Over this past season, we have been thinking a lot about the work that we do at CSM Chicago and how we can dive even deeper into the Gospel through the trips that we organize. We not only want to serve in the name of Jesus, but want to learn about, and understand, the love of Jesus more and more as we serve in our city. We want to coordinate trips that not only share the love and actions of Jesus with those around us, but also teach us and our volunteers more about our own need for the Gospel and how we tie that understanding into our service of others. We want people to leave the city feeling like they have not only physically served God during the trip, but have also learned more about Him, themselves, others, and the world we live in.
One of our absolute favorite books/ resources at CSM Chicago is When Helping Hurts. It explores the topic of poverty alleviation through a Gospel-centered context. This book humbles us over and over again, as it continually reminds us that there are different types of poverty that we all experience. Some may experience a visible, material poverty that we tend to focus on when we think of “serving the poor”, but there are others who may experience poverty in their relationships with God, loved ones, the world around them, and even themselves, that might not be as easy to see on the surface. These poverties all stem from the brokenness that came as a result of the Fall of Man, and give us all a need for healing. We are all standing on equal ground, with no one person being “greater than”, “above”, or more “in need” than another.
It is of utmost importance to remember this as we seek to serve the world around us... That we are no better than those we are serving as we seek to help alleviate poverty. Rather, if we remember that we, too, are broken and are daily in need, it humbles us and translates our understanding of service from simply passing out a meal or donating clothing to deeply seeking to understand and relate to those we are serving. It is in this humble place that we understand the Gospel on a deeper level and can truly share that truth with those we are serving.
With the help of When Helping Hurts as well as the brain-power of some of our staff in other cities, we put together a debriefing session called “Defining Poverty” that we plugged into as many schedules as we could this past summer. We got so excited about the truths explained in this session, that we (and our city hosts) couldn’t resist sharing it with as many groups as we could. This session has challenged us and our groups to explore the true meaning of the word “poverty” time and time again, and has brought us to a place where we can serve more humbly and with a greater understanding of the Big Picture - that we are all in need of the healing power of the Gospel.
In closing, we want to leave you with a quote from When Helping Hurts:
“God does not call His children because they are exceptional. He does not choose the perfect, the healthy, or the influential. No one has the grounds to boast, and none of us are at the “top” in His kingdom. When we enter a low-income community and prioritize learning, fellowship, and encouragement, we are recognizing that God chooses the “foolish things of the world to shame the wise” and the “weak things of the world to shame the strong.” Instead of focusing on accomplishing tasks and focusing on the little they may have, let us enter into humble praise: “Let us boast in the Lord together! Let us celebrate the things He has done in our lives through Christ!” In this process, we leave our hearts opened to Christ as He remakes us, leading us toward long-term, deeply transformative ways of joining His work.”
We are excited to continue to develop and share this debriefing session with our future groups, and can’t wait to see how God continues to transform our view of “hands-on” service through it. Come on and serve with us or reach out if you want to learn more!
Blessings, Emily & Kristina CSM Chicago Staff