Thursday, December 29, 2016

Present with the present

     During a recent visit with one of our ministry partners, he mentioned that one of his favorite things about having groups serve at the after school program he facilitates is that he gets to teach and learn from new people he wouldn't have otherwise encountered.  He said, "Every day I ask the Lord to help me love the people well who end up in my space.  I love that your groups end up in my space.  Because we can point them to Jesus and they can point us to Jesus and we together can point our community to Jesus."

     I love the heart behind this.  The learning is mutual and it's together.  It's not a volunteer group coming in to be the superhero who saves the day or the ministry partner just "talking at" students.  It's reciprocal learning.  It's an offering to listen and stay still so we can be reminded of what is good and true. In this, I'm also reminded of the Danish ritual of hygge, which is simply translated as "enjoying life's simple pleasures - friends, family and gratitude."  It is creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good of the moment.  It's seeing what is in front of you and being thankful for whatever it is.

     In this season, this is where I'll rest.  We served a lot this year.  We learned a lot this year. So, for now, I'll rest in the unhurried in our spaces.  I'll ask for greater recognition of Jesus and leave behind the need to be the one saving the day. May we be known as people who are present to the present, grateful for the privilege of shining the light and have the light shown on the only One who could ever be our hero.

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Thursday, December 01, 2016

Serving: Not Just For The Holiday Season

Every holiday season Los Angeles is a flurry of decorations, celebrations, and volunteer opportunities.  The holidays provide a great way for people to get involved and give back.  Many of the organizations we work with at CSM LA have incredible celebrations that use the help of countless volunteers.  Every year the Los Angeles Mission and Midnight Mission both host big Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless community in Downtown LA.  Volunteers come from all over the city to serve a delicious Thanksgiving meal to the residents of Skid Row.  Faith in Christ, a small church in South Los Angeles, puts on a Thanksgiving dinner for the people in their South LA community as well.  Every Christmas season, My Friend’s Place, a day shelter serving a large population of homeless youth in Hollywood, has a festive gift giveaway.  They give away sleeping bags, socks, sweatshirts, and much more to the homeless youth in Hollywood.  With so many opportunities to serve during the holiday seasons, it is easy to forget these organizations utilize volunteers year round. 

          At CSM LA, we have the honor of partnering with these places throughout the year.  At Midnight Mission, we serve breakfast and lunch to residents of Skid Row, who utilize the Mission’s daily food service.  At the Los Angeles Mission we are always put to work doing various projects.  Pastor Joe and Ms. Gwynn at Faith in Christ run many programs out of their small church and we are always happy to help lighten their load.  My Friend’s Place offers incredible resources and opportunities for homeless youth.  They have a hospitable dayroom, where youth can come and hang out during the day.  Their center also has social and case workers on hand to provide services for those who need it. Beyond that, My Friend’s Place has career counselors that will give resume and interview advice to anyone applying for a job.  CSM volunteers often work to organize the center’s clothing closet, which is full of good quality, donated items that are free for the shelter’s homeless guests.    
          Whether you are able to serve meals, do work projects, or sort clothes for homeless residents, there is always work to be done and organizations that can use extra help.  I encourage you to get in touch with your local food bank or rescue mission.  Volunteering during the holidays is a great way to give back at a time when we all want to feel connected and loved, and lucky for us, that doesn’t need to end with the Christmas season.

-Allison Schuh, Los Angeles City Director

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