Friday, October 30, 2015

A Life Remembered through Empowering Others

In July 2013, 12 year-old Lydia Kizziar served on a week-long mission trip with CSM Houston alongside her youth group from Carrollton, TX. Her parents, Max and Diane shared:
“Lydia had an amazing week. This was the first time she had done something like this, and she delighted in every minute of it. The balance of various service opportunities from serving food to ministering to children was so rewarding to her. She also loved the teachings and times of worship with the leadership. She returned changed forever. It was like she came back with a real understanding of the importance of her own relationship with the Lord and a desire to serve Him as well as a sense of the great need for it.”
Tragically, Lydia became ill with the H1N1 virus six months after her trip and was received into the arms of her Savior on January 4, 2014, just four months after her 13th birthday. Many gave to her memorial fund and, as “a last act of parenting”, Max and Diane Kizziar sought to honor her memory by directing these funds to ministries that represented their daughter’s values and her heart.
CSM was honored to be a recipient of this fund and hopes to continue honoring Lydia’s beautiful memory by continuing the scholarship to enable junior-high students to serve on a CSM mission trip each year who, financially, would not be able to do so otherwise.
If you would like to give a gift towards the continuation of this fund, please donate here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Interrupted: Josh Larson

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!

Often when we look back at our lives, we can see ways in which God has been preparing to lead us in very unexpected directions long before we had a hint of where we may end up. Josh Larson would say that he never expected that he would be working in Englewood, which is known as one of Chicago’s roughest neighborhoods, at a Christian after-school program called By The Hand Club For Kids. But, it is very apparent as you listen to Josh’s story, that God has been preparing him for this role long before he even heard of By The Hand.

God has very obviously been giving Josh experiences that have prepared him for this role for many years. It started back when he was finishing his sophomore year of high school. One of his best friends encouraged Josh to work for the summer at a day camp. The camp reached kids from a rougher and lower income part of town than he had grown up in. Josh initially blew off the idea since he had other plans for the summer, but when those plans fell through and his friend’s dad called him up he decided to take the job. That summer he absolutely fell in love with the job and the kids that he was serving. He wound up spending the next six summers at the camp. It was there that God began working in Josh’s heart and giving him a passion for serving kids who may be more difficult to love and lacking people who will invest in their lives long-term.

Going into his senior year of college, Josh was unsure of what he wanted to do next. That previous summer, he had this vague idea that after college he wanted to move to Chicago and find a job where he could learn and experience more of the city and the issues that people, and especially kids, were facing in the city. One of his good friends had spent the summer working for CSM Chicago and encouraged Josh to apply to be a city host.

Josh’s summer as a city host was a life-changing experience. Never before had he thought about issues of racism, poverty, segregation, and social justice in such deep ways. Like many others, these issues had been easy for him to brush aside before CSM helped him to understand the ongoing magnitude these issues have on people’s lives. He was deeply impacted and humbled by all that he was learning. That summer Josh served at a VBS in a homeless shelter. The kids he was serving were living with even deeper needs and in more difficult situations than the ones he had worked with at the summer day camp back home. He loved being able to invest deeply in relationships with these kids throughout the summer. As the summer came to a close Josh realized he had developed a deep love for the city, and felt that he was not yet done with Chicago or with CSM so he chose to apply for the apprenticeship.

Near the end of his summer, Josh got to host a week at By The Hand. Hearing about their mission and vision of holistic ministry to kids excited Josh, and he wound up choosing By The Hand Englewood as his ministry partner during his year-long Apprenticeship with CSM. He would say that it was one of the hardest experiences he’s ever had. At first many of the students responded negatively to his presence, but throughout the year as he continued to serve he began to prove to them that he was sticking around. He learned a lot about what it meant to invest long-term in inner-city ministry, and his heart became more deeply broken for the issues these kids were facing daily.

At the end of his Apprenticeship, he was offered a full-time position at By The Hand Englewood where he is currently a 6th grade team leader. This year is proving to be even more challenging than the past one. If it hadn’t been for all that he learned and experienced while at CSM, Josh knows that he would not be nearly as prepared as he is for his new role. Two years ago he had this vague idea that he wanted to serve underprivileged, urban kids, but there is no way that he would have ended up there without God using CSM to change and prepare his heart for ministry. CSM was one part in a long journey God took Josh on to bring him to the place he is now. It is incredible to trace the ways that God uses different experiences to interrupt our lives and lead us into very unexpected places.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Philly Community Rallies Around Family

Normally when a toddler wakes up  in the middle of the night, they are prevented from getting too far by a crib or a bedroom door. Unfortunately, not everyone has these luxuries to keep their family safe.

Angelique and Michael want to provide for their family, but it's hard in Philly right now.  There aren't many shelters where families are able to stay together, and most of them are full.  So they did the best they could by propping up cardboard walls and lining the space under a building in Love Park, located in Center City.

Unfortunately, their son crawled away and was found wandering in the park in the middle of the night. But now that people have heard, the city is banding together to help this struggling family.  Chosen 300 Ministries, a partner of CSM, is launching a campaign to raise $12,000 in 12 days to help secure housing and services for the family for the next year.  In just two days, the city banded together to raise over $7,800.

Sometimes, situations can seem so bleak. And yet, God can step in and provide a chance for a community to come together and express his love for everyone.

- Nicole Engelhardt, CSM Philadelphia City Director

After a rallying effort on behalf of the family from yesterday's blog post, they have found an apartment, furniture, services, and plenty of job offers to get them to a place of stability.  The family couldn't believe how willing people were to support them.

"We are taken care of," says the father of the family.  "Now, what are you going to do for the other people that's out there?"

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My Summer as a CSM City Host

The following reflection was written by Saundra, author of Choose Joy and former CSM Philadelphia City Host. Thank you for sharing your experience with us!
Saundra, front right, shares her experience serving as a City Host with CSM.
I've been back in Missouri for less than two months but it feels like two seconds. Philadelphia has forever changed me. I used to be a fairly unemotional person, one who didn't address difficult situations but I was forced to as a city host. I was broken down again and again but I learned that was because God needs to do that in order to build us back up stronger. The president of CSM came to visit us hosts one week and he asked us how CSM "wrecked" our lives and at first, I was really confused about it but now that I am back in Missouri, I finally understand what he meant. I came back here and nothing felt the same, least of all, me. CSM had taught me what true happiness felt like to me and that was not how I felt at school, so I decided to change it. I quit the sorority that had so graciously poured into me for three years because I was not happy in it; it had been a crutch for me and it was holding me back in my faith. I often felt more stress than I did joy when it came to the sorority. I know this sorority will do good things in other girls' lives, it just wasn't where I belonged anymore. I also realized that I wasn't actually happy with my major either so I changed it. I'm a senior so people were confused but changing my major has actually made it to where I can graduate earlier than with my old one so that's pretty sweet if I do say so myself. The biggest way that CSM wrecked me was that it made me realize what was important and what wasn't. I feel such a fire in my heart when it comes to people who don't know Christ as well as the homeless. CSM just ignites this fire for serving God,  serving others, and striving to make a difference in this world and it is incredible to feel. I feel that we are called to do such extraordinary things for Christ and it can be overwhelming because it is so much BUT we can do it with Christ. I also learned so many amazing things from all the people I met and worked with this summer.

Brittany taught me how to be a gentle spirit and let others have the spotlight. She also taught me that you can rock a headband any day, anytime, any place!
Nicole taught me how to be fearless, how to be friendly but firm, and what it means to acknowledge someone's dignity.
Scott taught me to choose joy.
Caitlin taught me that it doesn't matter what people think of you or what society may think about you, you be who you are and you be it out loud and proud. (plus if you're just you, you may even start a trend. for example, the iconic Caitlin bun ;)
Fran taught me that it's okay to be yourself and voice your opinions as well as just bursting into song anywhere.
Lili taught me how to be brave, how to keep going through adversity and to just not let things get to you that aren't important.
Haeley taught me that it is important to have alone time as well as lots and lots of Dunkin' Donuts.
Faith taught me that it is important not only to serve others but to accept other people serving you in return.
Laura taught me how to relate to people in just about any way and that true positivity is rare though she exemplified it very well.
The D.C. hosts I spent a week with, Leah, Jonah and Francesca, taught me what it means to embrace one another whole heartedly, to share Christ's love so relentlessly and that you have to look out and protect one another at all times, even if it is just a seemingly small way. They were all such complex and beautiful souls that were really just a joy to get to know and they will forever have a special place in my heart.
All of the students and leaders in the groups that I had the pleasure of serving alongside as well as every other group that came through Philadelphia this summer (and the D.C. groups I got to hang out with) taught me so much about serving earnestly and fully. I was often amazed by these students who even at a young age understood so much of what it means to be a servant and follower of Christ. The leaders taught me so much about grace and mercy and just pouring into others without reserve that it was evident of how full, fueled, and encouraged the students felt at the end of each work day, ready for the next.
The ministry partners we worked with taught me that it is possible to make a difference. It starts with one person's vision, hope and determination to begin to make a difference whether it be with a summer school type camp, a rescue mission, a soup kitchen or home to help specific people- it doesn't matter how many there may be, every facility counts.
The people we served taught me that I need to be grateful for the little things I take for granted. The homeless we served taught me that even though a person may be in a bad situation, that does not make the person bad. It could happen to any of us at any point in time and that is a sobering thought.

Overall, I just learned so much and this post doesn't even begin to cover all that I've learned and what I am still learning as I process what was an amazing and life-changing summer. I loved every second of it from the amazing groups to the awesome hosts to the beauty that Philly and Camden shared with me to the times where I was sobbing to the times where I was laughing so hard my body ached to recognizing the hurt in the city to recognizing the healing in the city and most of all, recognizing the beauty in the brokenness. God is working in Philadelphia and Camden as well as everywhere else in this world; He is making it beautiful one step at a time. 
Learn how YOU can serve with CSM as a City Host!

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Top 7 Reasons You Should Serve with CSM in the Fall!

Summer is an awesome, exciting time for us as a mission organization! But we are committed long-term development and change. Across the nation, CSM sites continue to serve their communities well into the fall, winter and spring.

Right now, we have a great need for more groups to come serve with us this fall! Here are a few reasons why your group should come and serve - whether it's for 24 hours or a full week:
  1. Ministry partners need you! "Our ministry sites are definitely feeling the lack of volunteers that we sent so regularly! Since this is not a popular time to serve, our ministry partners are becoming overworked and need help running program." - CSM Chicago
  2. Beginning of the year bonding "Starting the new school year off with a bonding experience for your group - welcome new younger grades into a youth group with a meaningful experience." - CSM Philadelphia
  3. Partner with brand new ministry partners! "Come and serve in Denver this Fall! Not only is autumn one of the most gorgeous seasons in Denver, we also have some amazing opportunities for your group. We have a brand new ministry partner that we are eager to build a greater connection with this upcoming year. On Saturdays we have the opportunity to go door to door inviting kids to come to a special outreach with games, fun activities and learning how much Jesus loves them.  Come and be a part of this exciting ministry with us!" - CSM Denver
  4. Perfect weather for serving! "With lower, dryer temps we have more opportunity to serve outdoors, go on prayer walks and enjoy city searches without the dreaded summer heat." - CSM Houston 
  5. More opportunities to learn "Fall is the perfect season to dig deeper into justice issues that effect the city. Mission trips are often seen as just being hands-on service, but we also would like to equip, educate, and empower students and leaders to serve at home and abroad." - CSM New York City
  6. Needs continue, though less volunteers come "Volunteerism is down in the fall and so many ministry sites need additional help - especially places like Kids' Meals who makes and delivers lunches to kids in Houston ages 1-5. " - CSM Houston
  7. More opportunities to serve together! "Fall and weekend groups have a unique opportunity where our ministry sites can use 20- 30 participants at one time, instead of our usual max of 11-12. So larger groups will be together and have similar schedules instead being split up for service during the day. " - CSM San Francisco Bay Area

Interested in learning more? Call 267-928-2620 or email today!