Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Cooking Well: Good Gifts From God's Hand

A scene from one of our Cooking Well classes this summer

CSM is fighting for health, family, and reconciliation in the magnificent unfolding of God’s great plan for this city. A hunger to bring health and lasting change to the people of Birmingham is the heart of Cooking Well, a 6-week cooking/nutrition education program designed to teach cooking skills, prepare healthy meals on a budget, and the importance of family-centered dinnertime, while also aiming to unite women in the Church and break cultural barriers. The program is also created to be a platform for equipping churches to establish an on-going ministry model that develops relationships and encourages discipleship.

 “Our Cooking Well class was the most perfect 
display of the Kingdom. We all meshed so well 
out of the gate, it felt like the “perfect stew”. 
I loved the stories and topics we shared 
as much as the food. I can’t wait to learn and 
grow with these ladies in the next season.”

Candice Beavers of New Rising Star pictured here 
after graduating with her ladies from NRS with 
Jenny Cochran (l) and Jane DeLaney (r) of eMeals
and Cooking Well Director, Judy Vann (far right)  
As a collaboration of CSM with eMeals, Cooking Well has been in formation with the assistance of Samford’s Nutrition Department staff and interns for the past year. Cooking Well finally came to life this summer with two CSM strategic ministry partners. We taught two six-week pilot cooking courses to six women at New Rising Star in East Lake and ten women from True Vine Ministries in Tarrant/Ingelnook led by the pastor's wife of each church (Candice Beavers and Kathleen Garth respectively). We were blessed to be able to teach with fresh produce from the CSM gardens and greenhouses as well as surplus produce donated to CSM by the Society of St. Andrews from the Pepper Place Farmer's Market. (Going forward, the CSM garden planting strategy will be informed by the successes and needs of the Cooking Well program.)

The Cooking Well program covered six weeks of intense hands-on cooking instruction and nutrition information led by Samford nutrition student, Allie Sanderson, along with the help of CSM staff and volunteers. Key personnel from eMeals were integral in developing and facilitating our pilot classes, including founders, Jane DeLaney and Jenny Cochran, and Clinical Dietician and healthy recipe developer, Andrea Kirkland. We learned that some class participants live in food deserts and many had serious health conditions varying from breast cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, diabetes and hypertension. Each found that they were hungry for nutritional and healthful food preparation knowledge. In both classes, the participants were introduced to new tastes, ideas, cooking techniques, and important life skills that would lead them to eat more healthfully and make better food choices to nourish their families. Each six-week session culminated in a graduation dinner, with participants recognized with a certificate of achievement and a new Cooking Well apron.

Graduation at True Vine Ministries - Allie Sanderson (Samford Nutrition)
and Kathleen Garth (pastor's wife) pictured on the far left side
In a profound way, some of the most affirming aspects of our time together were the relationships that formed while preparing food and learning culinary skills together. Breaking bread together around the table afterward was unifying in ways that no one could expect or explain. Week after week, we witnessed the healing power of a shared healthy meal—shoulder to shoulder, face to face, and eye to eye. The dinner table creates a safe place to dive into conversations about culture, health, marriage, parenting, jobs, and spiritual issues. Relationships were forged while a new approach to individual and family health was embraced. Many of the participants shared with us how the timing of the class met a deep need in their lives—for both health and personal reasons.

We are currently engaged in a deeper integration with Samford's Nutrition Department for an expanded internship/preceptor program as well as community engagement involvement for undergraduate and master's level students. We will be editing and refining the curriculum and training materials throughout the Fall, and plan to have published curriculum in 2018 for both training purposes and program expansion. Our deeper goal is to expand the program in order to bring change to our communities so we can come together to learn from each other, unite the Church, and break cultural barriers. If you are interested in being a part of this life-on-life, interactive, and engaging new experience, please contact Judy Vann at judy@csmission.org.

Allie forging friendships

Friday, August 25, 2017

Helping Hammers That Lift Our City

Volunteers from around the city and country have also been busy over the summer working with CSM's Housing/Construction Crew and SWAT Team. Multiple projects were completed from replacing decks for Virginia Knox and Zadie Lewis to replacing a roof for Brenda Moore. Additionally, a large project for Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Tarrant included adding vinyl siding as well as building decks and wheelchair accessible ramps. Currently two other large housing ministry projects are underway and will be featured next month after their dedications.

One of our core values at CSM is to come alongside home-owners in need of assistance with their properties. By doing so, we are investing in the health of our city and in the lives of the individuals we serve. We are also very intentional in serving the local church, walking alongside the leadership in many capacities to ensure their success in creating holistic development in their community so that the Gospel can be heard.

Volunteers from First Christian Youth Group

Teaching moment with SWAT Team member 

Volunteers pitch in to make quick work of a big job

Daniel Horton, summer intern at CSM, worked alongside Aaron Parsons, CSM Housing Director and Construction Supervisor, learning new skills. Daniel has worked in residential construction since he was 10 years old with his father. He shared with us that “Aaron was a great teacher. There were things that I didn’t know before but he took the time to help me figure it out and teach me.” We love that the interns here at CSM get a great opportunity to be mentored in different aspects of life, but most important of all, to be mentored in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

CSM summer housing
intern, Daniel Horton
Aaron leads the SWAT Team, supervises
hundreds of volunteers, and poured
into his intern, Daniel, over the summer. 

A Note From Tracy Hipps: The DNA of Disciplemakers

Tracy Hipps
At Christian Service Mission (CSM), our lead focus is to transform lives through the Gospel. To do that, we must be disciple makers—who make disciples—who make disciples—who make disciples! This is in the “DNA” of who we are every day in every way. “DNA” stands for the “Divine Nature from Above.” It is in our blood that runs in our veins as a ministry to our city, state, and world.

Matthew 28: 19-20 says, “As you go, make disciples of all nations.” Thousands of people are impacted by the ministry of CSM with the Gospel as core to everything we do and every person we meet. From individuals who need tangible help, to ministers who are looking for help finding an effective way to create a Gospel-centered strategy that will improve their community, we want to be available to help where God is leading. This summer, as example, we worked with Pastor Ralph Garth of True Vine Ministries in Inglenook/Tarrant to help him create a strategy for their kid’s camp. We brought three churches together to facilitate, fund, and staff the camp and were blessed to see hundreds of lives in the community impacted.

Another important part of this passage is a thought that is constantly on my mind—“as you go.” Just last week, I was in Hardee’s where I go for breakfast every day, and the clerk at the counter asked me about my Bible. She told me that she needed a Bible that she could understand. The next day, I was able to give her a new Bible from our book supply at the warehouse. As we talked, I learned that she was a resident of the local LoveLady Center, which is one of our partners. The impact they have made on her life is amazing and I felt the power of how we invest together in the growth of Christ follower—“as you go.”

Jesus instructs us to “make disciples of all nations.” That is also what we want to do by working through the division of culture, class, color, and church denominations. We seek to bring together people who have an interest in transforming the lives of people in our city, state, and world who also have the Gospel in common. Ninety-eight percent of our work is done locally within the Birmingham city limits. However, we have volunteers who come from all over the world, and we want them to leave with a greater vision for impacting their community and the world. And sometimes, we get the chance to help make disciples in places like Africa. For example, we along with MedMissions, are helping the Deo Lubala family (pictured here with Jim Tucker of MedMissions, Rhonda Marshall and Tracy) make disciples in Tanzania by sending a container full of resources that will be used for church planting in Kenya. Tanzanians on mission to share the Gospel in Kenya is cool!

Disciple-making is not our business—it is our calling. A few years ago, we helped change a family’s life by building them a home in partnership with several churches. A group of people came around this family, committed to not only help them build a house but to improve every area of their lives. This family was surrounded by disciples who were committed to make disciples. Recently, the husband (Jamel) came to CSM to help serve a group of youth who were here from Washington D.C. and the Department of Youth Services. These kids have gotten into trouble and now the courts help them manage their lives. Jamel began to share his story with these kids and their leaders. It was a God ordained moment that shook the place and these people. The testimony of the past, alongside his testimony of the now of his relationship with the God, was amazing.

Drew and I met in Chicago 1984 when he was in Jr. High.
I began discipling him then, and now as a successful
businessman in 2017, he is investing into CSM.
(Tracy, Drew Fox, Mary Jo Hipps and Hannah Fox)
Disciple-making is in my DNA and in the DNA of the CSM staff. The DNA of disciple-making is also in my family. My son, Tate, worked with a team of film makers from Shades Mountain Baptist Church as they produced an evangelistic film that could impact our city, our state, and possibly the world. My wife and I have prayed all his life to raise him to be a disciple-maker and we are encouraged that DNA runs in his veins as well. Last night as I was sitting back in my chair, my phone rang. It was Ms. Henderson whom I've known for 27 years. I was her kids' youth pastor at New City Church here in Birmingham during their teen years. She just called to reconnect, give me an update, and say thank you, and I was moved. We have an incredible opportunity to be disciple-makers together. Thank you for being involved with us in God’s plan for discipleship, modeled for us by His Son, our Savior—Jesus!

Many Hands = A CSM Makeover!

As CSM becomes a destination for education and enrichment for Birmingham at the Avondale campus where our offices, warehouse, coolers, and garden center are all located, we have an increasing number of volunteers as well as visitors (this included several bus-loads of young students who came this summer to learn about aqua-farming). Though we were consumed with meeting many needs around our city this summer—running summer camps, distributing food, assisting inner-city schools with clean-up, repairing houses—CSM also found itself in need of some help to make our facility a more visitor/volunteer-friendly place.

Throughout the summer, volunteers came from all around the city and the country to help renovate our facilities. Individuals, families, youth and church groups, and corporate teams were here to help paint, lay flooring, repair walls, move furniture, sort in the warehouse, organize medical supplies, bundle diapers, provide landscaping, and work in the gardens. During Church of the Highlands ServeDay17, red SERVE t-shirts were fanned out all over (literally) our building and grounds, accomplishing the seemingly impossible.

We feel so humbled and grateful to have worked alongside all those amazing, generous warriors for our city, and to have been the recipient of their labor. Our building has been renewed and our spirits are lifted! Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to bless CSM as well as pour compassion all over our city this summer!

Directing traffic for the volunteers
The new and improved CSM exterior!