Thursday, December 13, 2018

A Note From Tracy Hipps: The Ripple Effect of Reconciliation

Tracy Hipps, CSM Executive Director,
directing ThankServing "traffic" from the dock
My personal journey is changing as I have hit the big “60” and am now a young senior. I recently took a journey back which allowed me to see where my path is headed. My intention was to spend time with friends and do some “bucket list” type adventures but it was 9 days of assignments from the Lord and encounters with people whom I have known for years of ministry.

This journey of reconciliation started in 1969 being the first class of 6th grade students integrated into an all-black high school in South Carolina. So, 49 years ago I was thrust into relational involvements new to me. The hurt, the pain, the division that existed in our country was deep and hard to understand as a kid. In 1980 I moved to Birmingham where the hurt, the pain, and the division of people was deeply ingrained in this city’s culture. In 1984, I left Birmingham for Chicago’s inner city for 6 years and then returned to Birmingham to even more hurt, pain and division. Those nine days with school mates, college friends, and former students from Chicago, solidified firmly my call for the future of reconciliation here in Birmingham: to bring healing to the hurt, to offer wholeness to the pain, and to establish community to defeat the divisions.

Tracy with his mentor, John Perkins,
leading voice for reconciliation
and unity in the Body of Christ
Being involved in gospel ministry in this city and state for all these years allows me the opportunity to speak out and speak up about what the future should hold. The sins of the fathers affect the sins of the future unless we call it out and seek the peace and prosperity of our city. We speak out against injustice of our systems in how we treat the poor, underserved, widows, foreigners, fatherless, homeless and those that don’t look like us. We speak up for justice for all people no matter what it costs. We speak out against unrighteous behavior toward those different in culture, class, color, cause and zip code. We speak up for righteous behavior toward all people regardless of the differences. Because the difference does not make a difference. We in Jefferson county are all a part of zip code 35…

My personal journey at “60” has caused me to stop for a moment, fast, pray and listen to the Lord for this final run to finish strong. The message in so clear to me. The ministry of reconciliation of all people to God and man is our redemptive assignment. This gospel message in the proclamation and demonstration in this community in which God has planted us here. CSM is to help create a “ripple effect” of the gospel message of reconciliation that will multiply through the churches and organizations here in Birmingham. There is only one Gospel message of reconciliation which changes lives for eternity... the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. Merry Christmas!

The Day Abu Got His Truck

Tracy Hipps helps a happy new truck owner with the paperwork

At Christian Service Mission, we exist to utilize our connective network of churches, partners, volunteers and resources to influence our city’s communities with the values of the Kingdom. Our mission at CSM is to provide opportunities for community engagement alongside of our strategic ministry partners to incite Gospel-centered heart change and to see our partnering communities develop into healthy, thriving communities.  We believe that this starts with the engagement with and preaching of God’s holy word through His church.

Abu's big smile while trying the
truck on for size
In a very tangible way, one example of how we have seen this played out this year is through one of our longest standing relationship with Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in West End, pastored by Dr. Michael Wesley Sr.  For the last year, we have partnered with Greater Shiloh through their YouthBuild program that seeks to invest in individuals ages 18 – 24 to prepare them for the workforce and to influence their lives with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.  It has been through this partnership with YouthBuild that we have formed a relationship with one of the students in the program and have come to see that his personal needs go much deeper than that of needing employment or job skills.
This young man exhibited great aptitude for the work and training provided by the YouthBuild program.  He proved to be a very quick learner with an incredible work ethic and desire to generate an income for himself and for his family.  However, this young man did not have access to reliable transportation and therefore did not have one of the major prerequisites for gainful employment. Once Aaron Parsons, our Housing Ministry Director, and his team found out about his situation, the need was quickly communicated back to CSM and then even more quickly we began to see the Holy Spirit at work in the hearts of several of CSM’s relational ministry partners.
The first to answer the call was the Specialized Landscaping company that just so happens to share a backyard with our Christian Service Mission warehouse.  This group of young entrepreneurs have converted an old warehouse space and a few pieces of lawn equipment into a very successful landscaping company and due to their quick success, they just so happened to be in search of some capable and hirable labor.  Once they connected with CSM, the Spirit led us to connect them with this young man through our partnership with the YouthBuild program through Greater Shiloh Church and he began work shortly thereafter.  However, one glaring problem still existed… the absence of a car and the reliance upon the public transit system.

Dr. Michael Wesley led Abu's family, Abu's new bosses
and staff from CSM and YouthBuild in prayer for Abu
After recommitting this need to our God through prayer, we once again quickly found the Spirit moving through yet another connection to CSM.  One of the members of another partnering church, Mountain Brook Community Church, felt the Lord calling him to donate a truck to CSM and asked us if we knew of someone who could use it.  We serve an amazing God who does some amazing things and we are blessed and humbled to play a small part in connecting God’s resources to the needs of His children.  Shortly thereafter, this young man received a free truck with a new transmission and fully equipped not only for his transportation to and from work, but also for transportation of the lawn equipment and tools needed for the work on his job sites.  We would have settled for a car, but God never settles.  God knew exactly what this young man’s needs were and he was gracious enough to bring all of these different pieces and partnerships together to prove to us and everyone involved that He is God.
"Check it out! I have the keys!"

Our relationship with this young man has continued.  He is quite literally in our backyard almost every day.  We are committed, alongside of each of our partners, to see stories like this continue to happen every day, every week and every year through us and through our like-minded strategic partners.  This is one example of many of ways that people, churches, organizations and members of the body can meet the needs of the least of these.  Through prayer, partnerships and listening to the Spirit of God, these connections continue to be made.  Through the faithfulness of a few, many have come to see the glory and power of an almighty God.  Praise be to the author and orchestrator of such happenings and praise be to Him for allowing us to witness and be a part of his grand story.
Your partnering to connect in this campaign allows CSM to be in this position to connect recourses with needs through our impact partners for the gospel to change lives.

Abu with his supporting friends and family

Abu thanking Aaron for pouring into his life

Abu with YouthBuild staff and Dr. Wesley (r)

Abu expressing genuine gratitude for the donation to CSM
that made his new vehicle ownership possible

Rhonda sharing the love

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

New Rising Star and Redeemer Men Serve Side by Side

Pastor Thomas Beavers leads the men from both churches in truth and grace
Nothing quite like a beautiful Saturday of service with two great churches in Birmingham!  The second weekend of football season brought about the first weekend of service with New Rising Star Baptist Church (East Lake) and Redeemer Community Church (Avondale).  We had several projects in the East Lake community for the 80+ men that showed up from both churches and we had quite the day!  Arriving in the "cool" of the morning, this group of men gathered together behind New Rising Star's church building to shake hands, give a few "bro-hugs" and start our day off right by hearing from the pastors of both congregations.

Dr. Thomas Beavers of New Rising Star got us kicked off with a little pep talk and Pastor Joel Brooks of Redeemer followed that up with a few words of encouragement of his own. Both pastors then came together to pray for our day of work and then we were off!

The 80+ men that we had on site split into project groups and spent the next several hours working together to repair a house, pressure wash, landscape, clean, move furniture, pick up trash, clean gutters and roofs and all kinds of other projects.  By the end of the morning there was nothing sweeter than seeing two congregations of men, led by their pastors and assistant pastors, coming together from just 4 miles apart to serve their local community side by side.  Men of all ages, backgrounds and skin colors coming together over a common goal and under one major commonality... their love for Christ and their desire to serve their fellow man.  Anytime you can get a pastor sweating over something other than his preaching, you know it's a good day!

Words cannot encompass the joy and fellowship in the lunchroom at the end of this serve day together.  Yes, the cheeseburgers we shared together were very good, but that was not the source of the enthusiasm in the room.  Not on this day.  This day was about two churches coming together to serve their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to build his Kingdom here in the city of Birmingham!  We love the opportunity to partner with amazing churches and amazing pastors and this month we had the privilege to taste and see the Lord bring two of our primary partners together to serve. Thank you to these men, thank you to these pastors and thank you to these two churches for their partnership and reciprocal relationships with us at Christian Service Mission!

David King Dedication

Redeemer Church members from Damascus, Maryland came for a week
to help CSM transform a house and in the end, everyone's life!

My name is Jackie Cromer and I am from Maryland. I am a lifelong Lutheran and grew up in a family that was very involved in church life and outreach. I have been a part of Redeemer, Maryland's mission trip ministry since Hurricane Katrina. It hasn't always been easy - there have been a lot of times when obstacles have been put in my way - but God has always put someone there to help me overcome them.

David King and Aaron - brothers forever
I come on each trip with no expectations: God already has a plan. When I have had my own agenda, God has always humbled me, and pointed me in His direction, not mine. I like to say that God puts you where He wants you: it is then up to you to figure out what He wants you to do, and then you do it. I also like to say that He has a sense of humor: I'm originally from Upstate New York, and don't like to be hot...He's sent me here, Mississippi, Mexico, and in January, Kenya...

I have no special skills other than a willingness to try anything and do my best. I can paint and do drywall, clean just about anything, and organize, but would really rather not play with power tools.  It's best for all involved. I have aches and pains that make me a little less strong and  flexible than I think I am.  My spirit is always willing, but sometimes the body says "no." I need to listen more to Him than to myself.

I have my camera with me at all times, not only to record God's work being done, but also to share it with others, and to hopefully inspire someone else to step up and step out in His Name. I so look forward to renewing friendships with Christ the King Lutheran Church in Birmingham and CSM, or whomever else God puts in my path. So, whenever I come on one of these trips, I am more than a little excited because I know God is with us, and He will do great things through us. But I am also a little apprehensive because my skill set is not the best, and I worry about failing Him and the other team members.

Meeting David King was amazing - here was this wonderful Child of God welcoming us with an amazing smile and even more amazing hugs! I can only imagine how I would feel to have a group of strangers come and completely redo my home - Fear? Anger? Sadness? Embarrassment? Overwhelmed? Whatever he may have felt, what I mainly saw was the wonder and excitement that here were fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ that had come to help him joyfully.  Continually thanking and praising God. Yes, there were a couple of times when he looked tired, and was a little on edge, especially when it came down to deciding what was to stay, and what was to be replaced, which is understandable because of the memories. But in the midst of all the hard work going on, there was joy and there was laughter, and there was fellowship and even more hugs that spread beyond the walls of his home. It spread to the utilities office, his next door neighbors, and a man up the street. It was spread by a smile and a "Hi, how are you"?

All our talents and gifts were put to good use - somehow, everyone just picked a job and did it, whether it was prepping, painting, cleaning, demolishing and rebuilding the kitchen, refurbishing David's home - it all came together with work being done by several different groups, who, if not at the start, were friends at the end. I Peter 4: 10 says - "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." Each one gave encouragement not only to David, but to each other. It was so wonderful to work alongside him and them! We were all empowered. We took time to learn more about each other and to praise and support each other. We prayed together. We ate together. We were, and are, the Body of Christ. That is the common thread that ties us all together. My only regrets are that we had to leave a day early due to the impending hurricane weather, and that I did not get to see the finished result.

Jane Ann Stone with leading the "decorating committee"
Two different verses came to me over and over during the week:  Psalm 118: 24 "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it."  This is my personal verse - every morning I pray, "Lord, this is the day that You have made. I will rejoice, and I will be glad in it." The other verse is Proverbs 3: 5 - 6:  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." I was able to face each day and situation with joy, and by putting my trust in Him, I was able to help serve David and the other team members, here on Earth.

I do not know what the future holds for me, or any of us. I only know that I am here on earth to be His Hands and Feet, and that I will always try to do His Will to the best of my ability, and to encourage others to know and love Him as I do. I eagerly look forward to what He has planned
for me, the whole team, and David.

In His Perfect Peace and Love - Jackie

Listen to David King's reaction to the "Big Reveal"

Mr. King receiving a cross to place over his door

Joy on everyone's face