Friday, February 1, 2019

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.