Spiritually Empowered

Virtual Connections

Although Jeanette’s family was very involved in their church, she arrived as a freshman at UCLA uncertain in her faith. When asked about coming to Destino at the beginning of the semester, she wasn’t very interested.

But as the semester continued, some things changed for Jeanette. She decided to try out a Destino Bible study and then asked staff member Sarah if they could talk more about the Bible and her faith. Sarah invited her to join a Friday afternoon discipleship appointment that she has with another student. Although she was eager to meet with them, Jeanette goes home to her family almost every weekend, which is very common among Latino students. However, Jeanette asked if she could Skype into the meeting.

Jeanette has been learning and growing as she connects virtually for a weekly small group discipleship meeting. She even went to church with a friend from Destino. “It is clear God is moving in her life,” said Lauren Pottenger, a Destino staff member at UCLA. “We have affectionately dubbed the time diSkypleship.”

Students are often as comfortable connecting through video as face-to-face. Staff member Kai has had great success meeting with one of the Destino leaders at USC over video chat one week and in person the next week. Also, Natalie, a recent UCLA Destino alumni has started a weekly small group with some of her fellow alumni from Destino and a few current students. Even though Natalie is in San Diego, she is still able to connect with Christian community and influence the lives of these younger women.

Though these virtual connections students’ lives are being changed.

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The Best Gift

What is the best gift a family member has lavished on you? In Gabriela’s case, her brother Alonzo helped give her a brand new life.

During an incredibly humid day in August 2015, Destino staff member Nate ran into Alonzo at the University of Texas at San Antonio. After Nate explained the gospel to him, Alonzo, who was a freshman, gave his life to Jesus.

Separated by 178 Texas highway miles, Alonzo started inviting his sister, who was a junior at Texas A&M University, to visit San Antonio to experience the Destino ministry at UTSA. Gabriella loved being a part of Destino. At the fall retreat the following year, Alonzo was baptized, much to Gabriela’s amazement.

A week later, Destino staff member Vanessa drove three hours to Texas A&M to meet with Gabriela. Filled with encouragement from her brother’s faith, Gabriela made the decision to follow Jesus too. Vanessa now coaches her from a distance to help lead the Destino ministry at Texas A&M.

Gabriela received the gift of life from her actual brother, but she wants as many people as possible to become part of the familia of God.

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Forgiven and Forgiving

Forgiven and Forgiving

by Chris Nadolny

“Please pray that I am able to forgive the people who’ve hurt me. I spend a lot of time thinking about ways I can get revenge,” said Daniel.

After more than ten years in college ministry I’ve heard most things, but this had a new twist. Though this was not a typical prayer request at the Miami-Dade College Bible study, it was vulnerable and showed spiritual awareness. I knew I had to follow up with Daniel. I invited him to talk more after his class later that day.

We reconnected that afternoon and meandered through campus as the the hot sun baked the concrete. Eventually we found a table in the shade to discuss his request. I assumed by his openness that Daniel was a Christian, but it turned out he had only been to church a few times. He knew he needed something different in his life if he would ever experience freedom from his bitterness.

As I shared the gospel with him, I prayed silently that God would move in Daniel’s life. He had never heard that Jesus was a gift we received as opposed to a model to follow to earn a place in heaven. He was so riveted by the gospel that he stayed through the beginning of his next class. That day he decided to put his faith in Christ!

Since that day, Daniel hasn’t missed a Bible study. We’ve also hung out several more times to talk more about what it means grow in a relationship with God. Last time, we circled back to his forgiveness prayer request. I explained that through his forgiveness, he’s now able to forgive the person and trust that God will bring justice to the situation. As Daniel prayed he not only thanked God for His forgiveness, but also asked God to bless the person who wronged him. God brings the lightness of the gospel to those who are carrying heavy burdens.

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A Story to Tell

A Story to Tell

By Lauren Rodriguez

“I believe God will let everyone into Heaven. He loves everyone!”

Arianna, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, shared her beliefs with me as we sat at a coffee shop on campus.

We had met at our Destino information table a couple of weeks before that, when she ran excitedly up us wanting to know more about who we were and how she could get involved. I asked her to lunch on the spot, and we began meeting one-on-one.

Arianna is majoring in global studies and writing, with the dream of hearing people’s stories. She believes every person, everywhere, has a story that deserves to be told, and she wants to write it, broadcast it, or find a way to make it known.

As she explained her dream to me, we connected instantly about how closely her dreams connect with who we are as Destino: journeying with students to follow Jesus and fulfill their God-given destinies.

She was excited to get involved with Destino and find Latino community on campus.  Originally growing up in San Diego, most of her friends had been Latino. Now living in Minnesota, she knew there were lots of other Latino students, but she didn’t know them. She shared with me that she felt like the only Latina student in most of her classes.

Arianna was also excited about growing in her faith.  She had struggled with relationships in her life for years, jumping from one relationship to another to fill her needs but never feeling full.  She shared this openly with me, knowing it was not what she really wanted or what she “should” do.

Living in a very religious family, her mom told her that because of the ongoing sin in her life, she needed to stop going to confession at church until she got her life back in order.  Arianna was sitting in a hard spot – feeling judged, unfulfilled, and wanting more.

Arianna also believed that a loving God wouldn’t exclude anyone from Heaven. From the professors she listened to, books she read, and conclusions she had come to, all roads led to the same God. As we talked over multiple lunch and coffee dates, though, she wanted to know what I thought.

Relationships are hugely important in the Latino culture.  We call ourselves the Destino familia for a reason.  Since I took the time to build a relationship with her, spend time together, and share my life too, she put value in what I had to say.  God opened the door to share the Gospel with Arianna, and she was hungry.

She had never read much of the Bible before and had never heard about the cost of sin in Romans 6:23.  She never knew why Jesus had to die or that she needed to make a personal decision to accept Him as her Savior and Lord. God had prepared her heart, and when she read the verse where Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6),” she exclaimed out loud, “I believe that is true!”

Arianna is our new sister in Christ and is already telling her family about her decision!  She’s engaging other Latino students at our Destino events on campus and is excited to be a light for Him.

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Beginnings

Beginnings

As Destino staff members Kai and Sarah stepped onto the LA City College campus, they were trusting God to begin a movement to reach the thousands of Latino students on that campus. Over half the students at LA City College are Latino.

The first day there they approached Melvin who was sitting on the quad after his art class. They asked him to do a spiritual interest survey and he agreed. As the survey concluded, Kai took the opportunity to share the gospel with Melvin and he put his faith in Christ. “I gave him a Bible and encouraged him to read a passage so we could talk about it the next day,” said Kai. They met the next day, the next week and every week for the rest of the year.

Although they don’t yet know enough students to launch a Destino movement at LA City College, they have been encouraged to see Melvin grow in his faith. “He’s been trained to share his faith with others and how to read the Bible and apply it to his life,” said Kai

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The Bulletin Board

The Bulletin Board

Ariana, a junior at Purdue University, had a great idea to put up a bulletin board in the Latino Cultural Center on campus. Ariana is trying to launch a Destino ministry on her campus and is looking for ways to engage with new students. The bulletin board would allow her to advertise Destino and gather information from those who might be interested.

A week later she returned to the LCC to gather the information. Instead she was met with disappointment. The LCC could no longer display bulletin boards for other groups and her bulletin board was empty.

¿Cuál es tu Destino? Give your answer to this question now at the Latino Cultural Center at Purdue!

A post shared by Destino @ Purdue (@destinoatpurdue) on

Ariana was discouraged and disappointed, but she did not give up. The next day she started a Destino at Purdue Instagram account. In just three days there were over 100 followers! God used this setback to push Ariana to think creatively about how to connect with students at Purdue. Now she has an even more powerful platform where she can post things to stir spiritual curiosity in others, promote Destino, and invite people into Christ-centered community.

“As Ariana and I celebrated what God has done this semester, she mentioned how she has seen the Lord grow her own faith as she has been leading Destino,” said Chelsea Hengeveld, a Destino staff member who is helping Ariana to launch the ministry from a distance. Although no Destino staff members work at Purdue, the two meet regularly over video chat. “She has stepped out in faith to meet new people, sacrificed her time and her finances to attend the Destino Winter Conference in order to be further equipped as a leader, and she has seen God use her gifts of creativity and art, while at the same time equipping her in her areas of weakness,” explained Chelsea.

Chelsea reminded Ariana of God’s promise in Isaiah 55, that His word will not return to Him empty but will accomplish the thing for which He sent it. Together the two of them continue to trust God to work in the lives of the 1,300 Hispanic and Latino students at Purdue.

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Conversations with Co-workers

Conversations with Co-workers

“I never thought God would use me at my job!” said Gladys.

While a sophomore at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Gladys worked as the site leader for the after school program at nearby Northwest Elementary. “When I first started working, I took the job really serious,” said Gladys. “I wasn’t really trying to make friends.”

But in March, God changed Gladys’ focus. Gladys helps lead Destino at UTSA. She went with a group of students involved with Destino to Port Aransas, TX for Destino Break.

“She had the mindset of just wanting to have fun on the beach,” said Anthony, a Destino staff member at UTSA. “But by the second day she realized that God called her on this trip to reach people. We may not always want to or feel like doing things, but when God calls us we need listen.”

And as she spent her spring break sharing the gospel with other college students on the beach, she realized God was telling her she could be talking to her co-workers about Jesus in the same way.

The following week she returned to San Antonio and went out to lunch with her co-workers. She has continued to spend intentional time with them, helping them know more about God and the Bible.

Ricky, who shared he wasn’t into “religion or God things,” wasn’t initially open to what Gladys had to share. But in the last month Gladys was surprised when Ricky approached her to ask some questions about the Last Supper and Jesus dying on the cross.

Another of Gladys’ co-workers, Megan, has been really interested in talking about Jesus. The two text frequently now that Gladys has returned home for the summer. Megan plans to attend Texas A&M San Antonio in the fall, where Destino will launch a new ministry in August. Gladys introduced Megan to a Destino staff member there and she told Gladys she plans to attend.

“It feels so great to know that God can use me anywhere,” said Gladys. “I’m excited to keep sharing about Him at work.”

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Destino Break 2017

Destino Break 2017

“Now that I talked to beachgoers about Jesus, I feel ready to share with everyone back home,” said Eric, a sophomore involved with Destino at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

In March, Eric traveled to Port Aransas, Texas with a group of Destino students who spent their spring break helping others learn about Jesus. The group used a tool called Soularium to talk to others on the beach about their spiritual journeys using pictures. They also used Perspective Cards, learning what others believe about the existence of God, the source of truth and the meaning of life.

The group shared the gospel with 60 people and saw 11 begin a new relationship with Jesus!

Students from both UTSA and Palo Alto College traveled together to Port Aransas. “I love seeing how Destino connects college students city-wide,” said Destino staff member Jess Gilbert, “so they can be encouraged in their faith and gain courage to live for the Lord in new ways.”

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There Were Bigger Plans in Store for Me…

There Were Bigger Plans in Store for Me…

Little Did I Know There Were Bigger Plans in Store for Me…

“I thought I came to college to earn my degree and get a job. Little did I know that there were much bigger plans in store for me. All my life I believed in God and tried to lead a moral life most of the time, but I didn’t let God get involved in my life.

“When I came to New Mexico State University, I came open-minded. I wanted to discover things for myself. I got in touch with Destino. I experienced so much love from the people involved. They embraced me like a brother. I made up my mind that this was where I wanted to be. Since then I have discovered the power of the Word of God and just how drastically it can affect my life.

“I’ve been given the honor of serving within Destino, which has helped me grow as a leader and has humbled me. The Lord has given me a heart to serve students and to minister to them with the gospel. I now can see clearly that there is something greater to live for than success. It’s the battle for the hearts and souls of people all over this world. I know with all my heart that I want to serve God and do His work. I’ve discovered that I didn’t come to NMSU to merely get a degree and become an engineer, but also to discover the one and only true God in heaven.”

Little did Lucas, at 21, know that he’d be ministering the gospel of Christ to students long after his time in school was done. Today, Lucas and his wife, Christy, serve with Destino and are parents to Daniel.

Photo credit: Fraser Mummery.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Discipleship, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
Becoming a Believer Didn’t Take Away My Ethnicity

Becoming a Believer Didn’t Take Away My Ethnicity

I remember several years ago taking a personality test that asked a series of questions connected to worldview in relation to God and humanity. Essentially, each question related to how I viewed others and whether or not I believed the best about their motives and intentions when interacting with them. I can remember each time I came across another question on this theme, I had this internal battle inside of me. While I knew the “right” answer was to assume the best and to believe in people’s good intentions, I knew that I didn’t think or feel that way all the time. I had experience after experience where, given the right stressful circumstances, all human beings, including believers, often responded out of their own broken humanity. People are fallen, I thought, so how could we always assume the best about their motivations?

What I didn’t realize then was that this way of viewing others was influenced by my cultural worldview that I had grown up with as a Latina, and this worldview differed from the white Christian community I was involved with then. Dr. Juan Martinez, professor at Fuller Seminary, jokes that “Latinos are 1 point Calvinists” because the depravity of man informs our view of all our interactions with others and even our view of the whole of human history. Justo Gonzalez calls this a “non-innocent view of history” where Latinos recognize that all history, including that of Christianty, is a story about broken people.

My experience with this test several years ago highlighted to me how tied my understanding of the Christian life was to majority culture. In that season of my life, I had no understanding of how my own Latino culture influenced me at very deep levels. While the white evangelical church I came to faith in was right to emphasize that my new identity in Christ was of ultimate importance, it failed to acknowledge that their own understanding of the Christian life was influenced by majority culture lenses and that this was the Christianity they taught me.

I picked up early on in my time as a believer that my life before Christ was to be forgotten and dismissed which implicitely included my ethnic identity too. I remember reading verses like Philippians 3:13 where Paul said “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” and believing that this meant that I needed to leave the past in the past and get on with my new life in Christ which was infinitely better. Because my life in this new community didn’t include any Hispanics, I associated my ethnicity with the part of my life I was meant to leave behind too. Couple that way of thinking with the fact that my life before coming to faith was painful, and I figured ignoring that past and that part of my identity was the right thing to do.

The problem with only focusing on my new identity in Christ devoid of culture was that it wasn’t really true. Neglecting to acknowledge my own Latino identity as a part of how God made me, didn’t leave me free from cultural influences. It just left me confused. When there were contradictions in cultural values that showed up in my discipleship within this majority culture Christian community, I always assumed the majority was right and I was wrong. It couldn’t possibly be that my own cultural lenses influenced me in my walk with God to see the world differently, and that maybe I had something to offer majority culture in that perspective. There wasn’t room for that kind of thinking so it was squelched in me instead. It left me feeling like I was always immature and in need of growth when my way of seeing God and the world differed from others around me.

Starting to work for Destino, though, sent me on a journey of exploring my own ethnic identity and the valuable ways the culture had shaped me. I began to feel so affirmed in a community that for the first time shared my story and my assumptions. Their view of God was similar to me because of our shared common experiences. It was a beautiful thing.

But within this searching, I couldn’t just embrace the beautiful ways my culture had influenced me, I also had to face the broken parts of my culture and past that had left wounds in my life as well. Orlando Crespo in talking about the bi-cultural journey said, “I can’t let go of the fact that I have both of these worlds in me and both have left their beautiful and painful mark on me.” That was what I felt like God was doing in me as he was pushing me to deal with all of my story. There were beautiful parts to my Latino identity that I was willing to embrace, but I was needing to embrace the painful too. At that point, I began to look honestly at the alcoholism and physical abuse in my past and how those realities were early shapers of my identity. Accepting both the beautiful parts and the broken parts of my ethnic identity was necessary for true depth of understanding of God and myself. There could be no healing without a holding of both.

being bicultural means that two different cultural worlds
have left their beautiful and painful mark.

Recently, I listened to NPR’s Alt.Latino describing how Salsa music is a good reflection of how life contains this exact tension and paradox of the beautiful and the painful. Most of the time salsa music is viewed as happy music that is joyful and danceable, but the lyrics of the music often carry dark themes that deal with sorrow and suffering. These two seemingly inconsistent parts together are what make Salsa music so powerful. I think thats true of my own life too. Like Crespo said, being bicultural means that two different cultural worlds have left their beautiful and painful mark. That’s what makes me who I am and how I understand God to be who he is in my life.

I think another significant piece to this journey for me was when I read the book Honor and Shame by Roland Muller. Again, in wanting to find healing from my own past, I learned that when you come from a shame-based culture like Latino culture, freedom from shame is at the heart of the gospel message. But it wasn’t only the shame I felt about the sins I had committed that I needed freedom from, but also the shame I felt as a result of the sins done to me. As I read through the book, this understanding of the gospel felt almost like a second conversion experience for me. I felt that while I had accepted that Christ took away my guilt through his death when I trusted in him, I had never fully accepted the truth that he had also taken away my shame, including the shame I felt related to my ethnicity. This was revolutionary in my life.

All of these experiences are a part of what God has used and is using to grow me into wholeness in my ethnic identity. So, while there was a time in my life where I would have wanted to deny being Latina, I can now say with confidence that my ethnicity is a part of who God has made me to be. My culture isn’t a liability, but a blessing that wasn’t meant to be erased at my conversion. I am thankful for the whole of the story He has written and is writing over my life.

Kristy Garza Robinson served with Destino and currently on staff with LaFe, a ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  Find her on Twitter @yosoykristy and at www.yosoykristy.com.  Originally posted April 20, 2012.

photo courtesy: craigcloutier

Posted by Devin Tressler in Culturally Connected, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments