Friday, May 29, 2015

Our Aquaponics Installation Is Complete!

What is aquaponics?

Aquaponics is the cultivation of fish and plants together in a constructed, recirculating ecosystem utilizing natural bacterial cycles to convert fish waste to plant nutrients. This is an environmentally friendly, natural food-growing method that harnesses the best attributes of aquaculture and hydroponics without the need to discard any water or filtrate or add chemical fertilizers. (Aquaponic Gardening Community, Nov 2010)

Why did CSM build an aquaponic system?

We have seven community gardens that grow produce in a traditional way. We love our gardens and the opportunity it gives us to use fresh produce in our food ministry. Watching children and adults discover that they like vegetables and want to try more made us want to grow more to share! One of our staff members took an interest in aquaponics and started doing the research and we realized we had the talent and materials available to create a greenhouse and build the beds. With this method, we can grow year-round, grow more plants per square inch than traditional gardening, and provide a place for others to come and learn! 

How does it work?

Illustration courtesy of The Aquaponics Source

Monday, May 18, 2015

A note from Tracy Hipps: Interruption of Life "As You Go"

Tracy visits with moms at the Mother's Day luncheon.
This last month I challenged our staff to allow God to interrupt their lives as Jesus so often interrupted the lives of those we are told about in the Gospels. He commanded us to "make disciples" and we should take this role seriously and spend quality time investing in others as God brings these people to us. This is one way we grow in our faith.

We make our plans and then we trust God to order our steps. Taking time for interruptions and being flexible with our plans is the example Christ gave us as He walked on earth. He spent time with the woman at the well, He came when the blind man called out, and He counseled Martha to spend time with Him instead of tending to her to-do list.

These interruptions are God's way of guiding our days. Here at CSM we are interrupted everyday with people from abject poverty, dealing with injustice, and with systems that create dependence. This past week we were interrupted by a young woman who wanted to find her place in God's system of care. Her pursuit brought her to my office with her pastor. We prayed and had a great conversation about "the least of these" whom we are called to serve. I was struck by her calm spirit and sweet disposition. Our staff spent time listening and caring and speaking truth into her life and she shared her deepest desire to serve as a hospice care provider. She desires to serve people in their last stage of life and help send them Home with dignity. "As you go, make disciples" and allow interruptions in your plans in order to invest in everyone that God has placed in your path.

This past month we have been blessed to serve 1500 moms in 20 nursing homes for Mother's Day. We hosted a luncheon for 110 moms to enjoy time together. We finished a house destroyed by the tornadoes four years ago and dedicated it to a Mom and her two children who are excited to be back in their home. This June we will take around 160 children and adults to Kids Across America camp where inner-city children get one of the best camp experiences around. And this summer we will see hundreds of youth descend on Birmingham in an effort to bless others and in turn we will be blessed. I pray that all the interruptions that happen this summer will be greeted as opportunities to care for those God has placed before us and will turn into blessings as we go.

Mother's Day Luncheon to Honor Moms

Last Saturday we had the privilege of honoring 110 moms from around inner city Birmingham at South Highland Presbyterian Church. The program was complete with music provided by Al and Pashion Lewis, and Yvonne Fann, and a wonderful dance routine by Deidra Kimbrough. Grace’s Kitchen provided an excellent meal, with volunteers from various churches and agencies pitching in to serve the women in attendance. Janice Vickers was the luncheon speaker and focused on the roles moms play. Mrs. Vickers described that caring moms give to not only their own children but also to those in their community and beyond. The women played Bingo and had a chance to win door prizes.

It was an uplifting, positive experience for the mothers being celebrated. Deborah Foster, this year's MC, described the event as “saturated with love. It was life giving, motivating, and inspirational.” One of the attendees, remarked, “It made my day. I had my sister with me and she enjoyed it too; we’re still talking about it! It was so nice and thoughtful to do that for mothers. From the looks of it, all the mothers were enjoying it. Everything was wonderful . . . I’m already looking forward to it next year."

Grace's Kitchen, a non-profit feeding ministry, provided a great meal.
(above right) Tracy Hipps, Executive Director, visits with the moms during lunch.

Al and Pashion Lewis singing praise to our Lord and Savior

(left) Enjoying a Mother's Day themed bingo game; (right) Deborah Foster, Master of Ceremonies
Yvonne Fann singing "Give Me My Flower"
(center) Janice Vickers, guest speaker and honored moms Alice Taplet (left) and Pashion Lewis (right) receive
a dozen roses for their service to their families, churches, and communities. 

Enjoying a moving dance by Deidra Kimbrough to "I Didn't Know My Own Strength"
30 Moms were excited to win door prizes!

Serving 1500 Moms this Mother's Day

Through partnerships with 16 churches, we were able to provide a Mother's Day program to 20 nursing homes in the inner city and serve over 1500 mothers.

Anneta Nunn said "Once again we enjoyed spending time with the mothers of Birmingham Towers.  They are serious about their bingo games, but they did allow a man to play with them this year.  My church members, Mrs. Sylvia Kelley, her son Taulton, grandchildren Artesia and Kayla, along with her great grandson K.J., were a big help.  The young people enjoyed playing with the seniors and want to return next year." CSM was also able to provide the churches with a gift bag filled with new toiletry items that were donated to CSM to give to each mother. We are so thankful for everyone who visited these special moms and honored them on Mother's Day weekend. 

Serving Each Other at the CSM Ministry Center

Care Center men work with CSM staff to distribute food. 
Here at Christian Service Mission, we have been grateful for the opportunity to provide not only food and daily living supplies to those in the Care Center ministry program, but to engage in a personal, reciprocal relationship through our ministry center with those men. Pastor AJ Johnson, with Doers of the Word Church in Woodlawn, AL, and founder of the Birmingham Care Center Ministries branch, met with Tracy Hipps a few years ago to talk about the needs of his ministry, and how he in turn could connect CSM with men who could help serve with the needs there. Since then, Christian Service Mission has been able to meet the food needs of the men through the food ministry. They also receive supplies like paper goods, hygiene supplies, and toiletry items. 
As Pastor AJ and Tracy hoped, a reciprocating relationship emerged out of the partnership. The men come to do work in the CSM warehouse (such as sweeping and restocking shelves) in exchange for meeting local church and agency volunteers that want to invest in a relationship with these men and share the Gospel. One man, Ty Cotter, came to the Birmingham branch of Care Center Ministries from the location in Dallas, TX. He was able to find leadership through this ministry and help serve at Christian Service Mission. He describes CSM as "a place where our men learned what giving back is all about and CSM has been a tremendous blessing with lifelong relationships." 
More recently, Care Center has been able to extend their serving by going out and meeting with their neighbors in the community to assess their needs. This includes both food needs, as well as getting them involved with the local church. We at CSM are excited to be able to provide food and other needs for the men at the Care Center and are so proud that they are reaching out into their community to serve others in need as well.

Beasley House Tour

Thanks to BL Harbert International, Next Step Storm, Alabama Rural Coalition for the Homeless (ARCH), and your support we were able to provide Ms. Beasley with a new home after tornadoes severely damaged her home in 2011.

We are very thankful for the contributions from: Superior Drywall, Russo Corporation, 
David Allen Co, Inc, Paradiso Painting, Tusco, Inc, Ard Contracting, Waste Management, and Remmert & Company. These great companies created a beautiful home for Tam!

Beautiful trees, a large patio, and fresh sod will provide a
great backyard for the children.

A storm shelter will keep the Beasley family and neighbors
safe if another tornado hits close to home.

Tam, Kaidynce (3months), Kentorri (2 years), and Kendall

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Beasley Home Dedication

Approximately four years after her house suffered major damage as a result of the tornado, Tam Beasley was finally able to move back home. The house dedication occurred Thursday, May 7th, at her new home. 

Tracy Hipps dedicates the home and prays for the future of the Beasley family.

CSM started working on the home in November and was able to get it framed and dried-in 
over the winter. This spring we had some concerns about our ability to finish the inside of the 
house because of another project we were working on. That same week representatives from BL Harbert International walked in to the office to see if we had any projects they could assist with. 

One of BL Harbert's core values is to give back to the community where they are working and they were able to finish the inside of the house. We get to watch God bring just the right people at just the right time and it is such a blessing to us and an encouragement to the people He brings our way! 

Along with the Alabama Rural Coalition for the Homeless (ARCH), BL Harbert International,
and Next Step Storm, CSM had the privilege to turn the keys over to Ms. Beasley. 

The Beasley Home
We are so grateful for the partnership with these great organizations, and thankful to God for bringing everyone together. Ms. Beasley and her family were excited about this day and all it meant for them. 

Tam, Kaidynce (3 months), Kentorri (2 years) and Kendall

We would also like to thank: Superior Drywall, Russo Corporation, 
David Allen Co, Inc, Paradiso Painting, Tusco, Inc, Ard Contracting, Waste 
Management, and Remmert & Company for making Tam's home beautiful!