Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Power of Story

We as humans connect with story. More than facts or numbers or lists, we understand more deeply when we sit down and talk with someone, when we see that person as human, like ourselves. I think of one ministry site CSM Boston works with, a home for hurting people working to learn who God is and how He made them. As part of our work days there, we sit and eat lunch with the residents, and spend time sharing our stories with each other. Over lunch, we hear stories from ex-convicts, drug addicts, victims of broken relationships and systems. They share their stories of brokenness and redemption, of being saved by God and used by Him. At the end of the day, groups leave with the same reaction: "they are human, like me." This is someone created in the image of God, loved and cherished by Him and revealing a piece of God to me that I have not seen before. 

I think of a director of a clothing exchange program we work with, providing low-income and homeless families with children's clothing. With every group, she shares her story of being homeless herself, only able to keep her child through getting clothes and baby items she needed from this program. After getting back on her feet, she was able to volunteer at this program, and is now the director. Her story is unique, one of brokenness and restoration, one of being used by God, saved and now being used to help others.

The other night, in preparation for Boston's Urban Intensive on understanding refugees and immigrants in America through the lens of story, I sat with a Vietnamese couple to ask them to share their experience coming to America as refugees many years ago. They shared stories of pain and hope, wisdom in what it looks like to thrive in a country full of opportunity but burdened with roadblocks. They talked about the role their church played in their resettlement. As the church community allowed them to transition and process, they were then able to do the same for other newly arrived refugees, both Vietnamese and not. God used their story, their history of pain and hardship to invite others into His Kingdom. By His grace, God redeemed a story of brokenness into a story of thriving as His child. 

At CSM, we step into a story of God's continuing restoration of the city. We step into the story He's crafting of the individuals and organizations He's using to restore - the stories of the broken learning the redemption that comes in Christ, the story of the woman who went from homelessness to directing a non-profit to help those in poverty, the story of a Vietnamese family using their brand as "refugee" to welcome others branded with the same name. 

-Courtney Gingras, Boston Associate City Director

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Wednesday, October 05, 2016

City Highlight: San Francisco Bay Area

The Impact of Discipleship

Ten years ago, a friend of mine who has a passion for racial reconciliation and caring for the poor started informally discipling me and told me to go to a seminar by Edward Gilbreath (author of Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical's Inside View of White Christianity).  As I listened to Ed and heard other seminar participants share their stories, my eyes were opened- there were whole sections of Scripture and hundreds of verses about caring for the oppressed and marginalized in our society that I had not noticed in my church upbringing or from reading the Bible on my own.  Six and a half years ago, my husband, Jason, and I chose to take positions with CSM as Co-City Directors in order to continue exploring God’s heart for the poor, for racial reconciliation and for justice.

As a CSM City Director, I appreciate getting to personally learn more about issues that are near to God’s heart, while also providing an opportunity for youth leaders of CSM trips to disciple their students while they participate in ministry together through prayer and service.  One way that I have been growing over the last month is through reading Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer sharing true stories of people he has worked with and known.  Bryan has helped me put many faces to the statistics of Mass Incarceration in our county, one of the things we pray for during our CSM Oakland Prayer Tour.  He has also convinced me further of the benefit of CSM groups investing in youth in our cities and praying for these young lives long after the trip is over. 

I highly recommend both of these books as we continue to disciple others, study scripture and pray for God’s Kingdom.

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