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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
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
Sharing the Gospel through Día de los Muertos

Sharing the Gospel through Día de los Muertos

The smell of cempasuchitl (Mexican marigolds) would often take over the busyness and pollution of the city. It signified the beginning of a colorful celebration that I did not fully understand, but certainly enjoyed.  As a child, Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), was a moment to remember those who had gone before us. It served as a tribute. As a young teenager, Día de los Muertos, served as a tool to humorously deal with realities we could not overcome.

Through altars and short poems, sorrows and anecdotes were expressed in a cheerful tone during this season and out of fear many mocked death in an effort to overcome it, if only momentarily. Doing so alleviated the harsh realities of a broken world and of an imminent destiny.

Regardless of the many perceptions of this celebration, I think Día de los Muertos today can serve in bridging many to Jesus. I want to challenge us to point out the glimpse of the greater story of life in this celebration.

Perhaps behind this tradition there is a sense that death is not how things ought to be, that it is contrary to our existence. What if we spoke truth into the evident need to overcome death?

Maybe we are the ones who could complete the story though sharing about the One who overcame death so that things are what they ought to be.

|Maybe we are the ones who could complete the story though sharing about the One who overcame death so that things are what they ought to be.

In your campus, there might be a Día de los Muertos celebration, where different groups or individuals set up “altares”. This might be a great place to meet Latinos and to engage in significant spiritual conversations as the topics of spirituality and death are easy to come up.

I have seen “altares” (display tables with relevant artifacts) to remember loved ones, to make a statement about ideas or philosophies or to humorously deal with realities.

An altar to the dying economy would be an example of humorously dealing with realities that are hard to overcome.

Last year at a campus in Southern California students decided to make an altar with colorful paper representing different aspects of the gospel, much like a gospel bracelet. Every time, someone came by to ask them what the topic of their altar was they shared the gospel through explaining each of the color specific levels.

Sandy, @itsovalle, served for several years with Destino in Texas and California.  She has a heart for creating multicultural communities of belonging where foreign-born and native-born people can experience the kingdom of God together. She believes God uses displacement and migration as essential catalysts to carry out his mission. Currently working at World Relief, Sandy empowers churches and communities to engage their immigrant and refugee neighbors

photo courtesy: Bea Ibarra

Posted by Devin Tressler in Culturally Connected, Outreach, 0 comments
Who Decides What It Means To Be Latino/a?

Who Decides What It Means To Be Latino/a?

 Hispanic Heritage month is well under way on many campuses around the nation, but not here on this commuter campus. No mariachi band playing, no people handing out free paletas, and no grito.

Here, where Latin@s are t the majority of the student body for the first time, students are having discussions about what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them:

“It serves as a means of grouping the other.”  They shared as they wrestled with different ideas. They asked: “Who celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month growing up?” The room was silent as someone offered up more thoughts on having someone outside the group define traditions and assign holidays to them.

While many different Latin American countries celebrate their independence during this 30 day period many argue that the term Hispanic negates the Afro-Latin heritage of many Latinos/as.

As I watched this discussion unfold, I could not help but think these students are on to something. They have an understanding and insight into their culture and into power dynamics that many miss.

I went to a university where 10% of of the student population at the time was Latino/a. Hispanic Heritage Month consisted of a series of events: a banquet and a carnival. Most Latino/a student leaders on campus would show up to the banquet and most Latino/a student organizations had a booth at the carnival.

We were but a small minority of  the student body, our voice on campus and in the city was not a strong one. We had but few spaces to ponder on what this month meant or who we were. Aside from two Professors who headed the Latin-American Studies Program, there were not many opportunities to dialogue about issues of identity.

A lot of the discussion I witnessed earlier centered on the issue of identity and who gets to define identity. How cool would it be for a similar discussion to happen in the context of a Destino Movement? What if we provided avenues to help students embark on a journey to find who they are in Christ as Latinos/as?

Our ethnic journey is a large part of our identity journey. I have come to believe that we honor God when we are who He made us to be, including our unique ethnicity.

Our ethnic journey is a large part of our identity journey.
I have come to believe that we honor God when we are who
He made us to be, including our unique ethnicity.

He desired diversity when he asked people to fill the earth. He was not pleased with people grouping as one and building the tower of Babel and He gave them many tongues and scattered them. He will one day have representatives from each tribe, people, nation and tongue before His throne. It seems to me like culture might be important, stay tuned for the upcoming Cross-Cultural training.

What have you observed on your campus? How is the Latino and Hispanic population diverse there?  How are Latinos/Latinas defining themselves there? How about the community in your city?

Sandy, @itsovalle, served for several years with Destino in Texas and California.  She has a heart for creating multicultural communities of belonging where foreign-born and native-born people can experience the kingdom of God together. She believes God uses displacement and migration as essential catalysts to carry out his mission. Currently working at World Relief, Sandy empowers churches and communities to engage their immigrant and refugee neighbors

photo courtesty: jaygalvin

Posted by Devin Tressler in Culturally Connected, 0 comments