Monday, October 23, 2017

A Note From Tracy Hipps: We Serve At The Pleasure Of The Father

Tracy with Roger Byrd of Bob's Bikes who donated 30 bikes
to help with transportation needs in Puerto Rico 
I have always been moved by the statement, “I serve at the pleasure of the President.” I heard it yesterday on TV as one of the President’s men were speaking. As a believer in Christ, who has been bought with a high price, the Bible says, “So you must honor God with your body.” To me that means, “I serve at the pleasure of my Father.” My life is not my own.

Last month, God anointed CSM with an assignment perfectly aligning with our mission to “connect resources with needs.” On the same day Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the Lord set us on course to be a part of the relief efforts with His people for His people. I can tell you exactly where I was on the CSM campus the day the Lord gave us the assignment. On that day, trucks and people came just as they did in April 2011, people whom God had given the same assignment. Together we served at the pleasure of the Father. When an assignment is given, God gives the blessing (strength and resources) to fulfil the assignment for His glory.

This specific assignment was to share resources with our partnering churches in Texas for the people whom they already serve. We reached out to CitiIMPACT, one of our national disaster relief partners, and The Forge in Houston. Together, we are serving communities in Houston alongside a network of 24 churches sending 5 truckloads filled with more than 100,000 pounds of supplies to that area. We reached out to a church in Beaumont, Texas, sending much needed supplies to their community. This church partners with a local church in East Lake, and we provided support to strengthen a church relationship at a critical time.

Sent with love from Birmingham
God gave the assignment to serve Texas, and we did our best to accomplish that assignment. However, the biggest blessing for me was to serve the area of Port Arthur, specifically the Coast Guard where my son Tal serves. This has become a permanent assignment for my son and his family to serve for the eternal good. We sent a semi-truck of supplies to care for the Coast Guard families who were affected so they could continue their first-responder work with the knowledge that their needs would be met. We sent laborers and financial resources to help with reconstruction for Hillcrest Baptist Church which was badly damaged during the storm. Hillcrest is also where my son and family attend. The Lord has allowed us to serve the church and serve the community. In the next couple of weeks, we will send a CSM team to Port Arthur to aid in cleaning out and rebuilding homes so that we can continue to serve the Lord with the gifts He has given us.

Our next specific assignment followed quickly with Hurricane Irma. The resources continued to come in letting us know that we were to serve in Florida as well. We sent several truckloads of water and resources to aid the areas in South Florida, Bradenton, and Highland counties. God brought a pastor and his family from Miami for whom we provided chainsaws and yard cleaning tools. They mobilized their church to serve people affected by the storm in the community near their church and in the Florida Keys where many houses have been destroyed.

Water Filters 
The assignment continues with Puerto Rico, working again with CitiIMPACT to send resources to the island. It was important to us to know that the money and resources you have donated would be used effectively and safely as we sought ways to aid the PR. Thankfully, CitiIMPACT has churches and logistics contacts in the area who could let us know exactly what they need. We serve at the pleasure of the Father who guides us at CSM to “connect resources with needs.”

This time, the assignment involves construction supplies, tools for rebuilding, and bicycles. We were told that bikes are needed for transportation since the roads have been widely destroyed and fuel is unavailable. As soon as we put the word out, individuals and business owners answered the call and 30 brand new bikes along with water filtration units, cleaning supplies, buckets, blankets, and other asked for goods were shipped to FL to be put on a container to PR.

When you serve at the pleasure of our Father, you serve the One who owns all the cattle, land, ships, and production by man. We serve at the pleasure of our Father who is immeasurable and unlimited. We can measure what we steward. To date we have sent 33 commercial trucks, 750,000 lbs of resources to over 50 churches, 1 cargo container, and we have served thousands of people. The immeasurable impact is the effect on the people serving and being served. The effect God has had in the lives of people all over this country as His people serve is immeasurable. “God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful.” (I Thessalonians 5:24)

CSM exists to “connect resources with needs” and to always serve at the pleasure of the Father who gives us all assignments to glorify His Name. “God can do anything, you know- far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us.” (Ephesians 3:20 MSB) We serve at the pleasure of our Father who knows our name, who hears the cry of the people, and assigns us our duty.      

Friday, October 20, 2017

CSM Experience Impacts Intern

Lee Baxter, Samford University
Nutrition and Dietetics Graduate Intern
Cooking Well is our six-week healthy cooking program designed to be a springboard for discipleship and relationship in the communities we serve in partnership with eMeals and Samford University. Lee Baxter, our most recent Cooking Well intern from Samford’s Nutrition and Dietetics Master Program shared some observations from her experience.

"Cooking Well is looking to bring life-long change by engaging face-to-face and building trust in under-served communities with healthy lifestyle encouragement and education. Christian Service Mission has been building relationships with church and community leaders all around Birmingham, and paving the way for Cooking Well to dive into some of the most under-served areas of our city. Cooking Well is an opportunity to teach with purpose and effectively reach a community through a non-threatening platform.

I loved hearing the testimonies from some of the recent course graduates. It was awesome to hear them express their own personal journeys and new levels of success with their health goals and lifestyle changes. I can also see the on-going individual and community impact the program has had by the way they are already teaching and encouraging others. 

Lee teaching the Cooking Well nutrition segment
Cooking Well is tackling health equity barriers head-on and can reach a wide array of groups. Faith is foundational to the success of the program since the local churches are the portals to serving these communities. 

I love the “trifecta” of culinary, nutrition education and fellowship embedded in the Cooking Well class structure. The fellowship component is a key element of support and relationship that underpins the information and skills they learn in the classes. 

I am excited to see how Cooking Well continues to grow and develop and what each group get out of it. It will be diverse in successes as it is diverse in the groups that go through the course. I loved being a part of Cooking Well."

We appreciate Lee's hard work for CSM during her rotation as an intern and on-going involvement with Cooking Well as a volunteer. If you would like more information about Cooking Well, please contact Judy Vann.

Local Hero Helps With Disaster Relief…

Daniel, Michael, Davis, Jake and Sam 
The last month and a half has been a roller coaster ride around CSM. We have been taking in and sending out donations almost every day since the first weekend in September. We have needed a lot of helping hands to make that possible. As a small staff, we rely very heavily on our volunteer base to accomplish all the different tasks and facets of our ministry, and this past month and a half has proven that time and time again.

Jake Pratt (L) and the Vestavia crew were here working hard
to help Michael (R) sort water to send to disaster areas
There have been days that we have received truckloads of donations for the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Many of these donations were unexpected on our end, and desperately needed on the other end. To meet these emergency demands, often without any way to quickly sort, palletize and ship those donations out, gave us the opportunity to see God’s hand at work!  Seemingly every time a truck, a large donation or a need arose, God sent us people to meet that need! One such volunteer that has been with us for the last two years is our local football hero Jake Pratt from Vestavia Hills High School.

Jake and his friends from VHHS have been coming to CSM for the last couple of years to help Michael Bowen every Thursday afternoon during the school year with our food/garden ministry. This month they have been 100% dedicated to joining in the CSM disaster relief efforts. Jake has had a busy senior year at Vestavia as he made the varsity football team, scored a touchdown in his first game, and got to do an official recruiting visit to Clemson University... not to mention his school work on top! However, Jake has remained committed to his service with us at Christian Service Mission amidst all of that.  Jake and his friends have been so consistent and so helpful this past month and a half to come in and box up water bottles, sort clothes and organize donations to send to those affected by these hurricanes.

To Jake and the rest of the Vestavia Hills ‘High School to Work’ Program, thanks a ton for your continued partnership with CSM and for all that you have done to help those in need in this time of disaster! You continue to help further the vision of CSM by helping us to connect resources to needs through the transforming of lives through the Gospel of Christ! You guys are awesome!

CSM Life-On-Life Housing Ministry

Mr. Bruner's neighborhood
Aaron Parsons and Randy Sain are CSM’s experienced construction and engineering experts behind all the reconstruction work of our Housing ministry in our under-served communities. They came in the office the other day excited to share how affirmed they felt in their ministry. “We go out in twos so that we can always pick each other up, no matter what we face in a day. We don’t want to be so hyper-focused on the tasks at hand that we miss what God is doing all around us. Every day we see how man makes his plans, but God ordains his steps. In our previous professional lives, we would have been head-down in our work. Now we see that the work puts us in proximity to people who need Jesus.”

Aaron (right) up on the roof
This is the story they told: Aaron and Randy left CSM one recent morning to check on the Samuel Bruner job, where they had workers replacing his roof. As they were leaving, an older gentleman mowing his yard two houses up the street sees Randy and Aaron and leaves his mower running to hurry in their direction shouting, “Jesus is Lord!” As they engaged in conversation with him this bold believer told them, “I am a street evangelist. This world is my church and everybody needs to know Jesus!” Randy and Aaron affirmed him, “Wow! The Holy Spirit is evident in you. We know the Holy Spirit is here and we are united in Him.”

Randy happy when he is helping others and has on the tool-belt
From there, Randy and Aaron grabbed lunch at a ‘meat-and-three’ near Acipco, where their waitress immediately let them know that she is “a street evangelist… out of the church and into the streets to share Christ.” Aaron says, “We were stunned to meet two people who referred to themselves as street evangelists within a matter of hours.” They felt that God was impressing on them that they were street evangelists, too!

After lunch, they returned to the truck and were about to pull out of the parking lot when we heard a tap on the window. There was a woman who merely said to them, “I am hungry.” Randy leaned toward her and said, “Hey kiddo, how are you doing? My name is Randy. Let’s go inside and get you something to eat.” They went back through the cafeteria line. The server looked at the woman and pulled out a “to-go” box. But Randy stopped him and said, “This is not a to-go order. She will be eating with us.” Then he told her, “Order whatever you would like.”

Completed Bruner house 
As they were finding a table, Randy flagged the “street evangelist” waitress and told her, “I am bringing the street to you! She is hungry and has had a rough time, and she needs prayer.” So, the waitress stopped what she was doing and prayed over the woman in a powerful way. Afterwards, the waitress looked at the woman and said, “You need to know that Jesus loves you,” then told Randy, “I can take it from here.”

Aaron and Randy were clearly moved by all that happened that day. “We knew we were seeing the perfection of God in a very simple thing. That is exactly what Jesus would do… comfort hurting people as a father or brother. We want to be open to engage with people so that they would be drawn to Him.” This is one of many ways that CSM brings the Gospel to Birmingham.

Hurricane Alley

The day after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, we started receiving calls asking if we were going to collect donations and send supplies. Tracy said, “Wait. Wait and see where God is working and how we can work with Him.” Everyday there are overwhelming needs and we can jump to action in many different directions, or we can wait and pray and see where He is leading us.

By day two, we had connected with a national disaster relief agency who we have worked with in the past and who shares the same heart and mission of empowering the local church by providing support and logistical help when needed. This was the perfect group to partner with for these disaster relief efforts. They had workers in the affected areas assessing what was needed at each location so we could customize the supplies for them.

As you know, this has turned out to be an incredibly destructive hurricane season. We have had the opportunity to respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico because of your generosity and support.

Twenty-four trucks were sent to Texas with locations in Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Baytown, Rosenburg, Texas City, and Nederland carrying 486,362 pounds of relief supplies! Nine trucks were sent to Florida with locations in Bradenton, Ft Myers, and Hialeah Gardens bringing 237,797 pounds of supplies ready to help the people. Members from our Housing Ministry team and CSM volunteers are on their way to Texas to help with some of the rebuilding efforts this week.

Last week, we sent a container to Puerto Rico with 14,000 pounds of critically needed supplies, including water filtration buckets and bicycles donated from individuals and Bob’s Bikes of Homewood. We are so honored to be a conduit for your outpouring of love and support to those in desperate need around the country.