“I Feel Really Loved”

“Thank you for your time yesterday. It has really given me hope in having a relationship with the Lord. I’m excited for what’s to come.”  Imagine getting that from a friend with whom you’d been talking about spiritual things.

In NYC, Sabrina shared the gospel with Jackie, and as they talked, Sabrina asked what Jackie thought about it all. “Wow,” said Jackie, “No one ever asks me what I think.”That led into a deeper discussion about her past and why she sometimes feels like others don’t want to hear what she has to say.

During the conversation, Sabrina learned that Jackie believes with all her heart that Jesus is her Lord and Savior, but she told Sabrina that she was confused about what a daily relationship with Him looks like. The next week Jackie and Sabrina talked about why spending daily time with God is significant, along with some practical ways to do it.

|In the middle of the conversation, Jackie stopped and said,
“Jesus wants to spend time with me!”

She was silent for a minute and then looked at Sabrina and said, “I feel really loved.”

Jackie really connected with the fact that she could go to her Heavenly Father any time, wherever. As they were ending their visit, Jackie said, “I’m going to pray on my way to class.”

How do you feel when you consider how Jesus loves to spend time with YOU?

Posted by Devin Tressler in Discipleship, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
How God Grows Leaders

How God Grows Leaders

At USC one afternoon, Stephen met a freshman, Alejandro (middle in the pic). When they read through “Knowing God Personally” together, Alejandro prayed and committed his life to Christ.

Alejandro began to meet with Stephen and two other guys for a men’s Bible study. They started with the life of Jesus in the book of John. At the end of the first meeting, Alejandro said, “I have never studied the Bible like this before, but I really like it.”

Stephen and Alejandro met up each week to play basketball and talk about their faith. Now a computer engineering major and leader in Destino, Alejandro has become a man who applies what he’s learning as he walks with God.

This is what it takes to become a spiritual leader.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Discipleship, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
Destino on Summer Mission 2015

Destino on Summer Mission 2015

In Destino, every generation of students includes those who will help take God’s Good News to the world. It’s like a giant relay race of passing on this privilege from one year to the next. This past summer we sent teams to three summer missions locations:  Vail, Co., New York City, and the Mediterranean.

Joaquin grew up in NYC and the Dominican Republic. Last fall his Destino mentor asked him to consider a summer missions trip.  “I’ll go anywhere!” he replied!  And he put his faith in God to overcome obstacles, whether fear or initial lack of resources.  Joaquin and his team just returned from taking the gospel to students in the Mediterranean.

Bernice from Texas was on a summer mission in a resort town of Colorado. There she and other students lived in the community, got summer jobs and learned to discuss their faith with co-workers and visitors from around the world:

“I’m eager to share my faith. I just didn’t know how to start the conversation.
I’m looking forward to going home to have these conversations with my
friends and family because I’m not sure if we believe the same things.”

Gilberto, a student on Destino’s week-long summer mission called New York Trek, was excited to share with those closest to him some of the things that he learned that week. The week had taught him and other students some ways to live more effectively for Christ. Most of the training and activities took place around the city so they also got to see the sites.

Another student who went on Destino Trek, said, “This trip helped me refine my perspective. Sometimes I get caught up in school or work, and I lose my focus on what’s truly important. This reminded me what I really want to be about; I definitely want to be about Jesus!”

Sarah also spent a summer with Destino. Her previous year at school had been difficult, but being with other Christians day to day, living out their faith helped her understand why. “I was going about it all wrong. I was trying to please and not disappoint God through my actions. I learned to pursue God and get to know Him personally. With that, God will change the desires of my heart.”

She’s right:  life change doesn’t come apart from our heart change.  Maybe God wants to use Destino Summer Mission in 2016 to change you, too!

Posted by Devin Tressler in Missions, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
13 Times a Day

13 Times a Day

“It is just so hard to think positive things about myself
and to believe that is really how God sees me.”

That’s what Melody, a Destino staff woman, heard from a student in Miami. Melody was leading an exercise to help students evaluate their identity as individuals, including who has most influenced their lives, and how they view themselves.

When her friend expressed that, Melody shared this startling statistic:  The average woman thinks critically about herself at least 13 times per day.  “If you had a friend who texted, or called you just to criticize you 13 times a day,” Melody asked, “how long would it take you to block their call, unfriend them, and stop talking to them?”

The young woman was quick to respond, “No more than a day.”

“Then why do we put up with believing the lies and criticism of the enemy and of ourselves that we’ve become used to day after day?!”

What an incredible privilege to base our view of ourselves on what God says is true!  What would it be like if you took 13 more times a day to focus on your identity in Christ and to reflect God’s love to those around you?!

Posted by Devin Tressler in Discipleship, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
Collaborating with Other Christians

Collaborating with Other Christians

What do you do when you really want to do something but don’t think you have enough staff or students to pull it off? That’s a GREAT time to partner with other organizations and churches in your area.

That’s exactly what they did at Destino at Texas A&M recently.  Students there wanted to host a worship night that they could invite other students to.  So they partnered with a church worship team to make it happen. They had a great night–and had a LOT of new people show up!

When you’ve got an idea, but don’t have the equipment, tools, know-how, or (let’s face it) the money to pull it off, it’s good to remember that there are a lot of believers in your area who want to help fulfill the vision of reaching your entire campus for Christ!

A simple way to start the conversation with a pastor, priest, or minister, or with another organization on campus is just by asking, “Could we get together sometime to talk about ways we could work together to help students on campus grow closer to God?”

Posted by Devin Tressler in Outreach, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
What is Familia?

What is Familia?

This week we want to give a shout out to Destino at the University of Arizona/Pima!  This spring, they’ve been working really hard to meet people and build a movement in their city.  Recently, they did an awesome outreach on campus that engaged students by asking questions.

They asked students to explain what family is, what they like about their culture, what their culture needs, and if they think one can know God personally.  Students were invited to write their ideas on a giant graffiti board and then were invited to a meeting where U. of A. head baseball coach Andy Lopez gave his testimony of how he grew up in church, but later met God for real and how his personal relationship with Jesus has really changed his life.

Building a spiritual movement is often slow and very hard work, but we’re so excited to see the movement at UA/Pima gaining traction. The Lord is doing awesome things there!  What questions could you use to start spiritual conversations on your campus?

Posted by Devin Tressler in Culturally Connected, Outreach, 0 comments
It Is Broken

It Is Broken

The longer I live, the more I’m convinced of one theological truth:  this world is broken. As I talk to students and hear story after story of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and as I look around and see hatred, racism, and poverty, I can’t help but believe that something just isn’t right.  Moreover, when I see how easy it is for me to sin and how often I choose my own way over God’s, I know that this world is a broken place.

That’s a great place for us to start when we share the Gospel with a student.

Deep down, if we are honest, we all know that the world is broken
and that we are broken and weak. We ache for the way it seems
like things should be, and we feel pain over how things are.

And we ask ourselves why this is. On campus, we spend a lot of time talking about the fact that we sin and are sinned against because man has chosen his own way instead of God’s perfect way, and that this is the cause of all of the brokenness.

At Sam Houston State University, students involved with our ministry wanted to engage the campus with a discussion about this deep brokenness of this world and of our lives.  They also wanted to share that Jesus came into the world to bear our shame of our brokenness, so that we could be reunited in fellowship with God.  As part of the event, students on campus were asked to write on colorful tiles ways that they could see brokenness around them. At the end of the day one of our leaders, who is an art major, broke all the tiles and used the broken shards and pieces to create a beautiful mosaic. Later that week the student body was invited to see the work of art unveiled, and a speaker shared how God desires to take the broken pieces of our lives and redeem us into beautiful works of art. At this final event, many students shared that they wanted to hear more, and seven students said that they wanted to begin a relationship with Christ. We’re so proud of how hard the SHSU student leaders worked to present a beautiful picture of the Gospel!

It’s stories like this that makes us love what we do in Destino. We want to empower students to engage their peers creatively with the reality that they are separated from God and share with them God’s plan for redemption.

Casey is on staff with Destino in St. Louis, MO.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Discipleship, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
Why did God give you a culture?

Why did God give you a culture?

“Let’s do a Bible study that talks about how being a Christian affects our culture!” suggested one of our leaders at the beginning of the semester. Great idea!  But where do you find that kind of material?  Walk into any Christian bookstore and you’ll find a women’s section, a men’s section, and Bibles “marketed” towards soldiers, firefighters, and even cowboys, but where can you find a book asking “What does Christ have to do with my culture or ethnicity?”  The fact is, sometimes it’s awkward to talk about culture, race, and ethnicity.  But culture is that basic aspect of who each of us is–so hard to define, and often unseen by us, but influencing how we experience everything around us.  In our ministry, we ask the question, “Why did God give you your culture?”  But the first step is discovering what exactly our culture is and what beliefs we possess about it.

In Destino we ask the question,
“Why did God give you your culture?”

 

Carolina walked into one of our meetings a little nervous.  She had grown up in a mostly Latino church, but hadn’t attended there for years.  She was hesitant to come to Destino in the first place because she hadn’t been around a large group of Latinos in a long time.  She later confessed, “I didn’t really think it was possible for a group of Latinos that large to worship God together like that.”  As she has gotten more involved with Destino, she says that she’s felt more like herself.  She couldn’t have said what was missing before, but says her relationship with God has gotten deeper as she’s explored why God made her Latina.  She has uncovered beliefs and frustrations about her own family and culture, and also traits her culture possesses that glorify God.  In the words of another friend of ours,

“In our culture you find close family ties, fierce loyalty, and a deep ability to grieve what’s broken and celebrate redemption at the same time.”

Carolina has been finding out ways God wants to use her, including her Hispanic heritage, to be a blessing to others and lead them toward Christ!  It has been a blessing for us to see Carolina and other students grow in their understanding of who they are.  This is what drives Destino staff to develop resources for Bible study, discipleship, and leadership development that engage with questions like these.  It has also caused me to consider questions of ethnic identity in Christ for myself–as an Anglo person, what does our own culture consist of?  As a member of white culture in the U.S., and a majority in my city, how does God want to use that aspect of who I am?

Devin is on staff with Destino in St. Louis, MO.  Originally posted on his blog.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Culturally Connected, 0 comments
Don’t Waste Your Ethnic Identity

Don’t Waste Your Ethnic Identity

 

My ethnic identity journey has been one of joy, tears, and trust. Joy in knowing that in the Lord’s good and perfect sovereignty He chose for me to be a person of Mexican descent. Tears as I enter into the painful parts of embracing my culture– from feeling “less Mexican” because I am not a fluent Spanish speaker, to being left speechless after someone said something derogatory about Latinos. Trusting that the Lord is using this journey for my good and His glory. Before I enter more into my ethnic identity journey, let me first share a little more of who I am.

I am a third generation Mexican American who grew up in South Texas, doesn’t speak Spanish fluently, and didn’t really realize I was Hispanic until I moved out of South Texas. That last statement may be a little hard to believe, but honestly — when the majority of people around you look like you, it’s a lot harder to recognize that you have a culture. The Lord has graciously used my time working with Destino to help me recognize and embrace my ethnic identity.

Though I would mark the summer of 2010 as the beginning of my ethnic identity journey I can see ways the Lord was moving in my heart to move forward in the journey and to truly embrace all of who He created me to be. In February of 2009, a staff member of our organization called me up to see if I would be interested in joining a new team in Dallas — one that would reach ethnic minority students at different schools in the city. I felt the Lord leading me in that direction, so I took a step of faith and obedience and saw the Lord provide the financial support needed to go.

The thought never crossed my mind that ministry would look different than what I experienced as a student in CRU. I can confidently say that I am not the same person I was when I first started working in Destino. My experience working with Destino and my ethnic identity journey are so intertwined, which is probably good because it reminds me that my ethnic identity journey isn’t just an isolated event, but really does impact so many areas of my life.

As I have walked on this ethnic identity journey I have learned a couple things along the way:
1) My ethnic identity journey is a process.

In the summer of 2010 I spent some time in the Arab world with a group of Latinos. It was the first time I had spend such an extended period of time with that many Latinos, other than my family. I felt right at home. I understood the indirect communication that I heard and could relate to experiences students had with feeling lonely when they were the only Hispanic in their classes, etc.

It also felt so natural to talk with the Arabs I met. They insisted on feeding us and made sure you had enough to eat. They also gave hugs and would kiss your cheek when they first saw you and when you were about to leave. There was also no such thing about a “group hello or good-bye– you said bye to everyone individually. All of these things felt like I was back at my grandmas house with my family or back in South Texas.

|After this trip, it was the first time that I loved being a Latina.

I didn’t hate being Latina before, but up until this trip didn’t feel like my ethnicity was valued or significant. When you don’t see many Latinos in position of power in society, it’s easier to believe lies that your culture and ethnicity isn’t really that significant.

In the way that I’m wired I really value closure. I enjoy finding solutions to problems and according to strengths finders, 2 of my top strengths are “developer” and “restorative”- both of which are essentially seeing the potential in situations and working to bring them to completion. So, with my new found love for my ethnicity, I wanted to embrace being Latina. I started with the most logical thing to do — watch Selena and go buy some Spanish music to put on my iPod. ;) I also needed to learn how to salsa dance and speak spanish fluently ASAP. The problem with wanting to see all these things happen was that for 23 years of my life I didn’t listen to Spanish music, or practice my Spanish, and had only danced Salsa a couple times.

Another problem with wanting to do these things, is that I was looking to these things to make me Latina. If only I spoke Spanish all the time, THEN I would be Latina and embrace my ethnic identity, or if I was only the best salsa dancer, THEN I would be Latina and embrace my ethnic identity. But, if I looked in the mirror I could see that I already was Latina! Also, when I did try speaking Spanish more or Salsa dancing and the reality that I was still a beginner in both of these areas was staring at me straight in the face, it was hard for me to know who I was, because I had looked to these things to find my identity. I’ve learned that there isn’t going to be a point where I have all of my ethnic identity journey figured out. It’s not as simple as just learning Spanish, or just doing this or that. It’s a lifelong process of running to Jesus as he walks with me through this journey. All of who I am is found in Him and in Him I have been made complete.

2) It’s OKAY to walk through the pain.

It’s easier to not walk through the painful and hard parts in your life. Like I mentioned before you don’t see a lot of Latinos in position in power, so it’s easy for me to believe the lie that I couldn’t dream big, because my dreams probably wouldn’t come true. I also walked through pain when others around me would point out the obvious — “you don’t speak Spanish?!” it made me feel shameful for not knowing the language of mi gente (my people). Another painful thing to walk through was thinking that it was wrong to embrace my ethnic identity. There has been growth in each of these areas and I can acknowledge the lies that I am believe and run to Jesus and rest in knowing that all of who I am is found in Him and in Him I have been made complete.

3) I’m not alone in this journey.

The Lord has met me where I’m at, has provided friends to walk through this journey, and has used me to walk people of different ethnicities through their ethnic identity journey. I’m sure that especially with the growing population of Latinos in America, there are many others who are thinking/will be thinking about their ethnic identity. I’m thankful that in the midst of the unknown, the pain, and the joy all of who I am is found in Him and in Him I have been made complete.

John Piper has a book called Don’t Waste Your Life, which challenges us to make much of Him in every part of our life.  I don’t want to waste my life — or my ethnicity!

Melissa Silva is a graduate of the University of Texas, and has served on staff with Destino in Texas, L.A., and in the Mediterranean.

photo courtesy: digitizedchaos

Posted by Devin Tressler in Culturally Connected, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
The Value of Community in My Ethnic Identity Journey

The Value of Community in My Ethnic Identity Journey

“So you and your family are from Mexico, huh?” Emily, my freshman roommate asked soon after I moved into the dorm room my first semester in college.

“Yes, but I grew up in Deer Park, a suburb of Houston,” I replied, trying to deflect the question. In fact I had moved to Deer Park at the age of seven, where the majority of people at my school, as well as my friends, were white.

Her curiosity persisted, “So this must be very different for you. Do y’all have running water in Mexico?” Her face was completely serious, and from her expression I couldn’t figure out if she knew she was being offensive or not. This had never happened to me.

“Monterrey is a huge, very modern and industrialized city. We have running water,” I replied slightly annoyed. She went on to ask if my parents knew how to read and write and if we used donkeys as our main mode of transportation. I couldn’t believe she was seriously asking any of these things.

I had never felt insecure about my ethnic identity until that moment.

Can I just blend in?

Immediately I could tell I was very different to the majority of students on campus, and that it was a bad thing. I looked around my economics class from the back of a large auditorium and started wondering how many Latinos were in the class. I began to feel so insecure about being one of the few Latinos on campus; I wished so badly at that moment that I could blend in and be like the majority of students in class.

Although I didn’t consciously decide I wanted to look more white, I dyed my hair platinum blonde and put light colored contacts in my eyes because that’s what most girls in my classes looked like. I was not ready to admit to the world who I really was. I wanted to be accepted.

No more hiding

It wasn’t until I joined Destino that I realized I had been desperately trying to hide my ethnic identity from the world. It was then that I knew I was in a safe environment that accepted who I really was and not who I had to pretend to be in order to blend in and be accepted. I could unashamedly admit that my favorite breakfast is barbacoa with tortillas de harina, and that I like listening to Luis Miguel.

I even became aware that when I prayed silently I did so in Spanish, so when I was asked to pray aloud in English I became tongue-tied. The language I use to communicate with God is Spanish.  My Destino friends didn’t mind however, in fact they understood, because some of them felt the same way.

Ana Villarreal Bush served as an intern with Destino in Texas.

photo courtesy: jorislouwes

Posted by Devin Tressler in Culturally Connected, Discipleship, 0 comments