Friday, April 22, 2016


COTH First Saturday SERVEday volunteers
 Each month on the first Saturday of the month, red shirts marked with the word “SERVE” can be seen across Birmingham during the community-wide First Saturday SERVEday organized by our friends at Church of the Highlands. At Christian Service Mission, we get to host three different teams form the Birmingham Dream Center, which is part of the Church of the Highlands family. This month, we partnered with those teams to bundle diapers for moms in need, give groceries to families in local Birmingham communities, and provide clothes for those in need.

Bundles of Hope, a diaper resource ministry warehoused at CSM, hosted a group of volunteers who bundled diapers in packs of 25. Bundles of Hope (BOH) will then distribute diapers to ministries across the Birmingham Metro Area who will then give the diapers to moms that are in need. The hope is that the diapers will build a bridge to forge relationships with single moms across our great city. These moms usually need love and support as much as they need diapers and BOH is bringing community to these moms through local churches and ministries in Alabama.

Bundling diapers for Bundles of Hope
Another team of amazing volunteers of all ages sacked groceries in our pantry here atm CSM before loading up the groceries and going door to door to pray for families and bless them with some extra groceries. Kem English, the group’s leader, has this to say about the co-laboring, “Each bag is an opportunity, a privilege even, that I get to bless someone with today. God has already appointed those blessings today. You have no idea what just a smile can do for a person and everyone can smile, right? Grocery bags are just an avenue, a catalyst, a tool if you will, to ask someone how they are today. We can’t save people, that takes Jesus. But we can listen to how they are and we can love them wherever they are.”

Bagging groceries to make someone's day
The third and final group is the Boutique clothing ministry out of the Dream Center. This group is led by the amazing Alexis Gartment. Each SERVEday Saturday, her team comes in to sort the clothing donations they receive throughout the month and store at CSM. As of this April’s SERVEday, they are also setting up the Boutique for neighbors across Birmingham to come and take their turns shopping for items they need. Alexis birthed this ministry effort from the overflow of her heart several years ago. It truly brings an element of blessing to those hurting, and often neglected in communities surrounding the Church of the Highlands Birmingham Dream Center.

At CSM, we LOVE that we get to partner with our amazing and generous friends at Church of the Highlands as they love on their neighbors! And we are already looking forward to next month! This year’s National SERVEday will be Saturday, July 16, 2016! Like Highlands, CSM loves that we get to love our neighbors every single day and can’t wait to partner with them for another annual SERVEday! If you want to learn more about how you or your church organization can get plugged in, visit the Church of the Highlands website and check out SERVEday under the Outreach Ministry tab.

Five Years Later

April 27, 2011- A devastating day for so many in our community
It was 5 years ago this month, on April 27, 2011, when multiple tornadoes hit our state and affected thousands of lives. It was 5 years ago when God gave us the assignment to serve those effected by these tornadoes all across the state. CSM served in 42 counties and 106 sites all across Alabama with disaster relief. We helped mobilize 74,000 volunteers and 10 million dollars worth of goods in 18 months. It was 5 years ago, we believe, that the Lord set us on a course that continues today to help serve communities and see them transformed by the gospel and God’s people.

This week marks 5 years of helping families in need, and we are dedicating our 7th new home build on Saturday, April 30, 2016. The Jackson’s are a precious family who lived years in a home essentially destroyed in the storm and God is answering their prayers while affecting hundreds of lives. We will also celebrate with Pratt City community all the progress that has been made in 5 years. CSM has been a part of the gospel impact during these years with churches in that community. Mt. Moriah served meals and shared Christ with thousands of families and we continue to walk with them. Antioch Baptist was at the center of it all, and we have since closely connected with their community development through housing, food and their summer camp program. We have seen many kids grow in their faith who have been a part of their summer program.

Five years ago, God answered my prayers as CSM found its purpose, place, mission and partners for helping build a healthier Birmingham. We are healthier because we don't compromise our values to serve our neighbors; the value of the gospel of Christ affecting every thing we do; the value of responsible care to love people the way our Lord loves us. These values set us on a course that we now have been moving toward for 5 years.

Five years ago, I had a strong faith and today it is stronger. I knew God was in control and today he guides me all along the way. 5 years ago I had hope and today I have seen the hope of Christ change many lives. 5 years ago, I knew God lead me to CSM but was not sure why. But now I know it is to fulfill the promise of seeing thousands of lives affected by the values of His Kingdom that we at CSM live out in the community and to partner with local churches to see the gospel change lives within those communities. 5 years ago I saw God work and now I have seen Him move mountains of people divided and today, more united. 5 years ago I saw the Lord change lives, and today I have seen communities changed because of those life changes.

As we approach the 5th Anniversary of the natural disaster that changed the trajectory of this ministry, I am amazed at what our God has done and more amazed at what He will do when we humble ourselves before Him. I believe not because of what I have seen; I believe because of what He said He would do if we humble ourselves. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Cor. 5:7)

A Note From Tracy Hipps: Working on Our Core

Recently I was at a men's ministry event and the  speaker, Steve Farrar, said something about having your core verses... those verses God has put in you to keep your spirit in shape and focused on Him. I immediately though of Ephesians 2:10, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” In my daily walk, it seem that this verse is how I see my walk. I am “God’s masterpiece” because I am made in His image, and He loves me. I struggled for years believing this, but today I walk in this. “Created in Christ Jesus”... He made me, I am a part of his handiwork and He made nothing by accident. “To do good work”... I know I am to do the work of God here on Earth and to work hard to please my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “Which God prepared beforehand”... I have a work that God has set out for me to do and a person He desires for me to be. The opportunity to spend each day in His Word and be directed by God in the work of the gospel here in this city and in my sphere of influence is amazing. “That we should walk in them”... is the daily purposeful walk of Christ in my life, as I walk this daily journey. This core verse has guided me daily for the last 10 years in this part of my journey.

Another core verse for this part of the journey has been I Thessalonians 5:24, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. ” I believe the Lord lead me to CSM, and He will do the work He has preordained for me to do and walk before me to guide me in the path of righteousness. I have been at CSM for 6 years and God has guided and continues to guide us in this path of gospel transformation.

The verse that set all this in place is Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” I was sitting in Westtown Baptist church in 1987 listening to Pastor Luis Scott preaching. As he read this verse, I heard nothing else but the Lord speaking to my heart about this. I realized I had to make a choice, even though I was already in ministry, He was not finished with me. Today, that verse still is a core verse for me all along this journey. I remember it like it was yesterday, and yesterday that verse was read again in church. This core verse has stood the test of time in my life and direction of my path. It continues to speak to me as I am guided on this prepared journey laid out for me and now CSM. I hold on to His Word today to guide us here at CSM in the way we have been designed for this season and this city. The health transformation of a community takes time, but can only be done with the renewing of our hearts and minds after Christ.  Will you join us in this work in seeing the gospel change lives here and as it will be in heaven.

It's Spring! Time to Plant the Gardens.

Volunteers from Samford University have fun planting at Greater Shiloh
Planting day finally arrived! After a long time waiting for the average last frost date to pass, we were finally able to put some seeds and seedlings into the ground! CSM, Greater Shiloh and the new garden at True Vine in Inglenook were all planted on Saturday April 16th with a whole lot of help from our friends! We had nearly a hundred volunteers from boy scouts, Samford University, mentor programs and individuals all come out to help us to prepare and plant these different community gardens! We worked to connect with groups from both Greater Shiloh and True Vine to come alongside of our volunteer groups to bring in the people that will be using and maintaining these gardens throughout the growing season. Both churches provided volunteer help from their members to assist in the planting of seeds, weeding of beds and cleaning up their garden areas.  Many thanks to all that have helped to plant and as we learn from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, "Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." So we can all continue to pray that the Lord will keep providing for each of these incredible ministries and their gardens!

Volunteers planting at Greater Shiloh garden

Volunteers from: Pretty Young Girls (a teenage mentoring program), 
Samford men's group, Samford Delta Sigma Theta, 
and Aspire (an adult/teen mentoring program)

Volunteers from: Samford Sigma Chi, Independent Presbyterian Church, 
Boy Scout Troop, the Pryor family, and the Junior League of Birmingham

Volunteers planting at Inglenook community garden

A Front Row Seat

Brad Baxter- CSM Ministry Intern

Recently, we heard Christian Service Mission described as, "That place that brings the churches from the white and black communities together." Our ministry interns get a front row seat to that amazing aspect of what we do. Brad Baxter has chosen to work with CSM for a year’s ministry practicum in partnership with Shades Mountain Baptist Church and Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. Brad is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University.

Working closely Tracy Hipps, Brad is assisting CSM in coming alongside both congregations to create new opportunities for doing ministry together and impacting Birmingham for the Gospel. Both churches are deeply connected to CSM, and these relationships form an opportunity for Brad to be a part of unity in the Body of Christ and lifting each other up. He is also assisting Tracy with other CSM ministry outreaches. Brad graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Mississippi State University in May of 2015. He is originally from Clinton, Mississippi. In his free time, Brad enjoys hunting, running, keeping up with his favorite sports teams, hanging out with friends and cooking. He is a member of Shades Mountain Baptist Church.

The Jackson Family Moves Home on April 30!

A sneak peek
CSM Team members are getting the final details ready for move-in day! All hands are on deck... installing the driveway... laying sod… laying carpet… installing tile... making sure that every detail is perfect. On the 29th of April, furniture will be moved in the home, and interior designers from Signature Homes will be coordinating efforts to fully decorate the home. A local landscaper stepped in to bless them with the beds in the front and side area, and donors have provided a new queen mattress set and others have come forward to stock the kitchen. On the morning April 30th, the team from Shades Mountain Baptist and other volunteers will be there bright and early to help make sure every detail is perfect. Then at noon, we will have the Jacksons, their church and anyone who helped in the process of rebuilding the house be present for the dedication of the house, where the Jackson will be presented with the keys to the house and a Bible. This has not been a project... it has been a labor of love... because CSM has grown to love the Jackson family so deeply through this process. We have been working on this home for eight months, and we can’t wait to hug them and hand them the keys!

Interior sneak peek

Joy in the serving!

Fresh is Always Better

Aquaponic Greenhouse in our Garden Center
As we approach the summer months, many of us love the taste of fresh produce and vegetables plucked right from the garden. You may have a garden, or may have grown up with family members or neighbors who had gardens in their backyards. We have “grown” our Garden Center here at CSM and our partner community gardens to help make fresh produce accessible to our food partners who are in food deserts and face food imbalances where they live. Food deserts are areas that lack access to affordable healthy foods. Mainstream grocery stores are far away and residents have poor access to these stores. Food imbalance exists where grocers are distant and unhealthy options are easily accessible, and is directly tied to health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. 

Did You Know? In Jefferson County:
  • More than 88,000 people and 23,000 children live in food deserts / areas of food imbalance
  • 125,778 people are in poverty
  • 71% of residents in Jefferson County are classified as overweight
  • 31% of residents in Jefferson County are classified as obese
  • 91,190 people are SNAP recipients
We also are able to help meet this food imbalance crisis in Birmingham by distributing fresh produce from our food donors. We are so grateful to our food donors who help us provide fresh produce and fruits to our partners here at CSM. Recently we received a truckload of produce from a local produce company. This donation provided individuals, families, senior citizens and after-school programs with fresh fruits and vegetables and gave our partners an opportunity to give to those they serve on a weekly basis fresh healthy food at no cost to them.