Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Dodson Story

“Where then is my hope?” (Job 17:15a). This seemed to be the recurring question that resonated through Mr. Dodson’s mind for many years. Would hope ever come? Would his house ever become a home, a place to enjoy his life and fully thrive as an individual? Less than two years ago, Mr. Dodson’s situation seemed almost hopeless. “But God, being rich in mercy…” (Eph. 2:4) was at work, ready to restore this hopeless story into one of immense hope.

This story of hope began in October 2015. Mr. Dodson applied with the city of Birmingham’s Housing Rehabilitation Program. Initially, he asked to have his badly leaking roof replaced, and also requested exterior painting and structural help to be done to his house. The city processed his request and sent his application to Christian Service Mission. After reviewing hundreds of application, CSM’s Construction team met with Mr. Dodson, and after walking through his house and visiting with him, they decided that this would be one of the houses into which they would commit to investing their time, labor, resources, partnerships, but most of all, their love.

When CSM began working on the house, the home inspector initially condemned Mr. Dodson’s house, saying that there was no hope for a house in that bad of a condition. The house would have been torn down is condemned, so CSM’s team pleaded with the inspector to reconsider, saying that with the financial support and volunteer labor that would commit towards revitalizing this house, this house could indeed become a home.

Finally, in the early summer of 2016, Christian Service Mission received a building permit, allowing them to begin repairing the walls and structural support of the house. With the help of Next Step Storm, a volunteer organization in Indiana that specializes in natural disaster home recovery, CSM was able to install a new roof on Mr. Dodson’s house.

On July 23, 2016, teams from Wells Fargo, the men’s ministries at Shades Mountain Baptist Church and Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church came together for a full day of service at the Dodson house. The next week, youth from Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church pitched in and through hours of hard labor and good fellowship with Mr. Dodson and his sons, we were able to install vinyl siding around the entire exterior of the house. We continue work inside the house as well; replacing rotted beams and adding insulation to the walls, installing new kitchen cabinets, and by the final reveal, painting the entire interior of the house.

Tracy Hipps, Executive Director at Christian Service Mission, often uses a formula to help volunteer partners realize the magnitude of their time and resource investment to community revitalization and transformation projects such as the Dodson house. On this service day, approximately forty men were present, contributing approximately six hours into the project. If the hourly rate for labor is $20/hour, that one day of volunteer investment into Mr. Dodson’s house equals $4,800 of financial impact. This is truly amazing!

But Mr. Dodson’s story is not finished. As CSM and its partners continue work on the Dodson house, preparing for the September 15th Dedication, we realize that this revitalization project is much more than a house becoming a home. This is a story of a man’s life being radically transformed through hope that came in the form of faithful men and women willing to invest in God’s Kingdom work right here in Birmingham, Alabama. The hope that this story brings is ultimately in the gospel’s transformative work, which offers hope for eternity. This temporary earthly home that has been restored is a means of telling the greatest story, in which the Father offers an eternal home through His Son.

“Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3).

[Story by Brad Baxter, CSM Missions Intern]

Our eternal optimist and challenge-hunter construction supervisor,
Aaron Parsons, felt that Mr. Dodson’s house was merely a
“…diamond in the rough. All it needs is a little polishing.”

Mr. Dodson's House before the work began.

Wells Fargo team members put in 90 hours of hard work!

Volunteers of all ages helped to install the vinyl siding.

Needless to say, “a little polishing” has involved months of reconstruction
and rehabilitation of an aging and dilapidated structure. 

Looking forward to finished details for the dedication!

A Note From Tracy Hipps: Fully Devoted Together

This morning as I was spending time in the Word, I came to II Timothy 4:5 where I read that we are to ‘fully carry out the ministry God has given us.’ While I was meditating on that part of the verse, it came so clear as to why the Lord has lead me in this path of working in underserved communities for over 25 years –with the Church— to see people become healthier. I now understand that health is only truly accomplished through Christ, and in Christ, and with Christ. And it takes the whole Body to accomplish this call to impact the health of a person, a family and a community.

Every part of our life is affected by Christ, and we need a comprehensive approach to be fully effective in our efforts to create positive and lasting change for others. We can only do so much alone, but together we are strong and will see dramatic changes in lives we touch. Though the ministry of the local church is foundational to all we do, a local church cannot do it all. That strong foundation allows CSM and other non-profits to come along the journey to true health. As a para-church ministry, we are able to come alongside the local church in order to help accomplish the vision we share for the Kingdom.

The healthier the person… the healthier the church… the healthier the community… the healthier our city will become. Every person needs health in these four areas of their life: economic, social, educational, and spiritual. Economic health refers to accessible work, place, security and housing. The social health of their lives refers to physical, emotional and relational strength. The educational aspects include the place, space and investment they make back to a community. A person’s spiritual life includes an inner relationship with God and outer relationship with the world. The spiritual area effects all other areas, and it takes us all as a community of faith to invest in each other.

I think of one particular family who we have invested in for over a year with our approach of comprehensive care. With the goal of a whole and healthy family, we have helped to build an economic base so that their future is brighter by building a home for them. We are surrounding them with a strong team of believers who are helping to put a family system in place for long term stability. Their pastor and church have been involved with this family to helped in the educational and spiritual development of this family, to help us insure that this precious family has moved forward this year in a wholistic manner.

The saying, “It takes a village” is true in the Kingdom and reflects our process for building healthier communities. It takes all of us in the Body to effectively impact the areas of need that produce healthier people, families, communities and city. At CSM, we know that the spiritual runs through the whole process as we work to improve lives through of our housing, food and community engagement areas of ministry. We know to fully carry out the ministry God has entrusted to us; we must work to build up the whole person from the inside out. We thank you for trusting us as we all walk together to see amazing results for His glory.

Our Aquaponics System Is Coming Along... Swimmingly!

The fish are finally in!  A couple of weeks ago, after testing ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, chlorine and everything else under the sun in our aquaponic system, we arrived at the point where we were finally ready to bring in the fish. We added twenty-five baby tilapia to our fish tank and dubbed them the first bunch of a long lineage of fish to dwell within those plastic walls. The idea behind the aquaponic system is to sustainably produce a variety of food throughout the year in an almost self-sufficient, growing system that uses the nutrients from the fish to produce garden life inside of the adjacent greenhouse.  

We are a couple of weeks into the first growing cycle and have added tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers to the system.  The fish are happy, healthy and growing and the plants seem to be doing the same. It is still early on in the process, but as for now, the smiles on our faces reflect the smiles that we see on the faces of our new-found aquatic friends! Thanks for all of the prayers and continue to pray for the sustainability and production of life in our gardens!

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. - 1 Corinthians 3:7

The new fish house for our aquaponics system is on the right, next to the
aquaponics greenhouse.
Rocks being cleaned and prepared for the new system.

Finishing construction on the new fish house

The fish are here!

Testing the water

Ground Zero for LA Flood Relief

We are in the middle of dealing with multiple needs, organizations, and transportation systems to help address the immediate needs of the terrible flood disaster in Louisiana. We have already loaded three tractor trailers and sent them on their way this past week. So many individuals and churches have stepped up to help, and the ground-swell of concern by people across our community is very encouraging. We are also working with the City of Birmingham and Don Lupo to expedite and facilitate city-wide relief efforts. We are collecting donations of food and supplies, as well as funds to cover expensive transportation costs. We are loading up more trucks to send supplies down to LA. 

You can help with this emergency flood relief! We have specific requests for: box fans, utility knives, pry bars, small and large heavy duty tarps, rubber boots, shovels, dust masks, work gloves, towels, bleach, soap and cleaning supplies. We are also sending food and water, and you can help by making a donation on our website to help cover the trucking/transportation expenses. Please feel free to come help us sort and box up the donations. You can drop off supplies at CSM - 3600 3rd Ave. So. Please pray for wisdom and strength and healing for all those affected by the floods. 

Volunteer Spotlight: UMC Youth Show How It's Done!

Hard-working and enthusiastic volunteers sorting their
generous donations... a blessing to our city!
This past Saturday, we had the opportunity and blessing of hosting a group of 59 preteens from Mountain Chapel UMC, Riverchase UMC, Gardendale-Mt. Vernon UMC and Liberty Crossing UMC. Not only did this group of kids bring themselves to serve, but they also brought enough healthy snack items for us to make 500 of our Compassion Packs for the underprivileged schools that we serve alongside. With all the extra items they brought, we ran out of bags to fill!

These kids came to CSM after gathering together all of these food items over the last couple of months. This Saturday was a culmination of all of their hard work! While we assembled the bags in the CSM Ministry Center, a couple of our partner schools that will receive the Compassion Packs sent representatives to share with the students a little more about how the bags will be used and distributed.

What an awesome impact these 12-year-olds (and younger) have had for the city and for the Kingdom! Thanks to all who participated, and big appreciation goes out to young people who can demonstrate to adults where hard work and determination can you get you!

CSM Volunteer Coordinator, Michael Bowen, encouraging the students
Come back soon!


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Introducing - Rachel Stokes, CSM Schweitzer Fellow!

Rachel Stokes
We are thrilled to be the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship organization for the focused research of award winner, Rachel Stokes, for this year. Rachel is a Samford University 2014 graduate, with a degree in Environmental Science and a minor in Sociology. After graduation, she served a yearlong term as an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer in Birmingham. As a current UAB graduate student, Rachel is studying Public Health with a concentration in Environmental Health and Toxicology. The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship provides an opportunity for graduate students to develop leadership skills and serve others through community-oriented service projects.

Rachel feels strongly that Christian Service Mission’s comprehensive approach to community development aligns with her career plans to work in rural community health. We are anticipating that Rachel will elevate our healthier community goals by implementing strategic testing and educational components to our various garden initiatives, including our new aquaponics and hydroponics systems. She says that she is excited to be able learn from and work alongside everyone at Christian Service Mission this year. Welcome to CSM, Rachel!