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.