Friday, July 22, 2016

A Note From Tracy Hipps: Culture Lens VS Kingdom Lens

In the confusion and grave concerns surrounding all that is going on today, we need wisdom and clarity… a way of seeing. How amazing to know that God gave us His Word for that very reason. Scripture sets the tone for how we should see culture and interpret the times in which we live. I want to see culture and the kingdom clearly... not my lens but through the lens of God’s Word. Today as I read through the scriptures with the lens of a kingdom culture mindset, it struck me how His Word clears up my vision and changes my cultural lens. Read the passage below, as I did, in light of what is going on today. Put yourself into this scripture and look at life through this lens.

Tracy with his "see-through" Bible... a way he likes to
illustrate seeing everything through the lens of Scripture
Colossians 3:12-17 “Since God chose you (me)to be holy people whom he loves, you (I) must clothe yourselves (myself) with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. You (I) must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you(me). Remember, the Lord forgave you (me), so you (I) must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you (I) must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your(my) hearts. For as members of one body you (we) are all created to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your (my) hearts and make you (me) wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you (I) do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the father.” (emphasis mine)

 In 1969 I was bused 15 miles to an all-black Jr. High School in our county. I was 11 years old and it was the year of integration for my state, South Carolina. From the start, I was beat up regularly by a black boy who just hated me. I have memories of race riots and fights throughout Jr. High and High School. One particular memory I have is walking home 15 miles after a riot broke out. All of this taught me to look at life in a narrow, cultural way. As I was taught to disassociate and discriminate, hate began to grow inside me. When at the age of 12, the church my family attended began to bus black people into the services, my family left the church. I believed black people were not same as white people. During these years, I formed a cultural lens which I realize can still color the way I view people, even today.

In 1974, I was 16 years old and got a job with the Parks and Recreations Department. I was assigned to the very same school where I went to Jr. High. I spent the summer serving the black community I felt had victimized me, and it was very confusing. But I began to see things differently; I began to see people through a lens of relationships. Back at high school, I quickly forgot what I had learned as I finished the last two years of school, feeling terrorized by more riots and and driven to deeper wedges of segregation.

At 19 years old, I became overwhelmed by the Spirit of God drawing me to Himself, and a personal relationship with Him began in December of that year. In 1980, I moved to Birmingham where I started Bible College and began seeking and looking for a new lens through which to see life. After so many years of discrimination and hate, a long journey began to find wholeness in Christ and see things His way.

In 1984, I moved to Chicago to work in the inner city. During the very first week I was there, a black man broke in a robbed me in my home. I was in shock because I was the “great white hope” there to help them! So I lost hope early on in my ministry in Chicago. But in that intense clash of culture and race, I was confronted with my hate and discrimination head on. I was challenged with scripture and by people who I viewed as so different from me. I began to see that my cultural lens did not reflect what the scriptures were teaching. It was not about division and walls, but about harmony, unity and the Kingdom of God.

I had been formally trained in the scriptures and had plenty of head-knowledge, but I also had 20+ years of life experience that I now had to confront in my own heart. My heart needed to change. I had to seriously ask myself, “How does Christ see people?” I began to see the world in all of its colors and that God’s image of man, who He created, was beautiful. God is not color-blind. He created the vast diversity of man in His unimaginable image and likeness. The lens of scriptures reveals the beauty of how God made man. My lens of culture, family history and personal experience has had to come into focus with His Kingdom lens.

I know this is a big conversation, but I am willing to broach it for the sake of unity in the Body of Christ, and to discover together how to be a light in a dark world. My prayer and our prayer together as believers should be, “Lord conform me into Your image and likeness today here on earth as it will be in heaven. I pray You will clearly guide me by the Power of Your word to see culture and people with the values of Your Kingdom. Lord change my lens daily from my way to your way. Lord, I know your heart breaks for our country. Lord, as Colossians reads, let your words in all their richness, live in my heart and live out in my daily life. Amen.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Eula Jackson - Above & Beyond!

Eula Jackson, one of our wonderful weekly volunteers, began serving with Christian Service Mission this past March to manage our busy front desk each Wednesday. Having grown up here in Birmingham, she wanted to volunteer at a place that was impacting her community.  Every time she is here, she blesses everyone who walks through the door and has also made a huge impact on the CSM staff. When there is a lull in the activity, we often find Ms. Jackson deep in Bible study and teaching preparation. Her love for the Lord is evident by her commitment to serve others in any way she is able.

When Ms. Jackson came to CSM, she saw how hard everyone worked and noticed that sometimes the staff did not have time to eat lunch. She decided that as she was able, she would cook lunch for the CSM staff while volunteering here on Wednesdays. Most weeks, Ms. Jackson comes to CSM with food and fresh produce from her garden to prepare lunch for us. We recently enjoyed a delicious lunch of spaghetti, corn, and a fresh garden salad that appeared from our small kitchen, lovingly prepared by her skilled culinary hands.

Ms. Jackson not only makes an impact here, but also in her community. She is one of nine children, is a mother of two, and a grandmother of four. Though she has a very full and busy life, Ms. Jackson also cooks for five elderly women in her neighborhood. She certainly reminds us all of how we should find ways to be examples of Christ’s love for others. Eula Jackson is a woman with a heart for service.

Making A Positive Difference: YouthServe Birmingham

This summer, we have partnered with YouthServe, a program for teenagers that promotes volunteerism and leadership. This great organization is located just a short walk away from our location in Avondale. Each YouthServe week, a group of around 10 youth worked at Christian Service Mission doing a variety of things! One of the first projects they tackled in the summer heat was cleaning donated industrial kitchen equipment. One group tackled organizing and sorting donations in the warehouse. Another group harvested vegetables and weeded tomato plants in our garden behind the warehouse, then cleaned out a room to prepare it to be painted.

Then a YouthServe group spent a day washing rocks! No, we weren’t out of projects for them, we just needed our rocks cleaned off from all miscellaneous particles and dust so they could go in our aquaponics beds! Aquaponics is a method of gardening that combines hydroponics with growing fish to produce very healthy plants! The silt on the rocks can clog up filters and introduce toxins to the otherwise very clean environment so these volunteers had a really important job! (See pictures) Some of the projects YouthServe tackled are more fun than others, but they are always committed to doing their best with great attitudes!

While they are experiencing ways to make a positive difference in their community, these helpful hands get a lot of work done quickly and allow our small staff to focus on the tasks volunteers can't do. Jeri Bagley, YouthServe staff leader told us, "YouthServe loved serving with Christian Service Mission. There are so many ways to serve with CSM which gave YouthServe campers the opportunity to serve in different ways and see all the ways CSM was helping Birmingham communities. All the staff at CSM are wonderful and kindly welcomed our campers." We love having volunteers and are so thankful for YouthServe Bham’s huge help this summer!

Filling buckets with rocks that will be washed
Rocks washed as to not clog up aquaponics system
Rocks being transferred to the aquaponics beds
The inside of the finished aquaponics beds

Kids Collect Four Hundred Pounds of Food!

We witness so many heart-warming examples of how our community rallies around our neighbors who are experiencing poverty, illness or some other kind of difficulty in their lives. When these kids showed up with the 400 pounds of food they had collected, we were so encouraged by their kindness and efforts on behalf of others. Their families are members of a Sunday School group from Shades Mountain Baptist Church. Most of the food they donated went to our partner kid's camps!

There are so many ways that the food distribution from our warehouse is able to bless our city. We feel so honored to be stewards of God's provision for food insecure populations and partner ministries doing Kingdom work. This is a letter we received after we were able to channel food donations to Workshops, Inc. 

To:  Christian Service Mission

Thank you so much for your recent donations of breads, baked goods and
drinks to Workshops.  We so appreciate your kindness & generosity!  You are always such good neighbors and we appreciate your support of our program and the people that we serve.  You made a lot of people happy!!  Thanks again from all of us!

Virginia Crim
Facility Manager
Workshops, Inc.
4244 Third Avenue South
Birmingham, AL  35222

The Day God Brought CSM To The Mixon House

Boone’s Creek youth group praying over the Mixon family
God is doing amazing things in Birmingham and has included Christian Service Mission in many ways. This story is a beautiful example of how God providentially brought CSM to a woman’s doorstep; a woman who wanted to fix up her parents’ old house but did not have the means to do so.
Darlene Mixon lived much of her life over a thousand miles away in Minnesota. She moved to Birmingham to be able to be with and care for her mother when she became sick with cancer. When her mother passed away three years ago, Ms. Mixon decided not to move back to Minnesota. As she put it, “I stayed here in her house to make sure it was kept up. The roof was already bad when I got here…” She wanted to make sure that nothing bad happened to the house, as her parents had lived there for the past 30 years. Ms. Mixon counts it a privilege to be able to live in her parents’ former home; it is also a bonus to not have a mortgage on the home.
A friend told Ms. Mixon of Birmingham’s municipal city program which helps to rehabilitate houses. Concerning the program, she told me that “I assumed I wouldn’t get anything.” However, she signed up anyway. In the meantime, she laid the matter of fixing up her house before God, with faith that He would provide everything she and her home needed. “I put this on the altar and left it there.” About two to three weeks later, Randy from Christian Service Mission showed up to her door! It is better told in Ms. Mixon’s own words, “My daughter and I were sitting here when Randy knocked on our door and said, ‘I’m here to fix your roof; God brought me here to fix your roof.’” She then proceeded to hug Randy and shed tears of thankfulness to Christian Service Mission, and most of all to God. “It felt amazing that God could take a person like me and bless me so much... everything I’ve asked God for in my struggle here in Birmingham, I’ve received. I’ve been saved for the past fifteen years. Once you turn your life over to God, all things are possible.”
The very last thing Ms. Mixon, and her daughter who lives with her, expected was for Randy to show up at her home once again after the roof was completed. Randy told her that Christian Service Mission wanted to paint her home as well; he even let her pick out the color! So, this past June, a team of high schoolers from Boones Creek Christian Church in Johnson City, Tennessee came to Birmingham on a mission trip. They spent the week with Christian Service Mission painting Ms. Mixon’s house! Ms. Mixon and her family were at a loss for words. She and her daughter wanted to show their thanks in some way, but they could not think of how they should do it. Because God blessed her so immensely, Ms. Mixon wanted to show Christian Service Mission just how thankful she was. She eventually figured out what she wanted to do. “Me and my daughter pooled our money together and said, 'We’re going to feed ‘em!'”
And feed us she did. They started the night before on the barbeque chicken wings and had a feast you would not believe once the team of high schoolers arrived to paint her house the next day. The hotdogs, creamy macaroni, baked beans, coleslaw, and potato salad went together perfectly. Concerning this amazing meal, the leader of the high school team stated something along the lines of, “We’re from Tennessee, and we’ve had Memphis barbeque, and barbeque from other places. I can honestly say that your food tops it all. This was definitely a highlight of our trip.”
God has done and is doing amazing things in Birmingham. It was a privilege for God to give us a taste of His never-ending faithfulness and providence through His use of us in Ms. Mixon’s life; and Ms. Mixon is just one of many amazing godly people in Birmingham who He blesses so they can continue to bless and minister to others.

Ms. Mixon taking a selfie with three CSM staff members –
Aaron, Marissa and Tom

Painting progress being made on the front of the Mixon home

The unbelievable meal that Mrs. Mixon and her family prepared

This is what happened when Ms. Mixon's daughter yelled, 
“Hey Mom, show em how you dab!” 

Author and photographer, Nathan Walker, is a CSM Community Engagement summer intern.

Volunteers Light Up Zion Springs Kid's Camp

Being actively engaged with the communities and local churches we serve is a high priority for CSM.  The Zion Springs Kids Camp is one of our favorite outreaches because it gives our volunteers access to the precious people and adorable children with whom we have built relationships and care for so much. Our volunteer groups and individuals pour their hearts into helping the kids and focusing their attention on them. Camp offers the kids an invaluable exposure to older students and young adults who can affirm their God-given value and allow the kid's some freedom to enjoy their childhood in a safe environment. This camp hopes to enrich the children mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. When our volunteers are at the camp, the kids are given undivided attention to help them with their school work and play with them.

Zion Springs Kids Camp is not only a place where kids can have fun but also learn. The kids have instruction with math, english, and reading which allows for some one-to-one attention for which they thirst like any child. The children are able to read different stories and have discussions and presentations about what they learned. Many times these readings will spark questions so their teacher will give them a research project. The children also have fun ways to incorporate math. They not only work in workbooks, but they also play games that use math.

As a Christ centered camp, they pray before each meal and they sing Christian songs at the end of the day. The children are given breakfast, lunch, and a snack while at the camp. After lunch they take a break for recess and play games. On Fridays, they have a free day to play games and watch a movie. Our volunteers assist the three staff members with leading about 25 campers who range from kindergarten to fifth grade. Thanks to our volunteer groups who have come from around the country to help us, and are so important to this ministry!

One group from Peace Lutheran Church in Baldwin, Wisconsin drove 23 hours on a bus to Birmingham to help us with this camp and other projects! Many of the Peace Lutheran volunteers did not know where they were going when they signed up for the mission trip, and they still did not know where they were going when they left Baldwin, Wisconsin. They went on a surprise destination mission trip to CSM. Here are some pictures that show how much they loved on the kids at camp while they were here.