Friday, November 17, 2017

Making Connections for Eternity!

Our focus on connecting resources to needs allows us to reach deep in the communities we serve with strategic ministry efforts. With three back-to-back hurricanes, CSM has been deeply involved in disaster relief while also continuing to create lasting change by bringing healthy living, educational advancement, improved homeownership and spiritual formation to Birmingham. Lasting change impacts communities for generations which is why CSM is heavily investing in kids, families, and education.
Summer camp at True Vine in Inglenook

This summer, we mobilized 10 interns to kick off two new local camps with partner churches. Tutoring, additional educational opportunities, mentoring, and meals are ways the camps impact the lives of vulnerable children. Through our community gardens and garden center, we teach kids about nutrition, science, gardening, and even how to build hydroponic systems! Our campus is host to hundreds of students who volunteer and learn how CSM assists the Church in Birmingham to effectively minister to those in need.

Two charter buses arrive at KAA from Birmingham with Tracy
For the last 26 years, Tracy has organized city-wide trips to Kids Across America (KAA) in Missouri so that youth who would typically never be able to attend a world-class Christian camp can have a life-changing camp experience. This annual KAA trip has become an integral CSM outreach to the communities we serve. Deedee went to KAA on a trip Tracy led in 1991, and then attended KAA as a chaperone this past summer with her daughter Samone and two bus loads of kids from Birmingham! Deedee’s life had been profoundly impacted at KAA camp, and was blessed to see her daughter experience the same thing sixteen years later.

Tracy with Deedee and daughter, Samone
A long-standing and memorable tradition at KAA is the large bell that is only and loudly rung when a camper wants everyone to know that they have made a decision for Christ. That bell was ringing so loudly this year, the angels could hear from heaven! To know that our ministry of connecting resources (in this case, camp fees, paperwork, chapperones, and charter buses from Birmingham to Branson, MO) to needs (in this case, kids from under-resourced communities where we serve with our strategic partner churches) is impacting generations for eternity gives us the confidence to ask you to join with us.

Investing in the educational and physical health of our youth is transformative. Our volunteers and donors are making a profound impact with lasting change for generations. We can do all this because of God’s grace and your commitment to invest in CSM. We are inviting you help us make an additional 3,500 connections in 2018! We are raising $105,000 to resource 3,500 more connections to create lasting change in many lives. Thousands of families NEED OUR HELP! Please designate your donation to CSM by December 31st. You can go online to make your donation at to help CSM make more connections for eternity.

Kids arrive from Birmingham 
Canoeing for the first time!

Godly and loving KAA counselors
Camp is a new experience
Don't ever look back!
Our CSM summer interns ran the camps...
 and poured the love of Jesus on the kids!
Samone thanks you for helping to make camp possible for her

Cooking Well Observed by Caitlin Sloane

Cooking Well class creates community
Community is so important. As humans, we thrive on our innate ability to connect with those around us. We have evolved to find many ways to fulfil this need. We connect to others through culture, language, food, geographic boundaries, perceived norms, common interests and values, and health risks and conditions. Some go to church, others join book clubs, dance classes, walking groups. Some simply enjoy being amongst friends or peers in social settings, such as the grocery store or farmer’s market. As a future Registered Dietitian and current Graduate student in nutrition studies, I have learned to value the importance of having a community. When we feel supported, our own health, as well as that of the nation, is positively impacted.

Caitlin Sloane,
Samford Dietetic Intern,
brought her extensive
culinary and nutrition
expertise to Cooking Well
during her rotation at CSM
With this in mind, I have been honored and excited to spend these past few weeks working with Judy Vann at Christian Service Mission, as we bring together strong women in the community of Birmingham to cook, laugh, learn and eat together. At the Cooking Well Lessons, a 6-week series loosely stylized after the USDA Eat Healthy, Be Active program, individuals learn skills that will not only help them in the kitchen, but that will also help them to make healthier choices and think about their food culture differently. Lessons involve culinary tips, such as how to properly cut a red onion, as well as a 20-minute-long nutrition class. The hands-on cooking, as well as nutrition education, bolster each other in showing class attendees new and innovative ways to think about their food and health. I think I must have smiled for 3 hours straight, as I watched participants share food stories, life stories and troubleshoot the ins and outs of preparing a home cooked meal.

Allie Sanderson teaching culinary skills to everyone
On week number 3, we made a colorful and vitamin packed Greek Panzanella salad, with several organic vegetables from the garden at Christian Service Mission. Sometimes, buying fruits and vegetables can seem too expensive. When you factor in the concept of purchasing organically, it can add a whole new level of stress! For this week’s nutrition education, I focused on sharing the “Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen” with Cooking Well participants. We learned that some fruits and vegetables such as cantaloupe and avocados do not need to be grown with pesticides, which can be toxic when eaten in large doses, and that others, including spinach and strawberries are best purchased organically because of their pesticide content.

As we made our way back to enjoy the lovely dinner we had prepared together, we felt more empowered. We gained new knowledge and insight into just one of the many ways that we can take charge of our health, for a happier and healthier community.

Caitlin chatting with the ladies from Bethel Baptist at dinner after class

ThankServing Day 2017

It's that time of year again! The leaves are changing, the weather is getting colder and we're drawing nearer to one of our favorite events! No, I'm not talking about the Iron Bowl. I'm talking about our annual statewide Thanksgiving food distribution - THANKSERVING DAY! Every year on the weekend before Thanksgiving, our staff and our partners gear up for the mad rush of collecting, packaging and delivering over 4,000 Thanksgiving meals to families all over our city and throughout our state!

Tracy at his best
As far south as Montgomery and as far north as Huntsville, we utilize our partnerships and relationships with over 20 churches to capacitate and facilitate our very large Thanksgiving outreach event. Over the couple of years, this event has grown from a distribution of around 1,000 meals to this year distributing over 4,000 meals. The only way we are able to accomplish such a feet from our large warehouse with a small staff is to work in conjunction with about 1,000 volunteers, 23 distribution sites, 40+ pastors and church leadership and several schools and churches delivering their bounty from very successful canned food drives! All of that working together provides us the opportunity to distribute over 4,000 meals to reach 4,000 families in partnership with their local church.

One such partnership is one that has been forming and functioning for several years between Oak Mountain Presbyterian, Urban Hope Community Church and Christian Service Mission. CSM sends the food, Urban Hope and Oak Mountain pack the food and then in partnership with Fairfield City Schools, Urban Hope distributes the food to the community after a Gospel presentation from pastor Alton Hardy of Urban Hope.

Turkey and grocery distribution from the dock
Everything that we do at CSM is to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If there is one thing that we are thankful for during this season of giving thanks, it's that our Savior came and died for us and for those that are packing these meals, those that are distributing these meals and those that are receiving these meals. There is no greater calling than the one that God has called us to love our neighbors and make disciples. Thanksgiving is an awesome opportunity to do both on the same day!

Connecting resources to needs through the local church... now that is responsible care. What good is a bunch of food to feed 4,000 families for a day, unless it is used alongside of the Gospel that feeds families for eternit? A huge shout out to all of the people and partners that have helped make this initiative possible, and may God continue to bless our efforts and multiply his kingdom through CSM!

A Note From Tracy Hipps: My Father Knows Best

Tracy Hipps, CSM Executive Director
I wake up everyday day with the voice of my Father, ready for our time together. I cannot wait to sit down to listen to my Father’s words. My Father knows me best and loves me more. In December 1977, I was adopted into my Father’s family, and I have never looked back. Today, 40 years later, my Father calls out my name and knows every hair on my head. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is so intimate with me and meets me in this place. He knows what is best and what I need daily to live, breath, and serve Him.

I have been asked over the last few years to write a book about my stories, and I always say, “The book has been written, and it is The Word.” Over the last few years during my daily journaling I have written devotions that come from my time with my Father. The last couple of months, every journal entry has been about my Father. I have one voice that echoes in my head, and that voice is my Father’s. I remember what my Father says when I need to respond to situations. I listen for the voice of my Father as I lead the CSM team daily. I talk about my Father to all who will listen, and I repeat what He says through the day.

My Father knows best when it comes to relationships and with whom to invest. For me, my greatest praise is the relationship I have with my children as their father. My Father knows best when He is teaching me how to be a father and now, a grandfather. I love being with my grandkids and watching them grow up. My grandson, Kyler, just celebrated his 5th birthday. My prayer is that my son will be the best father he can be for his sons. I have learned to be a father only by spending time with my Father.

This article is not specifically about CSM or about our work and accomplishments. Because without the relationship with My Father, I would not be where I am, and CSM would not be where it is. CSM is an amazing place to serve, and I serve alongside amazing people who are all walking in relationship with our Father. We are a family of servants walking in the path and guided by our Father. This holiday season, my prayer is that my Father would become your Father and that we will walk as a family.  We do service because we are called to serve, but our stories are what we will take with us into eternity. My Father knows best and He loves you the most.

CSM Boots On The Ground in Texas

Aaron and team from Birmingham in Texas on recent disaster relief trip 

In response to the flooding in Texas after the hurricane, CSM sent Housing Ministry Project Coordinator Kirsten Agee and her husband Tim to Texas to prepare for CSM Housing Ministry Director Aaron Parsons and a work team from Magic City WoodWorks. They traveled together from Birmingham to be there the entire following week to help partner ministries by installing sheetrock at Hillcrest Baptist Church and repair damage on KeeKee Youman’s house.

Kirsten shared, “We were expecting the area to look like New Orleans with all the blue tarps but it wasn’t like that.  We did notice that a lot of businesses were closed and small piles of debris at the road so either they got the cities cleaned up fast or there wasn’t as much flooding in the areas we went through.  The hotel we stayed in had damage on the 1st floor but the rest of the place was functioning fine.

Kirsten Agee
We got the tour of Hillcrest Baptist Church by their young pastor. They had no damage in the sanctuary which was certainly a God thing since every other building had flooding. They had already done all the gutting necessary for the repairs to be done. They had an electrician in to check the wiring and they got the ‘ok’ to install the sheetrock in every area except their oldest building. Sadly, they are going to have to bring that building up to electrical code before anything else can be done in there, which was not an expense they were counting on. Part of our team finished installing all the sheetrock except in their offices.

Next we went to KeeKee’s house to assess it so we could purchase the materials needed to do her repairs. We determined the only storm damage she had was to her roof as it was leaking in a few places.  The other damage to her house was from several leaking windows that had a lot of rot around them.  We decided that if we didn’t help her, no one else was going to. Tim figured all the materials the team would need and we headed off to Home Depot – a mere ½ mile away. When we asked about a delivery to be made in the next few days they just laughed. HD was about four weeks out on deliveries, so we had to shuttle the materials ourselves. Six trips later, everything was at her house awaiting the team.

That afternoon we went to assess the house of one of the Hillcrest church family. They had about 2 feet of water in their home during the storm. They had already gutted the damage and were ready for work to be done. Unfortunately, they did not have flood insurance. They said they had lived there 50 years & never had flooding. Tim figured up the materials they would need so they could price it out and make a plan. They said they would just have to work at it as they had the funds. Meanwhile, this sweet woman is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and had just had surgery. We were sad to leave them, but learned that the damage in Texas is deeper and more difficult than the eye can easily see.”

Aaron was so moved by the experience in Texas. Most of these guys who traveled to Texas had come to MCWW to learn a trade. Part of their training is to see what it is like to serve, which is why they decided to do this trip with Aaron. He says that at first the guys were hesitant about the work involved, so he broke them up into groups to work on different projects. Aaron was able to work with the same guys the whole time on the roofing and had a great time to watch them enjoy serving while working hard and well. They had Bible study in the evenings where the guys would give examples of things that touched them during the day. The mission was intended to not only serve, but also to minister to and alongside the team from MCWW in a way that was life-giving. The church also served them by feeding them, giving them a taste of Texas.

When KeeKee shared her story of what all she has been doing since the hurricane and how she has been serving so selflessly, the work crew from Birmingham was overwhelmed at how much she had sacrificed to help others after the storm. Giving her contact information out to neighbors in need, she basically gave up her life for the six weeks following the storm. After hearing her story, the team felt that it was a really good reason to be there serving. Then the church leadership told them that the work they completed in two days would have taken the church team three weeks. They were so very thankful for that, and the crew was humbled to have served them.

Aaron laughed, "Fifteen guys in a house with one shower…  It was fun. Every evening was a lottery to get in the shower. Part of the bonding process was staying together. Several of the guys are interested in doing work with CSM in Birmingham. Made some great friends. It was an incredible trip."

Magic City WoodWorks posted after the trip, “This time last week our team was in Port Arthur, TX. We had the honor of serving an amazing family and church who put it all on the line during the recent hurricane that hit Houston and surrounding areas so hard. We went down to help but quickly realized that our team greatly benefited as well. We had a blast on our 11 hour van rides (yes, one van). We became roommates for a week. We stopped in Louisiana and ate alligator (cultural experience). We honked the horn like crazy passing state lines. We took our skills and talents and put them to work for our neighbors to the southwest and did our best to leave it better than we found it. Thanks to @csmission and RJ Mechanical for everything. If you have ever thought about shutting down your operation before to go serve after a catastrophe strikes, you should. It's an amazing double sided experience that we will cherish forever. Texas Forever.”

CSM is connecting resources with needs, and honored to be “boots on the ground” for the Body of Christ in many places.