Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Summer Volunteers Make The Difference

Faith Presbyterian, Hoover, AL tearing off a roof
The month of July was another jam-packed summer month for the volunteers at CSM!  We hosted 15 different volunteer groups, served with nearly 400 volunteers, completed 21 different projects and touched thousands of lives.  All in a month’s work for the God of multiplication!  CSM has been blessed all summer long to spend time investing in and serving with over 35 different volunteer groups with over 1000 individual volunteers.  Each volunteer that came to CSM this summer spent time in the community, in fellowship with each other and most importantly in the Word of God!  Even more than in years past, CSM had deep central focus on the scriptures throughout the summer as we spent time in the book of Ephesians with our staff, interns, volunteers and community partners.  Particularly the message of one body and one spirit seemed to resonate throughout our deeply intentional summer schedule.  No matter how many different volunteers, groups or partners we served alongside of this summer, the common bond of Christ was very evident to those of us that had a chance to spend time with each of them in June and July.  It always seemed that where one group left off, the next group picked right back up.  The unity that the Word of God brought to our groups this summer absolutely heightened our Kingdom impact throughout our city as a part of the mission of CSM.  Every group, every project, every person and every partner were connected and grounded in Christ Jesus and God multiplied our impact so far beyond what we had hoped, asked or could even imagine!  Thank you to all who have participated with the mission and vision of CSM this summer and in the advancement of God’s kingdom here in the city of Birmingham!

Bethel Baptist, Collegeville, AL and Vaughn Forest, Montgomery, AL working in Collegeville

Auburn Baptist, Tupelo, MS discussing Ephesians at The Rock Church

Auburn Baptist, Tupelo, MS at The Rock Church

Oak Mtn Presbyterian, Pelham, AL at CSM

Vaughn Forest, Montgomery, AL
First Christian Church, Johnson City, TN
Glenkirk Church, Glendora, CA

Riverchase UMC, Hoover, AL at Central Park School
Riverchase UMC, Hoover, AL at Greater St John Baptist
Riverchase UMC, Hoover, AL at Princeton School

Friday, June 28, 2019

A Note From Tracy Hipps: A Place In His Plan

Executive Director, Tracy Hipps
I am currently in the Old Testament reading in Chronicles about the kings of Israel, and the kings of Judah. The description of each king says how long they served and if they followed the Lord. There were hundreds of years that they did not follow the Lord, and then there is a period that that particular king did obey the Lord. There were degrees that they obeyed and limits in their following. David is an example of one who followed the Lord, and Jeroboam is an example of one who did not. In all the years, the Lord had a plan in place, and each of these men had their season. Every day I pause, now that I am in a position of leadership, asking to be one who follows the Lord and His plan. We set a course and an example for those who follow us. We have a small window of time for our lives to matter, and it is vital that we are following God’s grand story and plan.

Nine years ago, the Lord allowed me this season of leadership, and I want to follow with a commitment to Him. He has a grand plan, and I believe He has made a place for us in this. I trust the Bible when it says, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.” Psalm 37:23.

The team the Lord has brought to CSM is impressive in every way because they are the right team with the right hearts for God. Each has a place in this grand plan God has established for CSM here in Avondale and Birmingham. It is not my grand plan. It is God’s grand plan, and He gives us a place to serve together. As we build this model here in Birmingham, we pray the Lord would guide us every day. We believe we are building something that lives past us and will continue to impact the city and His Kingdom. Together we serve the Lord, making Kingdom warriors in this battle to live out the Gospel in this broken world.

I am honored to be a part of a team of people who see past all the impurities to serve with pure motives and desire to see the Kingdom built. We follow our Lord together in the steps He orders for us each day as we influence hundreds this summer in making a difference in our city with churches, organizations, and marginalized people. This team that He has assembled has seen mountains move, the weather cleared, needs met, and God honored every day in our city. Our God uses our resources, our time, our talent, and our treasures to participate in His grand plan and gives us a place to glorify Him, together.  

This week alone, we have the opportunity to mobilize over 150 people each day, affecting hundreds of lives. However, the testimony of one-person yesterday was “my eyes looked into a child’s eyes, and they smiled” this is moving. To spend the week serving our city with our team leading and setting the standard for the next generation with the example of King David for years to come. Today, our great team will begin a new day with a great heart to set standards for others to follow, as David sought after the heart of God. We know and believe we were put here to proclaim the Gospel to see a Kingdom impact.

It's Summertime At CSM

Riverchase UMC youth praying before they start work at the schools
Summer is one of our most favorite times at CSM because we have weekly groups who come from all over the greater Birmingham area and throughout the US to serve with us. We love getting to know these groups and several come yearly, and it is so fun to see them grow and hear what they have learned and how God is working their lives. Primarily the groups this summer are working on roofs and decks in Birmingham city and in public and private schools getting them ready for the new school year. Most of the homeowners are elderly, and they love getting to know these youth too and enjoy having the activity and happy voices outside their windows. One of our homeowners brought out watermelon and ice cream for all to enjoy! It's important to us to build relationships while we work and often that takes precedence over getting the work finished. A school teacher was overjoyed that she was getting help in her classroom, and the volunteers were thankful to see first-hand how their service was encouraging this teacher!

First Christian youth from Tennessee take a roof off like pros!
Glenkirk Church youth from  Floyd house
Glenkirk youth from California!

Glenkirk enjoying watermelon from our sweet homeowner

Riverchase UMC youth can even make mopping fun!
Riverchase UMC youth making this classroom shine

Anyone know how to hang ceiling tiles? No? No problem.
Volunteers from Riverchase UMC step up to make it happen.

Racial Reconciliation at the Southern Baptist Convention

Roundtable participants discuss the importance of racial reconciliation
This June the Southern Baptist Convention was held in Birmingham, AL and CSM was chosen to be the recipient of the Pastor's Conference offering during their three-day meeting. The SBC pastors raised $9,219, which was split between two summer camps hosted by partner churches who are significantly impacting youth in the city of Birmingham. We are so thankful for this partnership and the impact this offering will have on these great camps!

The theme of the pastors' conference was Kingdom Character centering around the Sermon on the Mount. We are incredibly grateful that Executive Director, Tracy Hipps, was asked to be a part of a roundtable discussing racial reconciliation.

You can listen to the panel and all of the speakers from the Pastors' Conference at here.

Leaning Into The Uncomfortable

Tracy and Willie walk through the Memorial
We walk daily into the deep with people and sit in the uncomfortable tension of cross-cultural work. Mixing denominations, socioeconomic complexities, faith backgrounds, political ideas, "feel-goodism," cultural divides, physical divides, and any other kind of separation that we've been taught for so long not to talk about, and it can be uncomfortable. Our staff at CSM is committed to continually learn and stand in the tension, challenging our preconceived ideas and beliefs so that we can walk closer to Jesus and meet people wherever they are in their walk.

When the EJI Museum and Memorial opened, we knew it would be an incredible experience, and we finally took the opportunity to close operations for a day so we could experience this together. It was a powerful day.

We encourage you to take the opportunity to lean into what is uncomfortable, feel challenged by what you have never heard before, and then make space to reflect with the Lord, asking Him what He would have you to do next.

Markers representing counties and names of those killed
CSM staff member, Willie,  at the Museum
The Memorial
The marker for Jefferson County, Alabama

Kids Across America Kamp

CSM bus #1 rolls into camp as counselors rush the bus creating a huge welcome party for each camper!

Kids Across America Kamp's mission is "to build Christian leaders by encouraging, equipping, and empowering urban youth and their mentors through camping and education" and their vision is to "transform urban youth to impact their communities for Christ." This camp is specifically designed for urban youth and how best to minister to them! For 28 years, Executive Director, Tracy Hipps, has sponsored buses and students to be able to attend this camp and this year 131 campers and their leaders had an incredible time.

This was the first year for KAA Español which specifically targeted urban Latino youth and it was a great success! We were able to take ten students and two leaders from Christ For The Nations Church in Centerpoint, AL. The campers had the best time and said that "from the beginning, they knew it was going to be so fun!"

CSM provides the buses, registration help, and some funding allowing smaller churches and groups to participate. Most would not be able to go to a week-long camp in Missouri without this logistical and financial help, and we are honored to be able to do this for youth in Birmingham.
2019 camp theme, Abide. John 15:4

Campers from Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church

Campers having fun.
KAA Español!

Group leaders have their own unique camp allowing them to recharge for the rest of the year!

Campers come back happy and tired from the week.

Summer Interns Bring The Fun

David Etienne, Taharia Morgan, Abigail Brock, and Zac Parker
Each summer we have volunteer groups who come from all over the country (hello Glendora, CA!) to spend a week working with us on housing projects and church projects and interns play a significant role in making the summer run smoothly. Thankfully these college kids have a lot of energy and dedication to keep the teams moving forward when it is 95 degrees outside and are willing to make countless trips to the warehouse to get more tools, water, or resources for projects. This summer, we have four outstanding interns working with our volunteer groups.

David Etienne is a senior majoring in Criminal Justice at Miles College. He is from Haines City, Florida where he played "just a little bit of football" for powerhouse Auburndale HS. He currently plays for Miles College, so he works out early every morning with the team and then joins us to lead groups and projects! David has an immense amount of joy and is eager to help out wherever he is needed. David has spent the month of June working at Urban Hope camp in Fairfield, and they couldn't be more impressed with him. Everyplace we put him, they call and ask if he can come back because he is such a blessing to be around and is so good with the kids!
Taharia Morgan is a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has lived all over the world but calls Chicago and Montgomery home. She is majoring in Public Health with a minor in Business Management. Taharia never stops smiling and is quick to try new things. She recently learned how to use the sawzall while conquering a small fear of heights, and laughed the entire time! Taharia is a hard worker, dedicated to finishing the job, excellent with the youth, and makes each project fun.
Abigail Brock is a senior at Samford University. She is majoring in Accounting and is from LaGrange, Georgia. Abigail has an excellent spirit and handles anything we throw her way. She is very detailed, which we love, but she also has a way of making the volunteers feel special and noticed. Abigail decided she wanted to do an internship outside of her normal accounting world and she has taken group management on factastically. She is lots of fun, and we even caught her racing our construction truck through the parking lot to see how fast she could run before a recent volunteer project!

Zac Parker is a senior at Samford University majoring in Business Administration, Management. He is from Dothan, AL, and is exploring all the aspects of working in ministry. Last summer Zac interned at a local church and then spent an hour a week with our spring interns and Tracy Hipps learning about community development and how a non-profit, like CSM, can support the vision of the local church. Zac is a great listener and genuinely wants to know all sides of the story and not just the narrative that makes him most comfortable. We love Zac's inquisitiveness and his desire to learn and are excited we are getting to know him more this summer.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Note From Tracy Hipps: Summer Impact 2019

Executive Director, Tracy Hipps

Each summer we have youth volunteer groups travel from all over the country to work with us and I recently had the opportunity to visit one of these groups at their home in Glendora, California. This group worked with us for the first time last summer and decided they wanted to come back to Birmingham and learn more. In order for us to best serve them, I needed to go and see their community and church so that we would be able to speak directly to their students and leaders in a way that brings what they are learning here in Birmingham back to their home. We love going deeper with groups and investing in them. This summer we will host groups from all over the country, as we have done the last nine years, and we see this as a great opportunity to build relationships and transform communities all over. Our desire is to share with these groups our values, principles, and a Biblical understanding of how communities change with the power of the Gospel.

Summer at CSM is a busy season and these groups strategically serve the community through and with our local churches. We do this because the church is the body of believers we are seeking to ultimately serve with resources to meet the holistic needs of the community. When the groups leave, who is there? When CSM leaves, who is left there to care for the needs? It is the local church. The local church is our sweet spot to engage people and the community for change. Matthew 16:18 says, “upon this rock, I will build my church” and we are lining up with the local church to fulfill our vision for community transformation leading to one church.  

This summer we will mobilize over 20 groups of students and adults to serve Birmingham communities with the hands of Christ, with the word of God, alongside the local communities of faith. We hope the results will be greater awareness of the heart of God, a deeper relationship with God, and the desire to see all walk in the oneness of God. Our daily teachings will come from Ephesians: being one body, one blood, one spirit, and one humanity. We want to glorify the Lord in everything our hands' touch, with everybody with whom we speak, and we want to treat all people through the eyes of Biblical justice and righteousness.  We are more focused than ever to impact groups and churches to make a difference. Matthew 28:19-20 says, “as you go make disciples” and this is what we do at CSM.

Please join me in praying for our groups and the work that is to be done in our city this summer.

A Special Luncheon Celebrating Moms

Women enjoying the luncheon at S. Highlands Pres.
This Mother's Day we had the privilege of honoring 130 moms from our community at the beautiful South Highlands Presbyterian Church. This event brings churches and organizations together to express our deep appreciation for women, whether they are new moms, experienced moms, women who serve the community or are women who may not have anyone to honor them on this day. The purpose of this lunch is to let these women know that they are seen and appreciated for who they are. 

Deborah Foster, the MC, lead the program by encouraging interaction and participation as the women at each table said their name and then a word that described them beginning with the same letter. This generated some much-deserved applause as women acknowledged their wisdom, beauty, creativity, and devotion for the Lord. Deborah has a way of making everyone feel welcome and she shared how this luncheon has helped her heal as she grieves her own mother's passing. 

A special song opens the program
Lady Mechelle Wilder from Bethel Baptist was our keynote speaker and she challenged the women to believe that no matter what their age, stage of life, or dream, God is listening and we just need to stay close to Him. The women nodded and joined in as Lady Wilder spoke many scriptures of encouragement over these ladies. At the close of the luncheon, Deborah Foster's daughter presented her with a special gift on behalf of their family and shared how much she means to them and then Deborah gave each woman a necklace as a reminder that they are loved. 

During the program, attendees dined on a delicious lunch from the Yellow Bicycle Catering Company and dessert from Grace's Kitchen. These two partners make sure the ladies feel loved with this special meal. Every year children from Westminster Elementary School make cards for our mother's in nursing homes and this year we were able to give each mom at the luncheon a handmade card. These cards were so precious with scripture and words of love and many of the women expressed that it was their favorite thing about the entire program. These sweet cards took the mom's memories back to their own children and we could tell that they felt so loved by them. Each year we honor a special mom and this year we honored our oldest in attendance. And at the end of the program, we had one mom volunteer on the spot to sing and The Lord's Prayer to close our program and she did an amazing job. God is so good.

Tracy Hipps and speaker, Mechelle Wilder

A beautiful table with hand-drawn cards for every mother.

MC Deborah Foster and Tracy Hipps
Deborah Foster and daughter
Every mother received candy and a hand-drawn card by
students from Westminster Elementary.
This mother volunteered to sing and closed our program
singing The Lord's Prayer