Thursday, February 18, 2016

Community Engagement

For the last five years, CSM has prioritized its mission to find where the Lord is moving in a community and join them by being a valuable and reliable partner. We build a collaborative partnership around common mission, common values, and common vision. We work hard to walk alongside local partners to find the places where we intersect and build on one another’s values in the community.

Our desire is to engage a partner community by investing time with the leadership to build lasting impact by working within the existing structure. One of our cherished partners is Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville, a North Birmingham community affected by environmental pollution and housing decay. The church is full of life and history, beginning during the Civil Rights Movement with the late pastor, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and now with the current pastor, Rev. Thomas Wilder. The Bethel Baptist Church Foundation provides an amazing education program that pulls back the curtain to the heartaches and victories of the community, and we have taken many groups there to learn and grow. Recently, I took a class from Samford University to spend the day with the Executive Director, Martha Boyer. Martha is a former school educator who is now investing her time and talent into the Collegeville community. She spent the morning teaching us about Collegeville and gave us a great history lesson in the Civil Rights Movement and what has happened since.

Our work in this community focuses around community change in education, recreation, spiritual, health and housing. We helped Bethel Baptist take the STAIR reading program into the local school to improve reading skills with 2nd graders. This past Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving, we worked with church members to serve their community through outreach events. We are hoping to refurbish the former home of Pastor Shuttlesworth in order to bring the historical value and pride back into the community. Pastor Wilder wants to rebuild and strengthen the community in which he has worked for over 27 years, and we want to come alongside them to connect our resources with their needs.

Our role in community engagement takes time. We want to build strong and trusting relationships while we walk together to accomplish the purpose for which we have all been called… to make a difference for permanent change now and for eternity. 

Responsible Care Is One Of Our Values

The CSM Housing Ministry partners with the City of Birmingham's Community Development office to repair roofs and paint homes in the inner city. This partnership provides funds to make repairs, and we provide the labor. This gives us a great opportunity to meet city residents in need, improve their home, care for them in specific and meaningful ways, and enhance the neighborhood at the same time.

Last Tuesday's storm blew the tarp off a roof we have been repairing for Mr. Prince Harris, and caused water damage inside his home. The sheetrock fell in his den and bedroom and ruined several pieces of furniture. One of our full time volunteers, Randy Sain, has been working directly with Mr. Harris and felt God prompting to move him into a hotel while we completed repairs the inside of the home. Though most of us are used to having logistical problems addressed on our behalf when a complication like this occurs, Mr. Harris and his peers are not used to being treated in a fair and equitable manner. Mr. Harris’ gratefulness for the efforts made on his behalf has allowed for a deepened relationship with Randy, and gave Randy the opportunity to share the Gospel with him and continue to show God's love in great ways.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Service Day in Hillman Estates with Hunter Street Baptist

Youth from Hunter Street Baptist Church volunteered their time during their DNow weekend to serve in the Hillman Estates neighborhood that was devastated by the Christmas day tornadoes. Removing downed trees in yards and common areas was the goal in order to improve the look of the community. The students cleared brush, removed trees, picked up litter, and brought enthusiasm and joy to the neighborhood. "One of the reasons we do this is so that the people here will not feel forgotten," Tracy Hipps said. We also are partnering with Hopewell Baptist Church to ensure that these clean-up efforts help the local church care for their neighbors and helps Hopewell, a CSM ministry partner, improve relationships with residents who may not have a church home or know about Jesus. One community volunteer noted, "The people in this community are watching. They are asking questions about why these volunteers are out here. They are learning what it looks like to work together as a community. These are great things."