CSM Chicago will be posting a blog series called “Interrupted: The Unexpected Movements of God Working Through CSM’s Ministry”. If you have a story about how God interrupted your life through a CSM trip, please email it to alumni@csm.org!

Often when we look back at our lives, we can see ways in which God has been preparing to lead us in very unexpected directions long before we had a hint of where we may end up. Josh Larson would say that he never expected that he would be working in Englewood, which is known as one of Chicago’s roughest neighborhoods, at a Christian after-school program called By The Hand Club For Kids. But, it is very apparent as you listen to Josh’s story, that God has been preparing him for this role long before he even heard of By The Hand.

God has very obviously been giving Josh experiences that have prepared him for this role for many years. It started back when he was finishing his sophomore year of high school. One of his best friends encouraged Josh to work for the summer at a day camp. The camp reached kids from a rougher and lower income part of town than he had grown up in. Josh initially blew off the idea since he had other plans for the summer, but when those plans fell through and his friend’s dad called him up he decided to take the job. That summer he absolutely fell in love with the job and the kids that he was serving. He wound up spending the next six summers at the camp. It was there that God began working in Josh’s heart and giving him a passion for serving kids who may be more difficult to love and lacking people who will invest in their lives long-term.

Going into his senior year of college, Josh was unsure of what he wanted to do next. That previous summer, he had this vague idea that after college he wanted to move to Chicago and find a job where he could learn and experience more of the city and the issues that people, and especially kids, were facing in the city. One of his good friends had spent the summer working for CSM Chicago and encouraged Josh to apply to be a city host.

Josh’s summer as a city host was a life-changing experience. Never before had he thought about issues of racism, poverty, segregation, and social justice in such deep ways. Like many others, these issues had been easy for him to brush aside before CSM helped him to understand the ongoing magnitude these issues have on people’s lives. He was deeply impacted and humbled by all that he was learning. That summer Josh served at a VBS in a homeless shelter. The kids he was serving were living with even deeper needs and in more difficult situations than the ones he had worked with at the summer day camp back home. He loved being able to invest deeply in relationships with these kids throughout the summer. As the summer came to a close Josh realized he had developed a deep love for the city, and felt that he was not yet done with Chicago or with CSM so he chose to apply for the apprenticeship.

Near the end of his summer, Josh got to host a week at By The Hand. Hearing about their mission and vision of holistic ministry to kids excited Josh, and he wound up choosing By The Hand Englewood as his ministry partner during his year-long Apprenticeship with CSM. He would say that it was one of the hardest experiences he’s ever had. At first many of the students responded negatively to his presence, but throughout the year as he continued to serve he began to prove to them that he was sticking around. He learned a lot about what it meant to invest long-term in inner-city ministry, and his heart became more deeply broken for the issues these kids were facing daily.

At the end of his Apprenticeship, he was offered a full-time position at By The Hand Englewood where he is currently a 6th grade team leader. This year is proving to be even more challenging than the past one. If it hadn’t been for all that he learned and experienced while at CSM, Josh knows that he would not be nearly as prepared as he is for his new role. Two years ago he had this vague idea that he wanted to serve underprivileged, urban kids, but there is no way that he would have ended up there without God using CSM to change and prepare his heart for ministry. CSM was one part in a long journey God took Josh on to bring him to the place he is now. It is incredible to trace the ways that God uses different experiences to interrupt our lives and lead us into very unexpected places.