God

Students just like you!

Students just like you!

“I see you as one of my teachers, teaching me something I never knew before.”

“I feel a lot better knowing there’s a place for me here to open up about my faith.”

“I’m not religious like my mom, but I still believe in God and would really want to learn more about Him with others.”

“I want Jesus to be on the throne of my life; He’s not fully there now, but I’d like Him to be.”

“I want to join your group so my grandmother will feel more at peace that I found a good group to keep learning about God. Plus I like you guys.”

“I don’t have a Bible or have ever read it, but I’m open to learn about it.”

Come, be part of Destino’s familia!

Photo Credit:  Allen Stanley.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Outreach, 0 comments
Odds Against Him

Odds Against Him

Sergio sat by himself in the student union. Two Destino staff women, Stephanie and Diana, asked if they could join him for lunch. And as they sat together, they listened to his story. Raised by his grandparents, Sergio’s mother and father weren’t around much. His older brothers were incarcerated, and now, he’s the first in his family to go to college.

Diana couldn’t help but wonder, “Wow, what’s he doing here? All odds are against him. No one in his family expects him to graduate; no one has hope for him to be any different than the other men in his family.”

But that’s why Destino is here! We believe God has a plan for students like Sergio. On his second day of his second year, Sergio heard about God’s love and forgiveness clearly, for the first time. Over Taco Bell burritos, he assured Stephanie and Diana that he’d think about making that decision to follow God.

Join us in praying for students like Sergio who are hearing about God’s desire to know them and be known by them. We love listening to students and sharing our stories with them!  And we’d love to share with you more about a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Outreach, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments

“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
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
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
Brown is Not a Weakness

Brown is Not a Weakness

I am brown.

Brown is not a weakness…

God loves me and wants me to embrace who He’s made me to be!

It took me nineteen years to boldly proclaim that I am Mexican-American and to stop pretending I was a white guy with an epic ability to tan quickly. Intellectually I understood my ethnicity since the time I first had to bubble in the option identifying myself as “Latino/Hispanic/Chicano” on a standardized state test. But fear kept my culture at an arm’s length. American society had laid out for me my fate as an alcoholic, high school dropout, gang member, construction worker, farmhand, or dead-beat father.

I blended in like a chameleon

I was born in South Texas, raised in a predominantly Anglo township in Michigan. My surroundings helped foster my need to turn my back on the Hispanic community. There was no benefit to learning Spanish, so I didn’t. I was a chameleon, blending in well with my Anglo friends. I adopted the ideology of individualism, living for myself and not for my family.

My parents decided to uproot the family and move back to south Texas at the end of my freshmen year of high school. People at school spoke Spanglish. Some sported Mexican flags and shirts that said “Viva la Raza.” To them I said, “Go back to Mexico.” The rest of the student population was fairly assimilated to American culture, but I only thought of them as poor imitators of my people up north.

When I came to faith, the world and the self-complex I created for myself was turned upside down.

I didn’t know what it meant to be Hispanic

This was when confusion and shame settled into my heart. I was on a journey to discover my ethnic identity. Many times I wanted to give up, because it is easier to be only Anglo or only Mexican. But my Destino leader believed in me, “It’s in you. You’ll find out what it means to be Hispanic.”

The stereotypes I fought hard against slowly became real people to me: my Papa the carpenter, my Abuelo the field worker, my parents who gave birth to their son out of wedlock, my uncles who struggle with alcohol.

I found healing in being bicultural

As I dove deeper into my journey, I found healing and security in being bicultural—studying the rich history of my family’s culture, both Anglo and Hispanic. It helped to explain my desire to be relational, even though I fought to suppress it with individualistic ideas. Mostly it has helped me understand that God didn’t leave me in the oven after the timer went off.

God loves me and wants me to embrace who He’s made me to be.

Brown is not a weakness…

I am brown.

Rico Gutierrez is from South Texas and served as a student intern with Destino.

photo courtesy: unsplash

Posted by Devin Tressler in Culturally Connected, 0 comments
Pulling Up Roots, Pt. 3–Jesus calls our bluff.

Pulling Up Roots, Pt. 3–Jesus calls our bluff.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed ad self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Matthew 23:25-26

In my first and second posts in this series, I talked about the importance of having a safe community to be honest about who you really are and about the things you’ve been hiding or lying about. That’s a big risk, because you don’t know how a person is going to react to your honesty. We lie about sin and hide our shame for a reason. But Jesus asks us to behave this way with one another because we (ideally) act the same way towards him. Jesus knows us inside and out, and yet the Bible says that he accepted us even when we were at our worst (Romans 5:8).

|How many times do we try to bluff God?

How many times do we try to bluff God, though? I pretend like I have bargaining power with him, or spend time reminding him of how I’m at least better than someone else. I’m reminded of the story Jesus told about the tax collector and the Pharisee in Luke 18.  The Pharisee, who was legitimately an outwardly righteous person, went to his worship service and spent his prayer time reminding God how good he was. The tax collector, who was a social outcast and widely regarded as a traitor and among the lowest of sinners, simply stood at the back of the temple, looking down at his feet, and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

When you play poker, an important skill is bluffing, or getting people to believe something different about your cards than what is actually true. What’s going on is that you decide whether you can deceive the person and manipulate them into doing what will benefit you. If you don’t think you’ll be able to do it, then you fold and give up that hand.

I, however, am shockingly bad at poker. I’m not good at getting to people to believe things about my cards, so I employ what I refer to as the “camouflage strategy.” That is, I try to keep a low profile and let people kind of forget about me until I get a really good hand.

I think it’s a pretty appropriate metaphor for what we try to do with God when we hide our sin from him.  We either try to pull the wool over his eyes and manipulate him into doing what will benefit us. Or sometimes we try to hide from him, hoping he’ll just kind of forget about us until things get a little better.

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there…

If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,’
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day
for darkness is as light to you.”

-Psalm 139:7-8, 11-12

“All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweet us away.”

-Isaiah 64:6

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

Photo Credit:  Viri G

Posted by Devin Tressler in Discipleship, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
Pulling Up Roots, Pt. 2–Shedding light on things.

Pulling Up Roots, Pt. 2–Shedding light on things.

In my last post I asked the question, “How do we live in light of the fact that Jesus wants to pull up the roots of sin in our lives, not just ‘trim the weeds’ and make us look externally good?” Our Destino community finished up last semester and started this new one talking about what makes a community healthy. There is a connection between a healthy community and this pulling up the roots of sin. At our Destino Winter Conference last week, our keynote speaker described the kind of community that breeds healing as, “a place where people can be ‘naked and unashamed.’” This borrows imagery from Genesis 2:25, where Adam and Eve, having a perfectly harmonious relationship with God and with each other, didn’t hide anything about who they were. That, of course, was before sin became a part of their reality, so they had nothing to hide. Today, however, it’s a different story. We have shame and guilt from things we’ve done and things that have happened to us. We have our background and family history that we either want to hide or selectively reveal to others. We have lies and facades that we want people around us to believe.

There are a lot of things to hide and a lot of good reasons to hide them too. Our world’s main operating principle is pretty much survival of the fittest, so if you can’t be the fittest, the next best thing is to look like the fittest and hope nobody calls your bluff. Now, the Kingdom of God isn’t like that at all, but unfortunately we treat it like the rest of the world. That’s to be expected, though, because we’ve only ever known the world. But our Christian communities ought to be places where we don’t need to keep up the lies.

|I have lies, you have lies, and I’m sure we’re both tired…

Maybe part of the solution is just talking about it honestly with another person, saying, “Look, I have lies, you have lies, and I’m sure we’re both tired of keeping up with it. Let’s agree to be a safe place for each other to be honest and start to heal.” In I John 1:7, God tells us, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin.” I’m praying that in Destino, if we get nothing else accomplished, that we’d allow light to be shed on our lives, every part, and therefore start to be purified from every sin.

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

Photo Credit:  jcarlosn

Posted by Devin Tressler in Discipleship, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
Pulling Up Roots, Pt. 1

Pulling Up Roots, Pt. 1

Imagine a sin.  A sin you can’t give up.  Maybe a habit you’ve tried to kick, or a pattern you’ve tried to break.  You get new resolve every once-in-awhile to try to change, and you break free for a little while.  Or maybe you make a New Year’s resolution, and you see decent success until Martin Luther King’s birthday.

But then you fail.  Giving into the temptation feels good, but then you feel empty and shameful.  You don’t want to admit your failure, so you don’t call your friends.  But in your isolation, you lose your resolve to fight when you face temptation again.  Thus the cycle continues.

As I have seen this pattern take shape in our Destino community, I’ve been frustrated as I’ve seen people make mistakes that I’ve made.  I’ve been angry when I realize that a friend of mine is basing his actions on lies.  And I’ve wept as I’ve seen people do things that have consequences that will last a lifetime and even affect other generations.  We’ve started a conversation with our leaders about this pattern of sin, shame, and isolation, and I feel like it could be a major turning point for our community.

|Don’t just cut the fruit—pull up the root!

One of our leaders talks about sin this way:  “Don’t just cut the fruit, pull up the root.”  That is, when you see someone’s sinful behavior, remember that the most important thing is the heart.  I remember growing up there was this part of our lawn that didn’t have any grass in it–only weeds.  The yard looked great as long as you kept it mowed; the grass and weeds really looked the same so long as it was short.  But if you skipped a week with the lawn mower, you’d see crabgrass, dandelions, and thistles sprout up, and the true quality of the lawn would become evident.  Of course, just because you mowed the lawn didn’t mean it wasn’t filled with weeds–you just couldn’t see them.  To actually get rid of the weeds, you’d have to kill the root either by digging them out or with some sort of spray weed killer.  The point I’m trying to make is that sin is the fruit (or the weeds), but the real problem lies in the heart (i.e., the root system).

Jesus didn’t come to die for us so that we could trim up the weeds of sin and make them look like grass.  He wants to dig out the roots.  (Sorry, I don’t have any analogy for the spray weed killer…)

My question is, how do we live in light of this fact?  What does it mean to focus our efforts on helping people pull up the weeds of sin by the root instead of focusing on trimming the weeds and making our lives look good? On the other hand, what do we do about the poisonous fruit sin in our churches, organizations, and communities?  How should the leaders of those communities lead in not trimming the fruit but cutting out the root of sin?

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

Photo Credit:  evaekeblad

Posted by Devin Tressler in Discipleship, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments