Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Note From Tracy Hipps: The Living Gospel on Display in Christian Community Development

Thirty years ago, I walked into a meeting that changed my life and my thinking. I was attending the first conference held by Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). The first speaker was the CCDA founder, Dr. John Perkins, who spoke about reconciliation in the context of wholistic community development. The second man I heard speak was Wayne Gordon, the pastor of Lawndale Community Church in Chicago. This church was doing more than just holding Sunday services- it was creating change for the whole family.

At that time, I was living just a few miles from Lawndale and witnessing who that church community that was actually living out what Dr. Perkins was talking about. For four years I worked with Inner City Impact living in the Humboldt Park community, known as the most violent community in Chicago in the 1980s. We served and discipled hundreds of kids but were not working with the local church or the whole family. We were exclusively focused on student ministry.

During the second annual CCDA conference, Tom Skinner spoke for 6 hours about systems in the United States and how we are divided rather than united. He went through scripture and illustrated how far we have gone astray from the Word of God. That was when my world view as “the great white hope” was shaken. It was 1989 and I realized that the Church, as the Body of Christ, is the hope for lasting change in our inner cities with the Word of God – the Living Gospel – instructing and guiding us. What Skinner, Perkins, and Gordon talked about was a biblical, holistic approach to discipleship. That year the conference was held at Circle Urban Ministries and The Rock church. Both pastors spoke, one black and one white, how to do this Living Gospel together. I left a changed man on a life pursuit of the Living Gospel that changes lives in our broken cities.

Those four years at ICI taught me so much about youth discipleship as I lead the Jr. High Ministry working with more than 150 kids from the community teaching them about Jesus. I knew that a more wholistic model was needed to help these students with their environment and their educational needs. I could see the desperate need their families were experiencing and I felt there was nothing I could do. The staff at ICI began to discuss how to engage the church and serve families. This was the beginning of the vision God grew in my heart for resourcing the local church for community development in order to see the Gospel make an impact in people’s lives. This vision became the foundation for why I am focused so heavily at Christian Service Mission on working with, alongside and through the local church and Body of Christ instead of as an independent entity.

Noel Castellanos thanking Tracy for 30 years
of involvement with the CCDA
 That story began 30 years ago, and God has taught me so much since then. Fast forward to last week when we hosted a meeting with Noel Castellanos, the President of CCDA. It was great to connect with Noel because we were both in those first meetings 30 years ago. Over the years, Dr. John Perkins has been one of my greatest mentors. The last few years I have had the privilege to visit with John and expose pastors to this anointed man of God. Dr. Perkins is on a forever mission of reconciliation with God and man. John Perkins has written a dozen books and has just released his last book at 87 years old. (“One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race”) It is a textbook of how the Living Gospel has changed his life and how we can be guided down this same path of biblical reconciliation.

CSM is a member of the CCDA, and today, operates as a resource to the local church to bring lasting change and wholistic community development to their neighborhoods. Through CCDA, I have found brothers and sisters around the country who are on the same journey of living out the Gospel of Christ in a comprehensive way to see the disparities of our cities changed for Christ. The Living Gospel is walking in community everyday in everyway to see lives changed inside, changed outside, and then multiplying this to all the future generations. True biblical reconciliation is living for God and with man.

Giving by Serving

Wells Fargo volunteer team presenting a check to Tracy for the $16,000 they
raised to purchase materials for the four projects they helped to complete!
Over the last two months we have coordinated projects for over 1,000 people, some who come in teams!  It has been a wild and crazy spring, but it has been sweet to watch God's hands and feet at work in our city for March and April! Businesses, churches, schools, colleges, special needs organizations- old and young alike- have shown up in droves to help further the cause of the Christian Service Mission this Spring, and we are so grateful!  

We have utilized those thousand-plus people to not only further our mission and vision here at CSM, but have coordinated projects with those volunteers to assist in the missions and visions of 12 of our partnering churches and ministries throughout Birmingham! Some of the projects included work to assist home-owners such as Samuel Bruner, Howard Morris and David King, as well as Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville and the gardens at Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.

God has been so faithful to provide the laborers for the harvest He is reaping here in our city. The impact of Christian Service Mission would be nothing without our volunteers! Thanks to all who have served with us in the first half of 2018, and thank you to the thousands more that will be with us in the following months!

Wells Fargo team at Samuel Bruner's house
Samuel Bruner's house getting siding and house wrap
Ready to tackle the Bethel house with volunteers from MBCC

Wells Fargo volunteers at the home of Howard Morris who lives near Bethel

Howard Morris talks to Pastor Wilder of Bethel Baptist Church and Tracy Hipps
Wrapping and siding the home of David King

Garden volunteers at Greater Shiloh
Volunteers at the home of Howard Morris
Interior painting for the Howard Morris house

All in a days work for Pastor Wilder

Cooking Well Creates Healthy Community

Fresh produce and new friendships cooked up in the kitchen
Christian Service Mission continues on the quest to bring lasting change and community to Birmingham in strategic ways. This spring, ladies from Hope Health Clinic (Fairfield), Covenant Presbyterian, Birmingham Bible (Woodlawn), Mountain Brook Community, True Vine (Tarrant/Inglenook), Oak Mountain Presbyterian, Church of the Highlands, Redeemer, Briarwood, Christ Fellowship and Common Thread Community have been learning and growing together around cutting boards, stove tops and the dinner table through Cooking Well, our healthy lifestyle initiative.

Cooking Well has become a delicious connection between incredible women, who are together one night a week for six weeks to learn about nutrition and healthy cooking techniques that focus on herbs and produce fresh (primarily from the CSM greenhouses!) In the process, subjects are covered such as learning to read food labels, reducing sugar and salt intake, incorporating more vegetables into our diet, meal planning and becoming more physically active. But the deeper truths come from the time we shared eating the meal we prepared together. We are encouraged to be intentional about the nurture of ourselves and our families, to cook and eat dinner at home, and to recognize God’s provision for our lives and godliness (II Peter 1:3). 

CSM, eMeals and Samford have partnered to bring this vision to life. Our Cooking Well classes are a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ, a unique experience of feasting together, a bonding that only comes when you are shoulder to shoulder, eye to eye and heart to heart. There is a place set at the table for each participant, expressing an invitation to friendship and celebrating the intrinsic value of each individual and the great gift of community. You are invited to be involved with Cooking Well during the summer months. If you are interested in sponsoring, volunteering or participating, please contact Judy Vann:

Jenny Cochran, eMeals Co-Founder, teaching the culinary segment of class
Deborah and Ms. Addie

Carolyn taught us!

Hannah and Kate demonstrate servant's hearts like no one else!

Kate Perry teaching the nutrition segment for a class

Food Management class interns at the "back of the house" for the large classes

Lady Pam Mason from Birmingham Bible Church in Woodlawn
Connie Edwards (rt) brought ladies to class from Hope Health Clinic in Fairfield

Intent to learn new cooking techniques

Invaluable interns from Samford's Nutrition program

Graduate Nutrition and Dietetic intern delved into the difficult subject of diabetes

Cooking Well class with expert instructor, Allie Sanderson (rt) 

Everybody gets to be teacher's pet at Cooking Well

Healthy and happy

Fresh and affordable menus

Allie's kind and gentle teaching methods

Allie showing the class a visual demonstration of how much
sugar and salt is hidden in our food

Kirsten setting a perfect table for a graduation dinner

Candles lit! 

Spring-time patio dinners are best
Learning to know each other is the greatest gift of Cooking Well