, there is something about leaving your country to go to another. The teens that I bring down might be out of their comfort zone anywhere, but I feel they are more out of their comfort zone when you cross the border.
3) CSM is operating in the States!

So why CSM?  

From the first trip I took back in 2011, I knew CSM was a great organization.  It's great connecting with CSM for the week and knowing that everything for that entire week is taken care of. Everything from the schedule and what you will be doing, to the accomadations, to the food and to the many different experiences you will get throughout the week.  It's always a bonus that CSM provides a City Host that goes with you everywhere and even serves with you during the week.

What I find unique about CSM is that they don't do ministry by themselves, but they partner with existing organizations within the community. CSM does not have their own ministry programs, but when you can partner with 5+ different organizations and ministries within a week all planned and organized by CSM - that is a great thing.

CSM also sees the big picture. They not only want the groups to come and serve, but they want the week to be a success.  They provide training materials for you and your group to journey through before the week of serving.  How you do the training is totally up to you and depending on the group you have flexibility to change what you need to but the core training stays intact.  I have experienced the training to be a positive. It helps the teens understand the culture that they will be a part of, changes their worldview and prepares them for the week ahead.  

We are grateful for the years of service Duane and his team have dedicated to CSM Los Angeles! If you are a Canadian youth worker or ministry leader, please don't hesitate to email us with any questions about how we can help you coordinate a mission trip in the United States.