We are Celebrating 30 Years of Impact!
In 1988, Ridge Burns decided to spend a week on the streets of Los Angeles to see what it was like to live as a person experiencing homelessness. Through interactions with people he met on the street, Ridge was inspired to start an organization that would work closely with those hurting communities and give youth groups and churches a life changing short term urban experience. Shortly after, CSM was born. For the next 7 years, Ridge served as president. To this day, he is an active member of the CSM board. This is one of his stories.
We all have a person, a group, or a ministry site, that is embedded in us. For me, that one person is Mandy. When I met Mandy, she was 15 years old and she had a child that was 1. Her youth group decided that she should join them on their mission trip, so they raised enough money to bring her with them. They told her that they loved her, that they wanted her to be there, and that they had already paid for it.
Back then, our housing site in Los Angeles was on Skid Row. I remember welcoming her group on the night they arrived, and when she jumped out of the van, I could immediately tell she did not want to be there. That night we had an orientation and went to dinner. But at each activity, Mandy was nowhere to be found. Later I found out that she had spent the whole night on the street.
The next day, I convinced Mandy to come serve with us at a place called Para Los Niños (a nonprofit social services and education organization dedicated to the success of LA's neediest children and families). Mandy, who was angry and bitter about going, got to this place and immediately started bossing everyone around. We watched her entire demeanor change. She made sure we all did as much as we could to help out for the whole 8 hours we were there.
On the last day of the trip, we were in a hotel room and we had set up a little altar out of cardboard. It was right in front of a window that gave us a view of the whole city. On that altar we had a candle, a glass of grape juice, and bread for communion. We sat in a circle while each kid went up to the altar to take communion and pray over the city. Mandy sat quietly and watched each student and leader take their turn. At the very end, she finally got up to kneel at the altar. She drank the whole cup of grape juice and started praying out loud over the city. She said, “I never thought you could use me, God. I wasn't good enough and I made a mess out of my life. I thank you because now I know that I am worth something.”
When the trip ended, she went back home to start a program similar to Para Los Niños, in Sacramento. That’s when I knew what CSM is all about. We exist to see lives transformed by the gospel. We see broken people do great things through God.
Ridge Burns Founder of CSM