Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Long Time KAA Camper Report – Bianca Gaither

Tracy Hipps at KAA Kamp with Simone and Bianca Gaither
The summer of 1991, our youth group from New City Church hopped in a Suburban on the road to the deep woods of Missouri with our youth pastor Tracy Hipps. A long journey was ahead of us. The ride consisted of naps, laughter, chit chat, and a stop along the way, spending the night at a church that fed us and treated us like their own. As we pulled up the next day at KAA, a crowd of loud people wearing costumes came running towards our ride - chanting, dancing, and rocking the truck. Of course, we locked the doors and were determined NOT to let these crazy people in. This was the beginning of a 5-year journey of loading vans every summer heading to Kids Across America. Each year growing and learning in Christ, and getting hyped for Jesus.

This place was like no other place I’d visited before. The music sounded like the music I enjoyed, only they were talking about Jesus. The counselors brought a hype, a joy that I never knew I could feel about God. I was able to experience things that I had never experienced before—
 boat riding, self-defense, tubing, etc. Then came CrossTalk. This was the first time I really experienced what our Savior went through as the actors were hit and thrown to the ground. That first year broke me completely down and I truly knew that I was a child of God and wanted a relationship with him. Each year I anxiously waited for summer so I could head back to Missouri again.

As the years moved along I had the opportunity to continue in our youth ministry and grow in Christ. As I moved through the church youth group, Pastor Hipps and our youth group leaders took us through discipleship training, Bible studies, and built relationships with us while teaching us how to be doers of the Word. This teaching and training lead to me putting what I had learned into action. I then had the opportunity to work in our church organization summer camp as a counselor, teacher, counselor trainer, and then camp director.

Fast forward 22 years; I’m now a mom of my own eleven-year-old daughter. I found out that our church youth group was taking youth to KAA. Of course, Tracy Hipps was the organizer of the trip. I told him that my daughter was going, and he recommended I go as a Kaleo. I agreed and thought to myself, “What in the world am I doing?” However, it gave me a sense of peace knowing that I would be with my baby, so I went.

The night of departure arrived and I was still in disbelief that I was not only going, but going as Mom. As we began to board the buses, my daughter and I realized that we were separated and would be in two different camps. We were both a bit concerned, but decided to go with the flow. God does everything for a reason. You see, I went to visit Simone at her camp one time and she sweetly dismissed me because she was having her own great experience.

Once arriving at camp, I realized that this experience as a Kaleo was a TOTALLY different experience. This “Bubble Bath in Jesus” was both unexpected and much needed. You see, I’m an educator, and the whole philosophy for the camp is that Kaleos pour into the lives of our youth all the time. So they make this time a refresher for us to reboot/rejuvenate so we can continue our work. I had the opportunity to spend time with about 8 other women of God who pour into the lives of youth all year round. I also got the chance to refresh and relax, but also study the Word. The second perk was having the opportunity to get to know and work with 4 amazing teenagers that went with us. I was able to experience Cross Talk, but this time I was on the other side. As I cried with one of my girls and prayed with her to recommit her life, I again was reminded of why KAA is so important and why youth ministry is so important. This experience has allowed me to see ministry happen in full circle. Tracy Hipps sowed the seed into me and now I have the opportunity to sow what I have learned into the lives of other youth. I can honestly say - Youth Ministry Matters!

CSM Helps Launch Two New Summer Camps

CSM Intern Victoria Lawson leading True Vine Summer Camp

"Camp brings hope and positivity to the kids." Pastor Thomas Wilder, Bethel Baptist Church

This summer we have had an incredible opportunity to dig in a little deeper into several of our city-wide partnerships. One door that the Lord has opened is through summer camps for kids! Working with True Vine Evangelical Church in Inglenook and Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville, we are producing two brand new summer learning camps for Kindergarten through 8th graders. Local church leadership, interns, and CSM summer volunteer groups from around the country are mobilized and joining hands together to create a safe, healthy, and exciting learning environment. Both camps have focused on reading, writing and math with a lot of physical education to go along with it!

Each site has at least two CSM summer interns working as a strategic part of these two churches' staff. Our interns are intentional about deepening the relationships each church is developing in the communities that they serve through Camp Hope and Camp Bethel. We interviewed Pastor Thomas Wilder to get his perspective on the new summer camp at Bethel Baptist:

What has fired you up to start a kid's camp here at Bethel Baptist?
Kids need something to do in summer because that means that they are less likely to get in trouble. The camp also offers a chance for the church to extend our ministry to the kids while they are at the camp. This allows the kids to be in a positive environment outside of just Sunday. Also, there at the kid’s camp, the kids are getting up to date on what they are learning in school, if they are behind, and if not, then it reinforces what they learned that year so that the kids can be ahead of the curve when they get back to school in the fall.

Do you see this as a part of your strategy for community development?
Yes, absolutely. Part of community development effects culture and not just the visible neighborhood. Building a building in three months doesn’t change the culture. Changing culture takes longer than throwing up buildings. To change the culture, you have to develop the people in the community.

Do you feel this is making an impact?
Yes. The kids even come up and say that it’s making a difference. One time, 40 years ago, a man who attended Bethel and helped with VBS at the church, wrote Bethel a check to keep the VBS program running because it was making an impact. We are here to introduce people to Jesus Christ and have a personal relationship with Him and also to see the possibilities in the world. There was a young girl and a mom who attended Bethel and one Sunday the mom told the young girl to go to church. On the way to church, the young girl’s mom overdosed back at the house and was taken to the hospital. Years later, the young girl was able to earn her Master’s Degree and continue to move forward because of the positive influences she found at Bethel. We want camp to bring hope and positivity to these kids.

Thanks to Pastor Wilder for sharing his heart with us. We are privileged to partner with him. We still need teachers and other volunteers who love working with kids K-8th grade Monday - Friday from 9am to 1pm!  If you or someone you know would like to volunteer, please contact Michael Bowen at michaelb@csmission.org to sign up.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Note From Tracy Hipps: What's In A Name?

This morning, I read in Numbers where Moses changed Hoshea’s name to Joshua which means “The Lord is Salvation.” As I was studying more deeply into the meaning of names in Scripture, I came to Jesus, whose real name was “Yahushua.” Several times in Scripture, names are changed: Abram to Abraham and Simon to Peter.  Given names meant something highly significant in ancient days, while today, we associate meaning and movements with names people are given. For instance, we relate Billy Graham with evangelism; Rick Warren with purpose; Martin Luther King Jr. with Civil Rights; and George Washington Carver with invention.

Tracy interviewed by WIAT before
the CSM Mother's Day Luncheon
Today, we think of names as branding and we all work hard to get our name out there. This past weekend, we sponsored our annual “Love for Moms” Luncheon where more than 100 mothers were served and encouraged. The TV news filmed the event and the speaker but CSM was not mentioned. Nevertheless, we were all pleased because at the end of the day, Jesus was glorified and lifted-up.

In 1971, the Christian Service Mission was formed with the idea to serve the poor. Today, CSM is still living out its name with Christian values while “Serving People on Mission for God” here in Birmingham. CSM is now a brand but I want to always be known by our values, mission, and service to people. Yes, we do “connect resources to needs,” but more than that, we are about connecting people to people.

Tracy's favorite popsicle
"happy face" drawing
by one of the students
This month, we have seen 1,300 moms impacted by our Mother’s Day senior home program where churches partnered with nursing homes to love on the Moms there. We served another thousand
families through our food ministry. We mobilized hundreds of volunteers to touch lives all over the city through a Wells Fargo Service Day and we have hosted many other volunteer groups.

We have seen the “Miracle Pops” become a reality to serve more than 800 students in Pinson and sent snacks to more than 800 students at Woodlawn High School, which were distributed by our partners. And in all that we do at CSM, we do it, in the name of Jesus.

I must be embarrassingly honest… as I have listened to the news the last couple of months, I kept hearing “POTUS” in the news and had to look it up to learn the meaning. When I looked at Scripture today, it said “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” The power is in the name, and here at CSM we represent the greatest name of all time— “Yahushua”!

CSM has been around 46 years and has made a great impact in Birmingham and beyond. Thank you for being a part of CSM and glorifying the name Jesus with us.

CSM Celebrates Moms in a Big Way

 2017 CSM "Love For Moms" City-wide Luncheon

This past Mother's Day weekend, in partnership with South Highlands Presbyterian Church, we celebrated Mother’s Day with long-planned events designed to lavish love and appreciation on women who are connected to our partners throughout the city. Some of these women may be forgotten, alone or struggling in other ways. This year’s  Mother’s Day luncheon was attended by over 100 women; some brand-new moms, some now elderly, and some even homeless or in ministry shelters. Church members had arranged lovely centerpieces in the magnificent dining hall, and volunteers scurried to set the tables and make certain everything was perfect when the guests arrived.

The Yellow Bicycle Catering provided a delicious hot meat, beautifully plated by volunteers in the kitchen (dishwashing expertly handled by volunteer and So. Highland’s member, Pam Buck). CSM staff and volunteers graciously welcomed the ladies who came as guests with our partner ministries and organizations, and then served them throughout the luncheon. 

LaShundra Smith tells her story
We all enjoyed an amazing and heart-wrenching program, with music powerfully sung by former Birmingham Police Chief, Annetta Nunn, who now serves as the Domestic Violence Task Force Director with the YWCA Central Alabama. Through her passion to help women who are victims of domestic abuse, Annetta met LaShundra Smith. LaShundra shared her testimony of God’s grace and protection for her and her four children the night her (former) husband went on a rampage and shot her twice, leaving her to die and refusing to call for help all night. When help came in the morning, she was paralyzed from the waist down. That was ten years ago, and today LaShundra is able to speak words of encouragement and hope from her wheelchair. Her children are all thriving and high-achieving living testimonies to LaShundra’s indomitable spirit and faith in God. There was not a dry eye! 

The ladies left with full hearts, a gift bag with a hand-made card from our young volunteers and a red rose from CSM. On the same day, we ministered to 1,300 moms with our Mother’s Day senior home program with partnering churches delivering our gift bags, cards and food to nursing and elder homes so they could love on those precious and often uncelebrated Moms living there. This was a very special Mother’s Day weekend for us, because CSM HEARTS MOMS!

Heartfelt Mother's Day cards lovingly made by CSM volunteers
over the past few months  for the women we honored
at the luncheon and at the various senior homes
Our MC Deborah Foster
Gift bags filled and ready, each complete with
a handmade Mother's Day card 
Jamie makes certain each place setting is perfect
South Highlands Pres volunteer event director Debbie Perkins
gives the servers last minute instructions
Westwood Baptist Women's Ministry team ready to serve
CSM event coordinators and hostesses -
Rhonda Marshall (l) and Jamie Barnhart (r)
So. Highlands Pres. Pastor Hurley greeted Deborah and all the ladies
Speaker LaShundra Smith with Annetta Nunn
Servant spirits making the day special for each lady

Michael Bowen working the crowd
The "Newest Mom" door prize winner
A full house filled with smiling faces.

... and lovely ladies

Annetta Nunn sings and briefly shares about domestic violence issues
Tracy encouraging and honoring LaShundra for
her faith and amazing dedication to her children
Flowers for everyone!

A big smile from our beloved Mrs. Venita Wesley (with her crew)

Calling For Summer Snack Donations!

We are collecting individually wrapped snack items, the healthier the better, to serve more than 500 children in summer camps! Our inner-city churches say, “When school is out, we are in!” So let’s help them feed and love on these children, many of whom are food insecure, or there is not enough money in the budget for additional treats!

You can drop off snack items at CSM headquarters, 3600 3rd Ave S, Bhm 35222. We will share them with our ministry partners, who in turn, share the love of Jesus with hundreds of kids over the summer. Thank you for your sweet kindness!

VHHS Students Make Big Impact at CSM

Michael Bowen congratulating three of his faithful workers from VHHS
For the last several years I have had the opportunity and privilege to work with groups from Vestavia Hills High School's "School to Work Program". Each group has a job coach that brings the kids to us every Thursday during the school year to work with us on whatever tasks we have for them that week and that has included gardening, sorting food, creating care packages for students and the elderly, writing Mother's Day cards and a whole bunch of other projects.

CSM is honored to be a partner with VHHS
and humbled to be honored by them!
This month I was invited to represent Christian Service Mission at the VHHS "School to Work Program" Awards Day in Vestavia, and had the opportunity to present a CSM certificate of achievement and a t-shirt to the students who have worked with us all throughout the year! When I arrived, the place was packed with family members, teachers, faculty members and other organizations that have allowed the students to work with them throughout the year as well. All of the 30+ students have been involved in a work-force training opportunity during the school year and have had the chance to work each week with a handful of different ministries and local businesses, as well as with the school lunch program to help provide meals to their fellow classmates.

It has truly been a blessing to me to get to know these young men and work with them each week. We have a ton of fun, and there is not a week that goes by that I don't laugh at least a hundred times while we get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. They are great to work with and have been a great part of our team at Christian Service Mission! Thanks for all of your help guys, and we will see you next year!

Michael Bowen
CSM Volunteer Coordinator

A packed house!

CSM Certificates of Achievement for these hard working guys.

Amazing Vestavia High School students with big hearts and wide smiles.

STAIR Graduation!

STAIR students from Oliver Elementary honored for their achievements
One key partnership within the education ministry of Christian Service Mission is STAIR Birmingham. STAIR is on a mission to improve reading skills and self-esteem of second graders through one-on-one tutoring. Reading proficiency by the third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Unfortunately, 80% of children in the city of Birmingham miss this crucial milestone every year. With the help of dedicated volunteer tutors, STAIR is now serving 170 students with 91% success in reading score increase.

Norman and Janet Dixon. Norman Dixon, CSM Special Projects Manager, and CSM Staff Volunteer Director, Michael Bowen, and CSM spring semester intern, Matt Azemar, poured into the students as tutors at Oliver Elementary School this year. Norman’s wife and retired educator Janet Dixon is the acting STAIR Birmingham Director, and Norman also serves as the STAIR Assistant Director.

The recent graduates of the program were recently recognized in a year-end ceremony, indicually addressed by their tutor. As well, all the college graduating tutors were presented with a copy of the book, “Oh the Places You will go” by Dr. Seuss, a perfect send-off!

CSM Intern Matt Azemar with the student he tutored this year
STAIR Director Janet Dixon (l) with CSM weekly front desk
volunteer, Eula Jackson, who also tutors with STAIR 
CSM Volunteer Coordinator Michael Bowen