Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A Note From Tracy Hipps: Trust

Trust is what we spend years developing in ministry only to have people question our trust. Why? 1969 was the first year of integration in the state of South Carolina and I was bused 12 miles to Ebenezer Junior High School where I experienced hate and hurt because I was different. The fear the students from the different areas of town felt turned into racial riots in our school and at the high school. I was just a kid and I did not know what to do. My dad was in Vietnam with the Air Force and my mom was depressed because my brother had died the year before. I didn’t have anyone to trust or guide me during this hard time.

I have been called to minister in very ethnically diverse communities and I have worked to build relationships in these communities for many years. And it takes years to build trust and just moments to destroy the trust that is needed to produce the fruit in which we have all been called to in making disciples. The richness of these relationships leads me to never go back in isolation of sameness but to continue on in the depth of oneness I have experienced. I deal with my foundational years of division and racism through the freedom I have found in God’s word that man is made in the image and likeness of God. This truth sets us free but we have to walk daily in this freedom that calls us to cross every line and barrier that divides to be together as one.

Now, 50 years later, after working many years to reconcile some of those early relationships and after building a ministry focused on Biblical reconciliation, there is still the question of trust. Can I be trusted? Trust has to be built and that takes time and motivation from the inside out. Three years ago I went to my 40th High School reunion to discover that my peers had their own stories of those years that mirrored mine. It has been amazing to build new relationships from years where there was no trust to a relationship of trust around the Gospel. Reconciliation is the process where we trust the Christ in those that have hurt us and build a new relationship with one another.

Tracy with Thomas Beavers, Joel Brooks, Alton Hardy, and Matt Mason
Today, I am still working to build relationships with friends and peers where trust is not easy but is foundational to our relationship. I want to hear your story and I want to share my story and build trust around God’s word and work. At CSM, I have spent 9 years building trust in relational partnerships believing this is the only way to change a city. John 13:35 says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” My desire comes from God’s desire for all of us to be His disciples. The song of old sang, “Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but the trust and obey.” If we obey the word of God we can build trust because of the Gospel.

New Video! Finding Place

Volunteers from United Ability box water for distribution.
Each year more than 5,000 volunteers come to us with a desire to serve and we have the privilege of hearing their heart and helping them find place either here at CSM or in the community. Each group and person is unique in their talents and abilities and we work hard at matching them to an appropriate project. We love it when this happens! A few years ago we started receiving "damaged" water in large baskets from Dollar General. This water comes from torn packages and is no longer usable by them but fills a great need we have for bottled water! Now we had lots of baskets of water but no way to distribute the water to the community. The Lord stepped in and brought several groups from Vestavia High School, United Ability, and Unless U to fill this need. It's a great project, serves a greater purpose, and gives us the opportunity to build relationships with these groups week after week. We are so thankful for our partnership with Dollar General and with these schools!

Watch this video to see United Ability boxing water and having a great time!

Last year, 101 Mobility made a generous donation to provide a wheelchair lift to offer better accessibility to our volunteers. Before that, we didn't have a great way to bring people into our building which limited who could serve with us. Now, anyone can join us no matter their ability! Read more about the donation 101 Mobility made and how it changed our CSM campus.

Volunteers from VHHS work in the cooler.

Volunteers from Unless U box sort water and other food items.

A Heart For Service

Tracy Hipps leads the volunteers with a message about CSM and prayer before the day starts.
When a church tells you that they have over 200 people with a heart for service available to serve with your ministry it can either incite panic or excitement. But God knows what needs to be accomplished and He provides just the right projects and people to get it done. This year at Shade’s Serve Day 2019, volunteers and members of Shades Mountain Baptist Church worked in, around, and outside of the Christian Service Mission Office. Volunteers began pouring into CSM around 8:00 that morning, ready and eager for the projects at hand! Nearly every inch of the CSM property was filled with volunteers form Shades and leaders from CSM working on over fifteen different projects. These amazing volunteers were able to help us tear down walls and ceilings in the warehouse for our future commercial kitchen, offer the warehouse and office fresh coats of paint, begin building a new deck out back, prepare the gardens for spring planting, sort food for distribution, sort and wrap diapers with Bundles of Hope, and lay flooring to improve office space. This massive group of people included families with children (who pitched in to create hand-crafted Valentine’s Day cards), missionaries in town for the Shades Mountain Global Iniative Conference from all corners of the planet, and lots of people who love to make a difference.

Volunteers worked hard in the cooler sorting food for future distribution.

By noon, everyone was enjoying much deserved ice cream sandwiches and popsicles after a long morning of hard work. We cannot thank Shades Mountain Baptist enough for the continued partnership on Shades Day and throughout the year! We are blessed by the relationships you offer and the multitude of ways God uses this partnership. God continues to use your efforts and faithfulness to advance his Kingdom and multiply his disciples! Thank you all!


"I want my son to grow up loving to serve and understanding the value of missions. To me, Shades Serve Day is one of the best places for him to learn those values."
"I like Shades Day because me and my brother get to help people together."

"Our families have been doing Shades Day together for years. First it was just the two of us with our fiances, now it's the two of us with our wives and kids! I love Shades Day because we are able to set aside time to focus on the needs of an organization that is constantly meeting the needs of so many people."
"We all met in our Sunday school class about fifteen years ago at Shades and we started volunteering at Shades Day not long after that. It's been so fun to watch our children grow up together and look forward to this day every year."

"Shades Day is cool because my mom lets me use tools I've never used before. It's also fun to help out here with my friends. My family comes every year, I think we've even been coming since before I was even born!"

"I love Shades Day! I think this is like my fifth time coming to Shades Day. It's cool because I meet so many people I didn't even know went to the same church as me. I also really like helping people and my mom says Christian Service Mission is a good place for that."

Photos and story by intern Katie Thiebaud.

Meet intern Katie Thiebaud: Why Social Workers Are Needed In The Church

Katie (right) working with United Ability
Christian Service Mission is a 501©(3) ministry that seeks to serve impoverished communities throughout greater Birmingham through their relationship with local church partners. This year at Christian Service Mission, I was given the opportunity to learn from some of the best and the brightest of the non-profit world.
            Working alongside individuals like Tracy Hipps, Rhonda Marshall, Jamie Leo, Kirsten Agee, Aaron Parsons, and so many others, has been such an incredible experience. From attending early Monday morning staff meetings to attending city-wide meetings at the Jefferson County Department of Health, I have learned a great deal about the non-profit world.
            One of the greatest take-a ways I learned during my time at CSM is the fact that social workers are incredibly needed in the church. Even as a current MSW student, this was something that I had not yet realized. Tracy explained how men, women, children, and families come to churches seeking help. While there are many people present who can love the people in need, there are few who know how to match the immediate need with the proper resources. This is where social workers become vital to the church community. Social workers contain a well of knowledge about different resources and services available to those in immediate need and they understand the importance of meeting both the spiritual and physical needs of those seeking aid.
            When I first arrived in the fall of 2018, Christian Service Mission acted as a great example of meeting both an immediate physical need, while also meeting spiritual needs through the collection and donation of hurricane relief goods. Back in August, the hurricanes destroyed homes, communities, families, and livelihood throughout Florida. CSM quickly began collecting goods and assembling teams to deliver supplies through church partners in the most greatly affected areas so that those in need also have a church connection to come back to. Among many other things, CSM has taught me a great deal of understanding the importance of the need for social workers in the church. -Katie Thiebaud, Masters of Social Work intern from Samford University, class of 2020

Women And Men In Blue

Delivering supplies to the Gulf Strike Team in Mobile

Serving those who serve our country has been an honor for CSM. In the past few years we have served the Coast Guard and their families on several occasions: in 2017 during Hurricane Harvey and during the recent government shutdown in January.  The best part of it all was the fact that my oldest son was the one whom asked if we could help. My son, Tal, has served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 12 years and has loved every minute of his service.

Golden Triangle XO and Tracy Hipps
In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey was making its way towards Houston and also in its path was Port Arthur and Beaumont. Tal and his family were living in Port Arthur serving in the Golden Triangle division of the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard evacuated the families of those serving so they could focus on search and during and after the disaster. It was a tough couple of days as the storm moved slowly, affecting thousands of people, and then a couple of weeks of recovery. The Lord moved here at CSM to get involved and we were honored to be able to send dozens of trucks to both Texas and later Florida during this season. One truck went to the Coast Guard for recovery after the storm and my son was so excited to unload and share this with those in need. It was like old times as he has aided us for years in service in the ministry.

Gulf Strike Team members unload much needed diapers donated by Bundles of Hope Diaper Bank.
Tracy with the Gulf Strike Team XO
In January, we experienced the longest government shutdown in history and it affected the Coast Guard because they are a part of Homeland Security and did not receive pay during that time. Once again Tal, who is now serving in Mobile with the Gulf Strike Team, called and shared the need of the families whose budgets had been stretched too thin. They had about 250 families who needed help. Once approved by the Coast Guard commander, I was able to drive the truck down to serve the families now 35 days into the shutdown. They were so thankful for the help and relief that many needed to make it through. That same day we were unloading, the shutdown was lifted and I was able to see these families celebrate with relief.

It has been an honor to serve the women and men and families who serve our country. In Texas, CSM was given a coin as a symbol of thanks from the Texas command. And, we also received a coin from the Gulf Strike Team. The next day was the college football Senior Bowl in Mobile and my wife, Mary Jo, and I had the pleasure of attending the game with our family and with the many Coast Guard families. It was during the game that I met the XO and she and I were able to talk about the Lord’s provision for the families serving under her. It was a great day.

-As told by Executive Director, Tracy Hipps

Friday, February 1, 2019

A Note From Tracy Hipps: Biblical Justice and Righteousness in Balance

Executive Director, Tracy Hipps

It has now been 9 years since the Lord brought me to CSM and the vision He gave me has matured, but has never changed. It is the vision of seeing Oneness in our relationship with God and with others. It seems so simple, yet have we ever tasted this type of relationship within the church or in the communities we serve? Over the holidays, I read Tony Evan’s book called “Oneness Embraced” and I was challenged. Dr. Evans has set a course for others to follow with a “Kingdom Agenda” series. After 35 years in ministry, this books has helped me to better define the pillars in the Bible that drive CSM philosophy. Psalms 89:14 says, “Righteousness and Justice are the foundation of your throne. Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants.” We have to be balanced in our lives to reflect both Biblical justice and righteousness. I love Evans word “Biblical Justice” which he defines as the “equitable and impartial application of the rule of God’s moral law in society.” Biblical justice is a lens to see Birmingham and CSM working to see the gospel lived out in our communities.

Then the other side of the scale, in order to be in balance, is “Righteousness.” Evans defines righteousness as being in right relationship with God and man. This is why the Bible calls us all to the ministry of reconciliation. This process helps us get in line with God and with others. (Eph. 4:24, 2 Cor 6:7) Today, our culture defines how we are to live which is so opposed to how the Bible has instructed us to live before all men. For the last 40+ years I have tried to be a righteous man, seeking the Father through time alone and with fellow brothers in Christ. I want right thinking that is lined up with the Word. I want right feelings that are in touch with a Lord who loves me and others deeply. I want right speaking which reflect living life with the principles of scripture and I want right behavior which is living life peacefully with all mankind.

This year at CSM we are focused on these two pillars: Biblical Justice and Righteousness as we connect, serve, and mobilize the body of Christ to do the same. In this, we will see transformed lives that influence our churches, communities, and families with the values of a kingdom agenda. We want you to join us for the next nine years, transforming communities through Christ.

Welcome, Spring Interns!

Interns Jackson Core, Katie Thiebaud, and Tanner Thompson
We are thrilled to have these bright students working with us this Spring. Katie and Jackson started their internships last Fall and they quickly engaged themselves in the community and volunteer opportunities. Katie is learning how social work is so important in the church and in the communities we serve. Tanner jumped in quickly working with volunteer groups and tackling overall operations policies and procedures. Tanner is a Micah Fellow at Samford and hopefully we will be with us for 3 years. Jackson will be working closely with church partner, True Vine, as they explore the possibility of several business operations in the Inglenook community. We love the excitement, curiosity, and commitment these interns are bringing to working with the church and in under-served communities. 

Katie Thiebaud, Masters of Social Work

I am from Dallas, Texas and I am working on a Masters in Social Work at Samford University. During my time at Christian Service Mission, I hope to gain a closer look and better understanding of how a non-profit operates behind the scenes, as well as what all a social worker can incorporate within the non-profit community. I also hope to learn how policies and policy developments help or hinder non profits like Christian Service Mission and the communities they work with. Lastly, I hope to gain a better understanding of how to care for the specific clientele that Christian Service Mission works with. I have loved my time so far and I am looking forward to what all God has in store for this semester! 

Jackson Core, Finance

I am from Orlando, Florida and I am a senior at Samford University. I have a major in finance with a concentration in social entrepreneurship with a spanish minor. I am hoping to gain a deeper understanding of sustainable business solutions for non-profits. I am also hoping to learn about community development through the lens of a Biblical worldview.

Tanner Thompson, Business Administration

I’m from Spanish Fort Alabama and am currently enrolled at Samford University. Presently, I am studying business management and I hope to work in the non-profit sector once I graduate. While at Christian Service Mission, I hope to learn more about how a successful Christ-centered organization is operated. In addition, I am excited to see how Christ continues to work through Christian Service Mission in order to further the Kingdom of God and parter with others to fulfill both physical and spiritual needs. 

Off Campus And Into The City

2019 Business and Local Poverty students
Ten years ago Dr. Barbara Cartledge (Asst Dean and Asst Professor, Brock School of Business, Samford University) and I worked together to create a class experience that would move the students out of their textbooks and campus and immerse them in the community. This class explores the topic of local poverty and business through a Biblical and societal lens. Students read required books about poverty and the marginalized and then visit churches and ministries working within this context to develop a better understanding of Birmingham, the integral differences within the neighborhoods, and the variety of ways churches, ministries, and businesses are working in these communities.

More than 100 students have participated and have been moved by their 3-week experience to engage with the community in a more meaningful way. This year, we had 17 and we visited 4 organizations and many more organizations came on campus to educate and inform students how to invest in our city. Over the years, the course has received very positive feedback and has challenged and changed participants futures.

“The class was the best class I have taken in my three years at Samford. This course is extremely touching and takes a different approach to the classroom. This class opened my eyes to the community around me and changed my life for the better.”

“This course allows students to view poverty with a Christian lens while also seeing how business affects people within less fortunate communities. Through this Christian lens, it put my plans moving forward in a deeper perspective and draws greater interest to the non-profit sector.”
Letters from Samford students to Tracy
This is the coolest course that I’ve taken at Samford. I love that we got to go out into the community and experience what we read in the books. Honestly, I think this course should be required for everyone at Samford, definitely my favorite class by far.”

I might take this course even if did not count for any credits. It is informative on poverty and it gives each student an excellent overview of the network of ministries of Birmingham.”

Samford University has deep roots in our city, beginning as Howard College in East Lake. Many years ago it moved to its current location but has continued to work hard to invest back into the city, like providing this class. We also work with Samford through internships, service projects, class projects, the Masters of Social Work program, Beeson Divinity students, and in the field of health, dietetics, and nutrition. It is important that we invest in the future generation, learning together, how to better love our God and serve our community.

To read more about this class visit this article from Samford and paper by Dr. Cartledge and Dr. Carson.

UConn Students Head South To Serve

UCONN students at Bethel Baptist in Collegeville
Five years ago, I watched our first group of students from the University of Connecticut (UConn) pull away from Birmingham and head back to Storrs, CT. You may wonder why on Earth a group of students from the same northern university would continue to return to Birmingham year after year to work with Christian Service Mission (CSM) even despite the seemingly yearly snowstorm that undoubtedly turns their return trip home into a difficult and sometimes dangerous endeavor. However, if you were to ask any of the students from these previous trips about their experience in Birmingham, there is a resounding consensus that their experience with CSM, our staff, and our community partners is one of the main reasons why they would continue to brave such conditions. This January’s trip was no exception.

UCONN students make quick work of the Green Building punch list
All week, Christian Service Mission hosted this group of 55 students from UConn at one of our core ministry partners in the Fairfield community, Urban Hope Community Church.  Ironically, supernaturally, incredibly, Fairfield, AL is actually named for a neighboring city to many of these students, Fairfield, CT!  I can’t make this stuff up. These students labored all week long to help further the progress of Urban Hope’s “green building” in the heart of downtown Fairfield which will soon be the location of Urban Hope’s new community development ministry center. Once completed, Urban Hope and pastor Alton Hardy plan to utilize this building for the sake of job training, counselling, financial literacy, office and outreach space and much more!  Our 55 UConn Huskies were able to move this process along by leaps and bounds by helping to build interior walls, hang, mud and sand drywall, paint the entire interior and begin to lay flooring in the building as well!

Nicole, Senior at The University Of Connecticut
The students were also able to take a mid-week break from the work projects to assemble together at another one of our local ministry partners, Bethel Baptist Church for a historical presentation of Fred Shuttlesworth, Bethel Baptist, and the beginnings of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, AL.  After an incredible lesson in history, the group returned to CSM for a tour and discussion of our ministry as well as a time to debrief some of the events from the previous couple of days before heading off to the Civil Rights Institute for more learning about our city’s and our nation’s history. Nicole, a senior on the trip said "Being in Bethel Baptist was incredibly powerful. I was very moved listening to Ms. Martha talk about the history of segregation, discrimination, and racial violence in Birmingham Alabama. Even though there are still racial issues today, it was amazing to hear how far this city has come." It was an incredible week, from several of our staff sharing the Gospel with students, discussions of race relations and strategies for lovingly serving depressed communities and a truly unique view of our city in the heart of Alabama, these students were a part of an experience that they most likely will never forget! Praise God!

Future Community Development Ministry Center at Urban Hope Community Church in Fairfield

UConn students working with CSM volunteers and staff to redo the Green Building.

On Mission In Panama City, FL

Volunteers from Mountain Brook Community Church at work in Panama City, FL after Hurricane Michael
Hurricane Michael came through with tremendous force and left many communities and people devastated. Through connections, we found Calloway Community Church and learned of the hope that they were providing for their destroyed community. After speaking with Pastor Eddie Pitts, Executive Director Tracy Hipps, knew CSM had to do more than send resources to help. Pastor Pitts and his wife were living amongst the wreckage, trying their best to serve others, while having lost their sense of normalcy. Birmingham knows all too well how hard it is to continue serving others when your life situation is the same as theirs and so we wanted to be able to serve Pastor Pitts as well.

Houses destroyed near Calloway Community Church
During our first trip, we partnered with Mountain Brook Community Church to send a team to work on the damaged church. Since the hurricane destroyed one section and ripped the roof off the rest of the church building, so the CSM Housing team was eager to help to restore the church building as a center for help and worship. This team rebuilt rafters, weatherproofed the roof, and built a storage shed for housing food and supplies. They also gave out food and gift cards in the neighborhood, met with people in the community, and helped the Pastor and his wife, secure their 5th wheel to a sewer so they could continue to live there even though their house had been damaged.

Our Construction Manager, Aaron Parsons, said “It’s a nightmare! Panama City is devastated far beyond what we saw in 2011 after the tornadoes. I am afraid everyone has already forgotten!”

One CSM volunteer commented “Personally, as usual, I was ready to get the job done and as usual that was not God’s plan.  My heart was broken by the amount of devastation and the hopelessness left behind by the hurricane.  Seeing people live their lives in such utter poverty, out of their cars, or in tents made a deep impression on me. The appreciation on the faces of so many of the neighbors was evident and they didn’t have to say a word.  The people of Panama City will need more help than we could ever give but we should keep on giving and going and praying and helping in any way God our Father leads us.  That is what the body of Christ does, not because were good, but because He dwells in us and moves us to do His good work for His Glory.”

Roof work at Calloway continues

One need that was noticed while on the trip was a lack of transportation. People were walking for several hours a day to get to the store for basic necessities because cars were damaged or gas was non-existent. Working with Bob’s Bike’s in Homewood along with several generous donors, we were able to supply Calloway with brand new bicycles to share with their community. The Pastor wasn’t sure how he was going to be able to store and assemble all of the bikes but God had already made a way. A youth group from Oak Mountain Presbyterian called CSM and said they would be in the area and asked if there was anything they could do to help. So the youth group saved the day, assembled the bikes, and helped remove debris and clean up the community! The work was done quickly and the Pastor was encouraged by fellow believers coming to help him and his community!

Youth from Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church in Birmingham help clean up the neighborhood around Calloway Community Church

We will keep in touch with Pastor Pitts as his community works to get back to their new normal and hope to continue providing hope and resources as needed. 
Mountain Brook Community Church, CSM Construction Team and volunteers, Next Step Storm, and Believer's Temple Church come together to repair the Calloway Community Church and serve residents in the neighborhood