Friday, February 1, 2019

A Note From Tracy Hipps: Biblical Justice and Righteousness in Balance

Executive Director, Tracy Hipps

It has now been 9 years since the Lord brought me to CSM and the vision He gave me has matured, but has never changed. It is the vision of seeing Oneness in our relationship with God and with others. It seems so simple, yet have we ever tasted this type of relationship within the church or in the communities we serve? Over the holidays, I read Tony Evan’s book called “Oneness Embraced” and I was challenged. Dr. Evans has set a course for others to follow with a “Kingdom Agenda” series. After 35 years in ministry, this books has helped me to better define the pillars in the Bible that drive CSM philosophy. Psalms 89:14 says, “Righteousness and Justice are the foundation of your throne. Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants.” We have to be balanced in our lives to reflect both Biblical justice and righteousness. I love Evans word “Biblical Justice” which he defines as the “equitable and impartial application of the rule of God’s moral law in society.” Biblical justice is a lens to see Birmingham and CSM working to see the gospel lived out in our communities.

Then the other side of the scale, in order to be in balance, is “Righteousness.” Evans defines righteousness as being in right relationship with God and man. This is why the Bible calls us all to the ministry of reconciliation. This process helps us get in line with God and with others. (Eph. 4:24, 2 Cor 6:7) Today, our culture defines how we are to live which is so opposed to how the Bible has instructed us to live before all men. For the last 40+ years I have tried to be a righteous man, seeking the Father through time alone and with fellow brothers in Christ. I want right thinking that is lined up with the Word. I want right feelings that are in touch with a Lord who loves me and others deeply. I want right speaking which reflect living life with the principles of scripture and I want right behavior which is living life peacefully with all mankind.

This year at CSM we are focused on these two pillars: Biblical Justice and Righteousness as we connect, serve, and mobilize the body of Christ to do the same. In this, we will see transformed lives that influence our churches, communities, and families with the values of a kingdom agenda. We want you to join us for the next nine years, transforming communities through Christ.

Welcome, Spring Interns!

Interns Jackson Core, Katie Thiebaud, and Tanner Thompson
We are thrilled to have these bright students working with us this Spring. Katie and Jackson started their internships last Fall and they quickly engaged themselves in the community and volunteer opportunities. Katie is learning how social work is so important in the church and in the communities we serve. Tanner jumped in quickly working with volunteer groups and tackling overall operations policies and procedures. Tanner is a Micah Fellow at Samford and hopefully we will be with us for 3 years. Jackson will be working closely with church partner, True Vine, as they explore the possibility of several business operations in the Inglenook community. We love the excitement, curiosity, and commitment these interns are bringing to working with the church and in under-served communities. 

Katie Thiebaud, Masters of Social Work

I am from Dallas, Texas and I am working on a Masters in Social Work at Samford University. During my time at Christian Service Mission, I hope to gain a closer look and better understanding of how a non-profit operates behind the scenes, as well as what all a social worker can incorporate within the non-profit community. I also hope to learn how policies and policy developments help or hinder non profits like Christian Service Mission and the communities they work with. Lastly, I hope to gain a better understanding of how to care for the specific clientele that Christian Service Mission works with. I have loved my time so far and I am looking forward to what all God has in store for this semester! 

Jackson Core, Finance

I am from Orlando, Florida and I am a senior at Samford University. I have a major in finance with a concentration in social entrepreneurship with a spanish minor. I am hoping to gain a deeper understanding of sustainable business solutions for non-profits. I am also hoping to learn about community development through the lens of a Biblical worldview.

Tanner Thompson, Business Administration

I’m from Spanish Fort Alabama and am currently enrolled at Samford University. Presently, I am studying business management and I hope to work in the non-profit sector once I graduate. While at Christian Service Mission, I hope to learn more about how a successful Christ-centered organization is operated. In addition, I am excited to see how Christ continues to work through Christian Service Mission in order to further the Kingdom of God and parter with others to fulfill both physical and spiritual needs. 

Off Campus And Into The City

2019 Business and Local Poverty students
Ten years ago Dr. Barbara Cartledge (Asst Dean and Asst Professor, Brock School of Business, Samford University) and I worked together to create a class experience that would move the students out of their textbooks and campus and immerse them in the community. This class explores the topic of local poverty and business through a Biblical and societal lens. Students read required books about poverty and the marginalized and then visit churches and ministries working within this context to develop a better understanding of Birmingham, the integral differences within the neighborhoods, and the variety of ways churches, ministries, and businesses are working in these communities.

More than 100 students have participated and have been moved by their 3-week experience to engage with the community in a more meaningful way. This year, we had 17 and we visited 4 organizations and many more organizations came on campus to educate and inform students how to invest in our city. Over the years, the course has received very positive feedback and has challenged and changed participants futures.

“The class was the best class I have taken in my three years at Samford. This course is extremely touching and takes a different approach to the classroom. This class opened my eyes to the community around me and changed my life for the better.”

“This course allows students to view poverty with a Christian lens while also seeing how business affects people within less fortunate communities. Through this Christian lens, it put my plans moving forward in a deeper perspective and draws greater interest to the non-profit sector.”
Letters from Samford students to Tracy
This is the coolest course that I’ve taken at Samford. I love that we got to go out into the community and experience what we read in the books. Honestly, I think this course should be required for everyone at Samford, definitely my favorite class by far.”

I might take this course even if did not count for any credits. It is informative on poverty and it gives each student an excellent overview of the network of ministries of Birmingham.”

Samford University has deep roots in our city, beginning as Howard College in East Lake. Many years ago it moved to its current location but has continued to work hard to invest back into the city, like providing this class. We also work with Samford through internships, service projects, class projects, the Masters of Social Work program, Beeson Divinity students, and in the field of health, dietetics, and nutrition. It is important that we invest in the future generation, learning together, how to better love our God and serve our community.

To read more about this class visit this article from Samford and paper by Dr. Cartledge and Dr. Carson.

UConn Students Head South To Serve

UCONN students at Bethel Baptist in Collegeville
Five years ago, I watched our first group of students from the University of Connecticut (UConn) pull away from Birmingham and head back to Storrs, CT. You may wonder why on Earth a group of students from the same northern university would continue to return to Birmingham year after year to work with Christian Service Mission (CSM) even despite the seemingly yearly snowstorm that undoubtedly turns their return trip home into a difficult and sometimes dangerous endeavor. However, if you were to ask any of the students from these previous trips about their experience in Birmingham, there is a resounding consensus that their experience with CSM, our staff, and our community partners is one of the main reasons why they would continue to brave such conditions. This January’s trip was no exception.

UCONN students make quick work of the Green Building punch list
All week, Christian Service Mission hosted this group of 55 students from UConn at one of our core ministry partners in the Fairfield community, Urban Hope Community Church.  Ironically, supernaturally, incredibly, Fairfield, AL is actually named for a neighboring city to many of these students, Fairfield, CT!  I can’t make this stuff up. These students labored all week long to help further the progress of Urban Hope’s “green building” in the heart of downtown Fairfield which will soon be the location of Urban Hope’s new community development ministry center. Once completed, Urban Hope and pastor Alton Hardy plan to utilize this building for the sake of job training, counselling, financial literacy, office and outreach space and much more!  Our 55 UConn Huskies were able to move this process along by leaps and bounds by helping to build interior walls, hang, mud and sand drywall, paint the entire interior and begin to lay flooring in the building as well!

Nicole, Senior at The University Of Connecticut
The students were also able to take a mid-week break from the work projects to assemble together at another one of our local ministry partners, Bethel Baptist Church for a historical presentation of Fred Shuttlesworth, Bethel Baptist, and the beginnings of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, AL.  After an incredible lesson in history, the group returned to CSM for a tour and discussion of our ministry as well as a time to debrief some of the events from the previous couple of days before heading off to the Civil Rights Institute for more learning about our city’s and our nation’s history. Nicole, a senior on the trip said "Being in Bethel Baptist was incredibly powerful. I was very moved listening to Ms. Martha talk about the history of segregation, discrimination, and racial violence in Birmingham Alabama. Even though there are still racial issues today, it was amazing to hear how far this city has come." It was an incredible week, from several of our staff sharing the Gospel with students, discussions of race relations and strategies for lovingly serving depressed communities and a truly unique view of our city in the heart of Alabama, these students were a part of an experience that they most likely will never forget! Praise God!

Future Community Development Ministry Center at Urban Hope Community Church in Fairfield

UConn students working with CSM volunteers and staff to redo the Green Building.

On Mission In Panama City, FL

Volunteers from Mountain Brook Community Church at work in Panama City, FL after Hurricane Michael
Hurricane Michael came through with tremendous force and left many communities and people devastated. Through connections, we found Calloway Community Church and learned of the hope that they were providing for their destroyed community. After speaking with Pastor Eddie Pitts, Executive Director Tracy Hipps, knew CSM had to do more than send resources to help. Pastor Pitts and his wife were living amongst the wreckage, trying their best to serve others, while having lost their sense of normalcy. Birmingham knows all too well how hard it is to continue serving others when your life situation is the same as theirs and so we wanted to be able to serve Pastor Pitts as well.

Houses destroyed near Calloway Community Church
During our first trip, we partnered with Mountain Brook Community Church to send a team to work on the damaged church. Since the hurricane destroyed one section and ripped the roof off the rest of the church building, so the CSM Housing team was eager to help to restore the church building as a center for help and worship. This team rebuilt rafters, weatherproofed the roof, and built a storage shed for housing food and supplies. They also gave out food and gift cards in the neighborhood, met with people in the community, and helped the Pastor and his wife, secure their 5th wheel to a sewer so they could continue to live there even though their house had been damaged.

Our Construction Manager, Aaron Parsons, said “It’s a nightmare! Panama City is devastated far beyond what we saw in 2011 after the tornadoes. I am afraid everyone has already forgotten!”

One CSM volunteer commented “Personally, as usual, I was ready to get the job done and as usual that was not God’s plan.  My heart was broken by the amount of devastation and the hopelessness left behind by the hurricane.  Seeing people live their lives in such utter poverty, out of their cars, or in tents made a deep impression on me. The appreciation on the faces of so many of the neighbors was evident and they didn’t have to say a word.  The people of Panama City will need more help than we could ever give but we should keep on giving and going and praying and helping in any way God our Father leads us.  That is what the body of Christ does, not because were good, but because He dwells in us and moves us to do His good work for His Glory.”

Roof work at Calloway continues

One need that was noticed while on the trip was a lack of transportation. People were walking for several hours a day to get to the store for basic necessities because cars were damaged or gas was non-existent. Working with Bob’s Bike’s in Homewood along with several generous donors, we were able to supply Calloway with brand new bicycles to share with their community. The Pastor wasn’t sure how he was going to be able to store and assemble all of the bikes but God had already made a way. A youth group from Oak Mountain Presbyterian called CSM and said they would be in the area and asked if there was anything they could do to help. So the youth group saved the day, assembled the bikes, and helped remove debris and clean up the community! The work was done quickly and the Pastor was encouraged by fellow believers coming to help him and his community!

Youth from Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church in Birmingham help clean up the neighborhood around Calloway Community Church

We will keep in touch with Pastor Pitts as his community works to get back to their new normal and hope to continue providing hope and resources as needed. 
Mountain Brook Community Church, CSM Construction Team and volunteers, Next Step Storm, and Believer's Temple Church come together to repair the Calloway Community Church and serve residents in the neighborhood