Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Note From Tracy Hipps: Seeing God’s Hand — Even in the Storm

All hands on deck during disaster relief
This month Harvey arrived, lingered, and left behind a path of destruction and then Irma struck Florida and we are watching the Church be the hands and feet of God. In the wake of Harvey we were asked to assist with resources for Houston, Port Arthur, and Beaumont and then Florida. CSM has been in a position to help in the aftermath of both hurricane disasters with truck-loads of supplies. This is what we do: the Lord provides the resources and we open our hands to give to those in need. As of today, we have sent 20 trucks to Texas and 6 trucks to Florida totaling more than 600,000lbs of resources.

To recognize the hand of God, all we have to do is watch, listen, and connect with people. We see the Lord’s hands move here every day. We watched God provide resources to help in Houston in inexplicable ways. God provided the opportunity to share resources with friends we have served with for more than 20 years. One of our warehouse partners, MedMission, had gloves and masks that they were able to donate for us to send, critical items for dealing with flooding and clean-up.

One of our church partners, New Rising Star, had plans for a pastor from Beaumont, TX to guest preach but he needed to stay home and we were able to provide resources to his church after Harvey damaged so much of their city. The majority of the resources we have sent have assisted faith partners, providing resources to share the love of Christ with the people of their city.

It is important for me to acknowledge the hand of God moving in places. My hope is that people will see Him and believers will be encouraged and those whose hearts are being stirred towards God will see Him and be amazed. Port Arthur is located between Beaumont and Houston. My son, Tal, and his family live in Port Arthur where he serves as a first-responder with the Coast Guard. His family evacuated ahead of the storm, but Tal stayed to work and serve. After Tal reported damage to his town, church, and first responder’s homes, we were able to send supplies and a volunteer group to help clean and rebuild. My son has worked hard during the days after Harvey and I am proud.

To come along side what God is doing you need to labor where you are gifted in the place and season of your calling. My friend is the Executive Director of 'The Forge' in Houston. He has used these times to unify the churches so they can work together to help families in need. Antioch Church in Beaumont has used the four truckloads of resources to serve their community with the Gospel at the center. And, Hillcrest Baptist, where my son and his family attend church in Port Arthur, was almost entirely flooded. This week we have people there helping to restore it, sending with them supplies to encourage and share the Gospel with the community of Port Arthur. $10,000 needed to be raised for the restoration of this this church and as of today it has been done. My son and family are seeing the hand of God in all of these miracles.

As a ministry leader, community servant, man of God, and a father, I recognize God’s hand moving, acknowledging His actions in connecting resources with needs, and giving Him my hands to work and in praise for what He has supplied. His hand is at work by answering prayers and allowing CSM to come alongside what God is doing.

A Storm of Volunteers and Donors

This month has brought about unique challenges for the Christian Service Mission family of volunteers and contributors.  We usually have projects and volunteers planned out months in advance, but this month's natural disasters led us to rely more heavily on maximum preparation in a minimal amount of time. As soon as Hurricane Harvey was projected to reach Texas, we started preparing the warehouse for the receiving, organizing and shipping of hundreds of thousands of pounds of donations to send to the victims in Texas. Partnering with the City of Birmingham, we collected over 600,000 pounds and have sent 29 trucks of various shapes and sizes to Texas and Florida filled with items needed to rebuild.

With that being said, our list of emergency and short-notice volunteers definitely came into play for the early part of September. We had 250 volunteers from all over taking time off of work and school to work with us in the effort to connect all of these resources God placed in our hands (and in the warehouse) with the needs created by this disaster. Churches sent their staff members, youth leaders, and pastors.  Businesses sent their employees. Parents brought their kids.  The warehouse has been in non-stop motion for the last two weeks with volunteers unloading donations from trucks, sorting items in our warehouse, and loading them back onto trucks to send out to multiple cities in Texas.

The relief response has been a beautiful demonstration of how CSM connects resources with needs in a Gospel-centered and Gospel-focused way.  Families, organizations, churches and individuals donated tangible resources like canned goods, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, and money. Individuals that had available time or those that decided to make time to help others showed up to lend a hand. Truck drivers and owners of trucking companies donated tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, and whatever else they had to bring to our warehouse. The donations were transported to Texas and distributed to the churches, faith-based organizations, families and individuals that needed them most. And now we are doing it all over again in Florida.

God is an awesome God and his servants are some awesome people!  Thank you all for your donations and support that help us reach people affected most by these storms as they seek to start life anew in the midst of tribulation and devastation.Please contact us if you would like to assist with the remaining disaster relief work we are coordinating and resourcing.





Donors have come from corporations, individuals, families, and even children collecting supplies to help out. They have driven from Huntsville and Talladega in rented trucks, borrowed vehicles, and even horse trailers. Whatever they could find to deliver supplies here! We are honored to receive these supplies and want to be good stewards of all that was collected with care and brought here. We tried to capture all the smiling faces but missed many because so many donations were coming in. What a blessing! Here are some of the people who helped collect and transport donations to CSM!

Blount County Pharmacy

Top Trails near Talladega

Unity Baptist Church, Kimberly

Friends from Huntsville

Guiding Light Church

Pell City Police Department

Arian Jack and friends
Hoover Fire Department

Gardendale First Baptist and Fire Rescue

Universal trucking company and volunteer driver taking donations to Houston!

DEX.YP employees donated hygiene kits

Donations galore!

Ashley from 98.7 Jamz!


Oak Mountain High School
St. Vincent's Blount County

Boots On The Ground For The Body of Christ

At this time, we are still heavy into Texas and Florida disaster relief.
We have ministry partners invested in sharing needed assistance
and hope through the Gospel in Houston, Beaumont,
Baytown, Port Arthur and now in the Miami and Tampa areas.

This past weekend, we got to see how God works through His people. One of our partner churches got a call this past Saturday, requesting housing for 40-50 people from a church in Tallahassee, Florida who were escaping the storm, including pastors General and Tinisha Bryant with their kids and other church staff and members. One of our main ministry partners in the Tarrant area had just renovated a dorm-style facility with enough bed space for over 50 people. When Tracy went to check and see if it was possible to open that building for this group, already headed toward Birmingham, he found a large group of church members there cleaning the building! They had planned for a “serve day” a few weeks before, and the building was in tip-top shape. The only things needed were twin mattresses, towels and linens, and food to feed the guests.

Meanwhile, back at CSM, a full-size moving truck backed up to our dock to load supplies to take to Texas, but we had pretty much given all we had away. In the meantime, a semi-truck broke down near Gadsden on its way to Florida with relief donations. The Boy Scouts offered to unload the container so that it could make its way to where it was needed, and brought the contents to CSM. CSM staff and a few volunteers were (miraculously) still here (on a Saturday) to help unload when the truck arrived, and load the moving truck ready to deliver.

Tracy was still at the church trying to make a plan with the staff for resourcing the needs there, and got a call from that driver. He had left CSM with a full load, but had been stopped at the weigh station for being 14,000 pounds over. Tracy asked him where he was, and found that the driver was only one mile away! You guessed it, when they unloaded the extra weight, the contents of the boxes included new towels, linens, diapers and an abundance of food. We had mattresses back in the warehouse, and every single need was supplied. You cannot make this stuff up!

We can assure you that your donations are strategically delivering relief and encouragement to people through faith-based organizations. We will continue to collect supplies and donations for hurricane relief, invest in partners who are committed to the Gospel, and invite you to be the hands and feet of the Body of Christ with us.

Right Direction Christian Center Asst. Pastor and family from Tallahassee, FL
Benjamin and Kerry Ann Rapheal, Nicholas, Jakin (r) and Mary
Evacuees enjoying God's abundant and timely provision

Plenty of towels!

Items that saved the day

Transformation by Cooking Well Together

Healthier and happier - Ms. "T" and Allie Sanderson, class instructor

We went to visit a group of ladies from one of our Cooking Well classes this summer. We discovered that the class participants have retained so much nutrition knowledge and are motivated to take control of their own health. They have been busy losing weight and changing their eating and cooking habits since they graduated from the six-week program. Now, they are watching their salt and sugar intake, cooking with cauliflower, making fresh mango salsa and encouraging their families to get healthy with them!

Here is what they had to say about their Cooking Well experience:

Intentional, interactive and inspiring classes
“This class taught me to apply healthier cooking to help with my diagnosis [MS], and for the health of my family.”

“Even if you get just one person in these class, it does its job.”

“My favorite thing about the class was the unity of the class and embracing our womanhood. It was such a blessing to sit down at the table together to see everyone walk through the door, ready to learn new things.  The food is just the beginning.  It allows us to cleanse in all areas of our lives, to sit down and just heal all of our hurts.”

“We don’t always get a chance to sit and enjoy each other’s company. This class allowed that time for fellowship, and it was so nice.”

Celebrating more birthdays
and better health
“The food and fellowship.  I know how to do new things like cut an onion and make mango salsa.”

“Learned about sugar and salt intake and what’s actually good for our bodies”

“I would love to get my daughter involved.”

 “My biggest takeaway was the different teaching techniques— like how to hold the knife, how to cut the veggies, and the different foods that are healthier like quinoa and cauliflower.”

“Our church benefited from it— we would like to see some of the men get involved.  They don’t tend to take care of themselves.”

“The class excited me to want to try different things and eat healthier. For example, the seasonings! I never would have thought to make my own seasonings without salt. “

Friendships forged in the fire of the kitchen
“The class gave me a re-start to think about health with my new sickness [cancer] and a place to share about what I was going through.”

“We learned about sugar and salt intake and how to use seasonings… to use salt afterwards instead of throughout cooking, and it still tastes good!”

“It gave us a way to unite together and communicate and find out about each other.  I like how we got together and learned and laughed at the same time.”

“This class made me concerned about what to eat and made me eat healthier.  I don’t eat fried foods anymore and I limit my salt”

“Your program taught us how to cook healthy and how we could become healthier. For me, it was an awesome experience that changed my life. It taught me to be healthier. When I found out that I have diabetes and high blood pressure, the doctor told me I needed to lose weight. I have lost 5 and half lbs since the beginning of the classes, and I have continued to lose weight. My doctor wanted to know what I’ve been doing, so I showed him my certificate from the class.”
Generations of change

“We learned about healthy food substitutions, like replacing regular oil with olive oil. Olive oil has a better, deeper taste that I enjoy more than regular oil.

“I see a big difference in the women group at church. I have a good friend who’s eating habits needed to change because of her health and now she’s been exposed to more variety of fruits and vegetables. It was the will of God to bring these healthy foods and vegetables to our church and help us get healthier.”

“I’ve been tricking my husband into eating healthier— like I’ve been using wheat spaghetti—
and my husband hasn’t even noticed!”

Class camaraderie
Discovering mangoes
Careful measuring

Add flavor, not salt!

Better grains - fresh whole wheat pasta demo

Housing Ministry Hammers Out Hope

Carl Jackson in his new home, built with love by our SWAT Team and with the invaluable help of Wells Fargo's financial contribution to the project and hundreds of volunteer hours 

Aaron Parsons and Randy Sain light up when they tell how the CSM housing team recognizes the opportunity to be life on life with the families and individuals we help. Our housing ministry is directed at homeowners who do not have the financial or physical ability to rehabilitate their house. This month we were blessed to dedicate two homes to the glory of God after months of work involving donated funds, strategic resource direction, and strong volunteer support for the work that had to be done.

Aaron Parson is always happy to be a part of CSM miracle stories.
He says, "This is simply people being with  people, letting God
use us to create transformation, live out the Gospel and participate
in other's lives. Jesus chose to work through us."
One of our main projects this year has been on behalf of Carl Jackson. About twenty years ago, Carl was in a life-threatening motorcycle accident, after which the doctors told him he would never walk again. But Carl has been determined to become independent and is walking again with great difficulty. He had been living with his mother, Eula Jackson, who has been volunteering at CSM every Wednesday at the front desk for the past two years. The opportunity to have his own home became a possibility when a neighbor died and the house became available to purchase. But after taking possession, they found that the house was in extreme disrepair, needing new doors, a new roof, and extensive remodeling in the kitchen and bathroom. The house was essentially unlivable from the basement to the leaky roof.

Mrs. Jackson heard Aaron and Randy talking about another project they were working on. So she decided to ask Aaron and Randy for an estimate for the roof. They went to Carl's house to take measurements and confirmed that he needed a new roof. Carl had applied for a roof at the city twice in December, but was not getting assistance. Aaron and Randy found an obstacle stopping the city from doing the work and fixed the problem. CSM gave Carl the helping hand he needed. Through donations and a lot of manpower - from the basement to the roof - the work was completed. Carl spent the first two nights on his own in his house this past Friday and Saturday.
"Prayers for peace and protection around and in this house."

At the dedication Mrs. Jackson said, "Through all the downfalls that Carl was having, we didn’t lose faith in God. Christ came through for us, and CSM came through for us. Carl needed a helping hand not a handout. It would’ve taken us five years to get this project finished, but CSM expedited the process in miraculous ways. It really impacted us to see how the churches and volunteers who came to help were so joyful in their work. If I had a thousand tongues, I would still not be able to express how grateful we are for everything CSM and all these volunteers have helped us with."

The other house dedication we enjoyed this month was for the Wesley home. Mrs. Gloria Wesley lives two doors down from Mr. Dodson (see story) with her husband who is going through cancer treatment. We became aware of her house repair needs during the weeks we were working in their neighborhood. She had applied for a City grant to have her house painted, but she was concerned that it would need painting again before she would qualify for the next grant (a long process) since her house had already been painted a number of times with several layers of paint. It became obvious that the best solution to her problem would involve siding rather than paint. She knew that we had been able to find a way to have Mr. Dodson’s house repaired with siding. We got a siding estimate to see if she could pay for the additional material cost, but it seemed prohibitive for her.

When CSM shows up... miracles happen! 
God had another plan! An unexpected Wells Fargo grant was offered, so we applied on behalf of Gloria, and she received the needed funds for the siding on her house! We got busy... our SWAT team did all the prep work, a volunteer Wells Fargo team worked on siding and then SWAT came in behind them with the finishing detail work. Teen volunteers from YouthWorks painted the foundation to complete the job.

Once again, a strong bond was forged in the Lord with someone who previously felt hopeless and neglected. We are so privileged to walk out the Gospel in this way with your help and support! There is always a project to be accomplished, but the relationship is the most important part of the process. Investing in people, like Mr. Jackson and the Wesley family, is what your donations allow us to do.
Carl Jackson's house
The big reveal!

Mrs. Jackson worked alongside and fed the SWAT Team everyday

Randy Sain blessed the Jackson family for their faith and
willingness work with the volunteers with such a grateful heart

Tracy challenging Carl to be a blessing to his community

A perfect house-warming gift for an Alabama fan 
The "Ladies From 280" decorated the house to a "T"

Pictures of the interior

Kitchen cabinets hand-crafted by our SWAT team in our new
woodwork shop behind the CSM warehouse
Rehab space
Carl humbly thanking everyone for their help

Mrs. Wesley and Wells Fargo executive, Richard Busby.

Prayers of thankfulness for a beautiful home.

Happy housewarming!

After shot

Wesley home siding installation on the Wesley house with the SWAT Team