Monday, October 19, 2015

A Note From Tracy Hipps: Give Thanks

 "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!" Ps 118:1. This is probably the most repeated phrase in the Bible. Today, as I read this, I stopped for a moment to say "thank you" to the Lord. As we move into this season, stop for a moment right now and say it. 
Over 30 years ago, I arrived in Chicago to work in the inner city. One of the first big events I participated in was the Thanksgiving basket delivery with a partner church in the suburbs. We spent the Saturday before Thanksgiving making and delivering food baskets to families we served. Now, years later, I am helping 49 churches and ministries do the same thing here in Birmingham. 
       Responsible Care is a core value of CSM and with this Thanksgiving initiative we will see 2,500 families touched with the hands of God and our hands. The value of hand to hand care is how this all works. We don't have lines of people waiting for hours to get a turkey. We don't parade people into our facilities. We care for people in communities and homes. Thirty-one years ago I did delivery with a family for a family and we have been friends ever since. 
In Chicago they are still doing it and this is our 5th year to do Baskets of Kindness in Birmingham. This year we are helping to facilitate 18 different sites with over 1,000 volunteers. We will serve 22 different communities with 20 city churches and 29 suburban partners. Responsible care is treating people with dignity, respect, and honor as the volunteers from the city and suburbs work together to serve the people in need. 
        "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever." That is the complete saying and I would say that the Lord hears the prayers of his people and for those whom are of the least of these. He is faithful and He uses the people of God to serve those in need. He has been so faithful to carry us all through and we have an opportunity to serve this Thanksgiving season to help others be carried through.  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Redeemer Lutheran, Damascus, MD

This church is dedicated to serving in their city and around the country and we couldn't be happier that they have chosen us as one of their favorite destinations. While some of the group changes, the majority make the trip twice a year to work on one of the houses we are building or anything else that needs to be done. They are such a joy to be around and spend a lot of time caring for our staff in really sweet and loving ways. This trip they organized all the tools, worked on the foundation, walls, and water beds for the second greenhouse, built the walls for the Jackson house, assembled the pavilion, and helped us get ahead on many projects. They also spent a lot of time caring for our staff, praying with us, and encouraging us to keep going.

Meeting Ms. Brazziel
Having fun while working hard!

Building walls for the Jackson house

Framing the 2nd greenhouse

These ladies care for our staff so well!

Organizing the tool truck

Assembling the pavilion
We sure do miss this group and can't wait for them to return!

What A Difference A Year Makes!

We love a great before and after and these photos show some of the changes from this past year!

Our backyard is getting a makeover. For years it has been an unusable space filled with old railroad elements, uneven terrain, and lots of rocks. Last year we added a garden to a small part and had great success growing our first vegetables! This year we extended the garden and with the help of many volunteers we removed the railroad ties and cleared out a lot of weeds. We are so excited to be able to use this space for gardens and fruit trees, as a lawn for fun activities when we have groups here for an extended time, to host events, and be a better steward of what we have!

Backyard Before, early 2015

Backyard After, September 2015

 This year we decided to build an aquaponic greenhouse and it has been so successful that we are adding a second greenhouse for more production and to be able to start seeds in the winter! This area used to be a large dirt field and now it houses two greenhouses and a second garden! We are excited to be able to grow more produce year-round using the aquaponic method and to share this method with school children, other ministries and non-profits, and our international friends who are passionate about getting great food to more people in areas where water is a limited resource. 

Before Feb 2015: Starting the first greenhouse
After Sept 2015: Starting the 2nd green house and a garden
This is the another view of the garden next to the aquaponic greenhouses. This area became a second garden with raised beds this spring and this summer we added a pavilion built by boy scouts! The pavilion will provide much needed shade for working in the garden and a place to sit while waiting to tour the greenhouses. And it has already become a great place to sit and have a conversation or enjoy a minute of quiet reflection during a busy day. These improvements are transforming the warehouse into an even greater place for people to come and volunteer, learn, and minister to each other!

Before Feb 2015

After Sept 2015: A beautiful place to work, talk, and enjoy!

Lifeline Kids Camp

We had a great time hosting the children visiting from China with Lifeline Kids Camp! We know that God cares for each of these children and we are praying that they find a forever home. Lifeline will be bringing more children here for two-weeks of fun from China and other countries next year. Here's an excerpt from their time here (because of privacy and out of respect for the agreement with Lifeline and China) we did not take any pictures of the children which was so hard! There are many sweet photos of them on the Lifeline Kids Camp site and I encourage you to click over and pray that each of these sweet children find their forever home.

From Lifeline's Blog (

Kids Camp: Day 10

Here at Lifeline, I work on the domestic side of things. I focus on families here in Alabama who desire to minister to birth parents and adopt domestically. Because of this, I was very excited to serve at Kids Camp. I was excited to see firsthand another side of Lifeline’s ministry and put faces to the souls we serve and advocate for on the other side of the planet.
On the day I served at camp, the children were scheduled to go to Christian Service Mission. Christian Service Mission is a ministry here in Birmingham, Alabama, that serves the underserved and under-resourced people in this community through acts of service and by providing spiritual, social, and tangible resources.
When we got to Christian Service Mission, we were greeted by the smiling faces of the volunteers and employees there. They gave the children a tour of the facility and the grounds. While walking through the gardens, two of the older boys asked questions about the various foods growing and what they tasted like. The staff at CSM was wonderful and let the boys pick the food and try it for themselves. My buddy for the day, Jacob, discovered a new-found love for radishes and he ate MANY despite the dirt that coated them. Jacob is a ball of energy and ALL BOY.
After the tour, the children were able to help pack hygiene bags for some elderly members of the community. I was hesitant on how this would go, but I was amazed by how eager and excited the children were about packing the bags… especially Jenny, one of the older girls who has Down Syndrome. Jenny meticulously packed each bag, making sure not to forget one item. As I watched her walk back and forth down the assembly line, I was reminded of how God creates us all with certain gifts and He uses those gifts for HIS glory. Here was a girl who may be seen by the world as “less than” or incapable of making any sort of difference or impact on the world, serving the hurting in Birmingham. We serve a big God who has big plans for His people that are beyond anything we can comprehend.
Please join me in praying today for these ten precious children. Pray that the Lord will continue to give each of them opportunities to use their gifts for His glory. Pray for forever families for each of these children and for the gospel to take root in their little hearts.