Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Legal Eagle Volunteers Land at CSM

Amanda, Rachael and Priscilla from Gaines, Gault & Hendrix

"We work at a law firm, is there anything that we can do to help the work of Christian Service Mission?"

The answer is absolutely! Starting in 2017, the law firm of Gaines, Gault & Hendrix has been looking for an opportunity to serve alongside of us at CSM. The first event was cancelled by one of our winter storms, but that didn't stop this determined and excited group of individuals from rescheduling and coming to work on their "day off work".

Michael Bowen teaching a greenhouse
full of volunteers from GGH 
This group of about 40 from GGH worked with us to help prepare for two of our big outreaches in 2018! We are working alongside of local partners and churches to help reach the homeless community of our city as well as the underserved moms throughout Birmingham. If you think Mother's Day doesn't start until May, you're wrong!

Mother's Day at Christian Service Mission started with Gaines, Gault and Hendrix bringing their employees to help sort, count, box and label thousands donated items in the month of January! The moms that we serve and that serve with us deserve more than one day, and with our volunteers, donors and partners that we work with, Mother's Day is just about a six-month event! So from January to May, from the counting and sorting all the way up to our big Mother's Day distribution and luncheon where we serve over 1400 sweet and dedicated mothers, we say "Happy early Mother's Day!"

A big thanks to our friends at Gaines, Gault and Hendrix! We look forward to serving together again. #GGHGives

If your company or organization would like to volunteer with CSM as a team, please contact Michael Bowen, Volunteer Coordinator. MichaelB@csmission.org

Michael shares the CSM vision for bringing lasting change and health to BHM
Selecting gift bag contents
Packing and labeling
Sorting and smiling
"We really enjoyed it, Michael! Thanks again for a great experience!"

Monday, March 26, 2018

A Note From Tracy Hipps: Transformation

CSM Executive Director, Tracy Hipps, welcoming volunteers
There is a cultural condition in our communities that seek to define our worldview. It is this culture that has divided, fractured and broken relationships that are essential to flourishing as humans – our relationship with God, self, others and creation. We at CSM believe that the mission of God is centered on the restoration of these four foundational relationships.

Seeing the world through this lens has led CSM to view many of our city’s problems as a loss of relationship. In Birmingham, we see many individuals live with the values of entitlement, dependency, and separation. This leads to a culture characterized by divisiveness, inequality, and un-holiness. These cultural characters blind us from viewing human beings as we should: made in the image and likeness of God.

We believe we are a part of creating a healthier Birmingham for lasting transformation through reconciliation. Micah 6:8 helps us evaluate our health and teaches us what reconciliation looks like: “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?”

What is on God’s heart? To do justice. This is to live in the Gospel and to involve ourselves in renewing culture based on Kingdom values from God’s word.  Cultural Reconciliation 

What is on God’s agenda? To love mercy. This is to live compassionately toward all man, influencing society and the church to reflect one body of Christ. Social Reconciliation

What does God desire? That we would walk humbly before Him and reflect His glory. In this attitude we find shalom.  Spiritual Reconciliation

We see and know that God restores through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, and that only by His redemptive power transforming these relationships will all human beings be able to find shalom (the proper ordering and purpose of their lives). It is our mission that every project, partnership, and initiative in which we participate moves us towards the restoration and reconciliation of these relationships.

Are We Advocates for the Poor and Powerless?

Fran Sciacca speaking to CSM Spring Break volunteers
from Clemson, Georgia Tech and YouthBuild
During the course of the year, CSM hosts multiple groups of students from around the country who travel to Birmingham on mission to help tackle the distinctive issues related poverty and racial division. Recent visiting college volunteer teams from Clemson and Georgia Tech were challenged by Fran Sciacca in four morning sessions to embrace their sense of mission as advocates of God's vision for the poor and powerless and "The Restoration of Shalom."

Fran shared that “advocacy” is restoring peace in the lives of those who cannot restore it themselves.  “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray unto Jehovah for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”  (Jeremiah 29:7) “Advocacy” is an expression of who Yahweh is, not merely something that He does: “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:5)

Jesus made it an inescapable truth that there is an unbreakable connection between the “mystery hidden for ages” [i.e., the “Gospel”] and how we understand the heart of God. (Lk 4:16-19). “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." (Matthew 25:31-40)

Thank you to Redeemer for hosting our teaching times
When Jesus spoke in the synagogue, He quoted from this passage in Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” (Isaiah 61:1-4)

We have immense appreciation for Fran Sciacca and the time and energy he gave to challenge us all from Scripture. Everyone's heart has been pierced since he reminded us all of the weight of glory we carry as well as the good news and hope we have to share with the poor and the powerless. Hands of Hur is the teaching and equipping ministry of Fran Sciacca; a unique, non-profit Bible-teaching ministry committed to biblical integrity and cultural relevance by revitalizing and strengthening those engaged in Christian ministry, just as Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses during Israel's battle with the Amalekites in Exodus 17.

Even Tracy was captivated by Fran's challenge to us all.

Cooking Well: A Life-Changing Intern Experience

Cooking Well participants eager to learn more about nutrition and healthy living
Volunteering gives you an opportunity to see lives changed, including your own. My time at Christian Service Mission as an intern with the Cooking Well program gave me the opportunity to play a role in someone’s life that I normally would not. I have been in my Dietetic Internship rotations as a Graduate student at Samford University. I have been assisting the Cooking Well Director, Judy Vann, for my community rotation. Bringing her immersion in healthy food choices from eMeals to CSM, Judy does an extensive amount to promote nutrition in the community. It has been an inspiration to see her vision play out in these classes. I have been able to give back to my community while also acquiring important nutrition experience that I can use in my career.

Jessica Burleson, Dietetic Intern 
 Community is the feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. Through this class I had the opportunity to form community in an unexpected place. This class gave me the opportunity to meet people I would not normally cross paths with. I saw firsthand how Cooking Well unites people of different ages and ethnicities in order to break cultural barriers. Even though many of us come from different backgrounds, food and nutrition unifies us and gives us the opportunity to connect.

During Week 4 of this six-week class session I had the opportunity to research and teach a nutrition lesson about cutting down on added sugars and diabetes. We chose this topic because diabetes is so widespread in our state. Many of the students in the class are facing pre-diabetes or diabetes, or someone close to them has the diagnosis. This gave me the opportunity to teach the students valuable information in prevention and management of this disease.

Many of the students reported they would take the information home to their own families. This class helped to answer questions to an audience who has limited access to health education opportunities. One student mentioned to Judy, “You have no idea the impact this is having on my life.”

Jessica teaching nutrition during a Cooking Well class
My experience working with this program has not only helped the Christian Service Mission community, but has impacted my life. It has opened my eyes to the lack of nutrition resources in the areas of our city where CSM is so heavily invested. I believe that God is using this cooking class to break cultural barriers while also equipping the students with nutrition information and preparing them to be a part of a new effort to make our communities healthier. The Lord not only worked in the lives of the students in the class, but also used this to open my eyes to the reality of our community.

Jessica in the eMeals kitchen
Cooking Well reaches people from all around our city in order to give them the tools to make healthier choices. There are many cultural barriers, food deserts, and underserved areas in Birmingham. This class helped me to see the reality of these situations, while giving me a passion to use my education to help others. I believe Cooking Well is a unique program that is an important, deep dive into reaching the underserved areas of our community.

By Jessica Burleson, Samford University Nutrition and Dietetic Graduate intern. Jessica has contributed a great deal to the Cooking Well program during her rotation with CSM.


Making new friends is the most delicious part of Cooking Well

Cooking Well instructor, Allie Sanderson, teaching everyone
how to pan-sear chicken

Jenny Cochran, eMeals co-founder, teaching the culinary segment

Learning new cooking techniques on the stove top

Hannah and Kate happy to help with the hand-washing

Fresh spinach and mushroom frittata

Learning together, learning from each other

Lady Pam Mason showing off her culinary chops

Many hands make light work... awesome interns and volunteers!
Wednesday lunch with ladies from Fairfield and Oak Mountain Pres

Mealtime is precious time

Leadership team from Birmingham Bible Church in Woodlawn
at the table with friends from Mnt. Brook Community Church

Tables Turned! Local Church Serves CSM

Shades Mountain Baptist church members and missionaries spent
a Saturday morning serving CSM!

Every February more than 300 Shades Mountain Baptist Church members transform our campus with the intention to serve us at the Mission. This event is a lot of fun and in a few short hours large projects and campus improvements are tackled and accomplished, and every year we are amazed and honored to be a part of such a special serve day.

Shades Serve Day is a part of their GIC, Global Initiative Conference, where they bring their missionaries in to be loved on, encouraged, and fed. Serve Day brings the missionaries and Shades members together to to serve. Tracy Hipps, our Executive Director, is one of the missionaries sent out from Shades so it makes this day extra sweet.

 Some of the projects they have worked on are helping build our greenhouses and workshop, they have painted our building outside and inside, dug trenches, cleared land, landscaped, torn down walls and built walls, moved large racks in our zero degree freezer, scraped metal finishes and painted them, tilled and planted the gardens, and so much more. All of these projects serve our small staff of 10 and multiply the work we could get done.

The volunteers come with a servant spirit and laughter is heard throughout the morning. We love seeing their smiling faces each year as we watch our campus transform.

338 servant hearts listening to Tracy talk about their gift of service to us
Making old spaces new and usable
It’s Spring and time to ready the garden for planting! 
Even the smallest hands help us create a new space in the garden
Making teacher resource bags for a partner church to handout
Bundling diapers with Bundles of Hope to share God’s love with Moms in need
Writing (and coloring) scripture cards to encourage the teachers receiving resource bags
Giving our walls a fresh coat of Extra White to brighten up the space
Happy faces eating popsicles after their hard work!