Friday, July 13, 2018

A Note From Tracy Hipps: How Do We Become One?

Tracy on a recent visit with John Perkins
What makes us all so different? What is it that separates us from one another? It seems that, as a country, we choose to use the freedom we are granted as citizens to be different from each other - to be unique. We relish our personal displays of individuality here in America, but with this individualism so deeply ingrained in our culture, how do we become ONE?

I recently traveled to Jackson, MS, to visit a mentor of mine, an exemplary man that I aim to emulate in my own every day life, Dr. John Perkins. Upon my arrival, Dr. Perkins, now 87 years old, immediately invited me to join him in reading Proverbs 1. He commented that the words spoken in the Proverb are words relevant today even in the “hip hop” culture, reflecting God’s way of continually finding ways to placing those that you may disciple on your path every day.

Just over 30 years ago I found myself on Dr. Perkin’s path, a turn of events that greatly influenced my own life and walk with the Lord, for he has walked with God and made Him known for more than 60 years. As we sat there at his table, drinking coffee and eating bananas, I thought to myself “nothing could be better than sitting here with this great man of wisdom who has such amazing knowledge of God’s word.”

Throughout my visit we spent time discussing his new book, “One Blood” and how it may be used as a textbook for future generations, guiding them toward reconciliation. In his book Dr. Perkins states, “Biblical reconciliation is the removal of tension between parties and the restoration of loving relationship.” This ministry of reconciliation is what the Lord has told us to do while we are here on Earth. Reconciliation is the Great Commandment expressed in real time, brought to life through “the making of disciples,” the great commission to all nations. This undertaking may clearly be seen in both Dr. Perkins’ book as well as his journey through life, a journey that has greatly inspired my own life and ministry.

As I left Dr. Perkins, I thought to myself “the longer I follow my Lord, the more I want to know and understand Him.” I began to reflect on my own journey and relationship with the Lord, recalling my most recent trip to Missouri for Kids Across America this past June. While there, I learned of the deaths of two men who had been my disciples as children back in the ‘80s. One, Pastor Milton, was 47 years old when he died after a long battle with leukemia and several years as a pastor at a local church. The other was a man who had a hard life and had passed away at age 45 due to a heart attack. As my disciple of 6 years, we had grown very close before I left Chicago and I was granted the honor of speaking at his funeral.

While it is hard to lose the ones we love, I pray that heaven is filling with those people I have met and lost in my past 35 years of ministry. I remind myself that this journey we are on is ultimately about the Great Commission and the Great Commandment - it is about walking with all nations from womb to tomb. We never know whom we touch in our life, but we know we are to make disciples; we are to make disciples through the reconciling of people to God for eternity and to one another for peace in this world. Thus, I felt comfort remembering the excitement I felt watching 10 children from the group we took form a new relationship with Christ during my time at the Kids Across America Kamp.

 Ultimately, I am excited to continue learning and understanding the Gospel ministry of making disciples of all nations. While we keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, I hope to also show my faith to others by viewing them through the eyes of justice and loving them with the heart of righteousness. Today, I aim to live in His image and His likeness; that which is righteous, holy and true. I will pursue reconciliation here and now, and I believe that together we can accomplish the mission of God for all nations.

A Mural To Inspire Us All

After the last brush stoke, some of the volunteer artists
and CSM staff enjoy a moment together
Ryan Foster, artist extraordinaire,
exhibits his painting skills and
hands-on leadership alongside
the student team of artists from
the University of Montevallo
After painting the front interior warehouse wall white to brighten up the space where we held the lunch event with Noel Castellanos, we began to see the huge white wall as a perfect palate for a mural that could welcome and inspire all the volunteers who come to CSM. It seemed like a dream to imagine it could happen before the “summertime volunteer rush,” but God had already made a way.

Ryan Foster is a friend of CSM, a nationally recognized fine artist, a faculty member of the University of Montevallo Art Department and has formed an mural painting collective call MORII (which means: the desire to capture a fleeting moment) with current and former students. Ryan secured a grant in the spring to purchase all the needed paints and equipment for a rather large MORII mural project that was to commence after the end of the semester. But that project fell through, and MORII was able to divert the grant to our project and get started right away.

Tracy extending a hand of friendship
to Steven, one of the students who
spent his week working hard to
help bring this creative vision to life
After Ryan and his artist wife, Ashley, met with Tracy and Jamie to hear how CSM is a force for change and the Gospel in Birmingham, Ryan went right to work creating designs for the 17' high by 48' long wall that would speak to the heart of CSM. We landed on a design that incorporates stylized clouds, reminiscent of Renaissance etchings and cloud studies. The cloud imagery speaks to our vision for transformation and desire to see the Kingdom. In a surreal fashion, two hands dripping with life reach toward each other in the foreground, becoming one in unity as they touch. A ribbon floats from above reading, “Reconciliation: To invite into friendship” and gives the observer a clue into the reason why CSM works so hard to create lasting change and authentic relationships.

The incredible UM mural team with Ryan and Ashley Foster
This was the fifth mural completed by the group and the largest to date. Participating students include: Emalee Butler Arroyo, Krisalyn Hammond, Steven Mark Finley, Cheyanne Smith, Kyle Limerick, Joanna Edmonson, Hannah Irelan, Caity Headley, and Hunter Vroonland.

Here is a peek behind the curtain as the project got underway and was completed in four days! Please come by to see and experience our new mural. (For more information, contact or follow Morii Collective on Instagram.)

Ryan and Ashley Foster (soon-to-be first-time parents!)
CSM Staff happy to experience the mural and the artistic hands of friendship

2018 KAA is a Life Changing Experience: Interview with Tracy

Tracy was excited to introduce this bus load of kids from Birmingham to KAA Kamp
KAA 2018 

How long have you been involved with KAA?

Tracy: “27 years, I started going in 1991 with New City Church and took about 15 kids”

Who did you take with you this year?

Tracy: “104 children and 12 adults from Birmingham churches: Grace House Ministries, Ebenezer Baptist, Greater Shiloh, True Vine, and Cornerstone School”

What’s your favorite part about going?

Tracy: “Watching the kids grow in their faith and see things they’ve never experienced before.”

How many kids prayed to receive Christ?

Tracy: “10 salvations from the group we brought and about 100 overall.”

What were your most meaningful experiences this year at KAA?
Brad Cummings Jr. won the "I Am Third"
award, nominated by the counselors and staff
to honor one person who exemplifies God first,
community second and themselves third.
Tracy: Brad Cumming's son, Brad, from Greater Shiloh (pictured) won the “I Am Third” award. Only one awarded per age group.
 Brad has been going to KAA for four years. His favorite thing about camp is playing on the tubes.
 Brad’s little sister, Kindal, has been going for two years and her favorite thing is arts and crafts.
 Laqueshia Wilson from Ebenezer went to KAA growing up and this year was able to take her son, so it has come full circle. 

This year KAA is under the amazing leadership of Dr. Rene Rochester and Roy Campbell. Dr. Rochester lives in Franklin and is the CEO of PhatStar Learning. She teaches at a local elementary school and is a adjunct professor at Fuller Seminary. Rochester has also written three books. She is founder of the Kaleo program at KAA.
 Roy “Soup” Campbell lives in Memphis and is the Executive Director at Eikon Ministries. Roy and his wife Linda serve as the Higher Ground Directors at KAA.
 I feel so proud and honored to be a part of this life-changing experience for all these kids and adults from our communities.

Birmingham bus arriving at the camp with an enthusiastic welcome
Campers were immediately embraced by the KAA staff and other campers
Families sending off the kids at CSM for an overnight trip to Missouri
Campers in anticipation of a week like they have never experienced

Kaleo leaders help make the week amazing, and follow up with the campers back at home

KAA Facts:
KAA is a one week session divided into age groups:

K1: 9-11 years old

K2: 12-14 years old

K3: 15-18 years old

HG: discipleship training for ages 15-21

Adults camp: men and women have separate Bible studies

Summer Interns Up the CSM Game!

Summer 2018 Interns (l-r) Anna Grace Askelson, Caitlin Pearcy, Tony Reda,
Argo Samantary, Jayla Glenn, Jacquie Schaffers & Corey Rowley (not pictured)
Summer is game-time at CSM. We have youth groups from around the country here to volunteer with us in multiple ways as we bring lasting change to Birmingham in partnership with local inner-city churches. We recruit summer interns all year long, knowing that each one will have great leadership and ministry opportunities during their internship. We are thrilled with the amazing talents and huge hearts possessed by the team members who become a part of the CSM family this year. Allow us to introduce them, and please remember them in your prayers this summer. If you would like to inquire about next year's internship or group project opportunities, please contact Michael Bowen:


Corey Rowley

Hometown: Silver Spring, MD

School: Samford University, Master of Science in Nutrition Sciences and Dietetic Internship

What brought you to CSM: As part of Samford University’s heavily community-based Dietetic Internship graduate program, I was sent to CSM to learn more about how a registered dietitian may use their nutrition expertise to connect with and serve their community, ultimately teaching community members ways that they might better nourish their body as well as their spirit.

What do you do at CSM: I serve as a Cooking Well intern.

What is your favorite part about being an intern: Being able to watch the way in which CSM fosters community connection and growth through one of our most basic needs: food. It’s incredible to see how food can bring so many people of such diverse backgrounds together, whether that be through picking fresh produce in one of the various gardens around Birmingham or when participants of the Cooking Well program finally sit down to break bread after having learned how to cook their own nourishing meals (meals that they can then bring home and share with their family and friends!)


Argo Samantaray:
Hometown: Charleston, SC.

School: Clemson University, Economics BS and Spanish minor

What brought you to CSM: I heard about it after I did a mission trip at CSM with my campus ministry, the Clemson Navigators.

What do you do at CSM: Lead project groups, work in operations to improve CSM economically (working on finding the most economical and civil fit of employee benefits), and do social media stuff.

What is your favorite part about being an intern: My favorite thing is to see walls shatter in people's biases and see God growing people through friendships and service with people of different cultures, social classes, and races. God teaches people humility, he takes people that believe they can’t do anything and makes them leaders, he takes the broken and alone and gives them a community... the list goes on. He is amazing in what he is doing through Christian Service Mission.


Jacquie Schaffers:
Hometown: Birmingham, AL

School: Auburn University, BS in Early Childhood Education and will be working at Restoration Academy as a 3rd grade teacher in the Fall.

What brought you to CSM: My family has previously served with Christian Service Mission and I have a heart for serving the inner city.

What do you do at CSM: I serve with Jayla at a kids camp at True Vine Church.

What is your favorite part about being an intern: My favorite thing about CSM is the relationships that I have formed and seeing the people work together to further God’s kingdom in different ways.


Jayla Glenn:
Hometown: Birmingham, AL

School: Wallace Community College Selma, but will be transferring to UAB to study Veterinarian Medicine or Public Health

What brought you to CSM: Mr. Hipps called me in and personally asked me if I would like to be an intern. I was so excited I couldn’t say no!

What do you do at CSM: I serve at a kids camp at one of the partnering churches in Inglenook called True Vine.

What is your favorite part about being an intern: My favorite thing about CSM is how I get to meet new people, hear their stories, and help communities everywhere. I love learning about different things and people with the power of God. I’m most excited about getting the word of Christ out. Dealing with different groups every day and seeing how they are all unique is really fun.


Caitlin Pearcy:
Hometown: Fort Payne, AL

School: UAB, BS in Public Health and Global Health minor

What brought you to CSM: I was seeking a place where I could use my knowledge of health and nutrition to serve others in the community and ultimately bring glory to Christ.

What do you do at CSM: I serve as a Cooking Well intern.

What is your favorite part about being an intern: My favorite part is seeing how a simple cooking class can unite people of completely different backgrounds. It’s incredible how the Lord is using this class to break down cultural barriers and build relationships. I am so grateful to be apart of CSM this summer!


Tony Reda:
Hometown: Charleston, SC

School: Clemson University, BS in Horticulture, Spanish and Biological Sciences minors

What brought you to CSM: I applied to be an intern after a Spring Break trip to CSM with the Clemson Navigators.

What do you do at CSM: I am a gardening intern in charge of garden upkeep, managing aquaponics and hydroponics, and leading volunteer groups

What is your favorite part about being an intern: My favorite thing is the nature of the work. It’s super fast paced and outward focused, but gospel centered.


Anna Grace Askelson:
Hometown: Birmingham, AL

School: I’m a rising senior in high school. I want to work in marketing or advertising after college.

What brought you to CSM: Working with CSM after a church day trip last year brought me to where I am now!

What do you do at CSM: I work with Bundles of Hope, a diaper bank partnered with CSM. I also fill in where I’m needed with groups, gardening, etc.

What is your favorite part about being an intern: My favorite thing about CSM is how large their outreach is. From house repair, to diapers, to cooking classes, CSM works wherever they are needed. I’m super excited to work with Bundles of Hope to help execute their daily goals and help with their big event in September!

Annual Mother's Day Celebration

Ladies enjoying lunch at South Highland Presbyterian

Each year, Christian Service Mission anxiously awaits Mother’s Day with feelings of excitement and gratitude. While we aim to inspire and empower the women of our community every day, Mother’s Day is something else - something special. Bringing local churches and organizations together, we celebrate this special day to express our deep appreciation and support for the women throughout our community.

Each luncheon guest received a gift.
We acknowledge that these women- whether they be new moms, seasoned mothers or simply women who feel lost and alone- serve as an integral piece of the family unit and are the backbone of our community. In their honor, we hold an annual Mother’s Day luncheon where we encourage women to dress up and come together over a delicious meal.

This year, we hosted 120 women at the beautiful South Highland Presbyterian Church, where Yellow Bicycle Catering and Grace’s Kitchen generously provided the food and dessert. Deborah Foster once again stepped in as MC.

Deborah Duramous gives an inspiring talk to mothers.
As sunlight poured in through the church’s high windows, reflecting the light these women bring to our community each and every day, our keynote speaker Deborah Duramous addressed the crowd with an inspiring speech. Deborah is a powerful voice for the Kingdom and also volunteers with CMS every Friday, manning the front desk and greeting visitors with her radiant smile and positive energy. On this particular day, she used this positivity to uplift the crowd and keep them laughing.

As the noonday event drew to a close and women began shuffling out, volunteers handed out gift bags and each woman received a beautiful rose. Though small gestures, we hope they expressed a small measure of our thanks to the women who pour their heart and soul into everything that they do. We love moms!

Beautiful centerpieces created by South Highland's. 

Deborah Foster led the ladies in a sweet game affirming and honoring their gifts.

South Highland Presbyterian's Reverend Dr. Edwin Hurley led us in prayer.

Deborah Duramous and her son.
Deborah Foster with her daughter.

CSM staff Tracy Hipps and Jamie Barnhart Leo

South Highland's very own Debbie Perkins makes sure the program runs smoothly each year.

Each guest received a rose to take home.