Friends Becoming Sisters.

Friends Becoming Sisters.

While sipping her chai tea latte, Christy wasn’t surprised to look up and see two young Latinas walk into Corner Bakery instead of one. She and Laura had found a time to meet for lunch so they could get caught up on some challenging situations Laura was working through.

Christy also showed up knowing that Laura might not come alone. Through her years working with hispanic students, Christy, who’s married to a Latino, has embraced this warm culture that rarely does something, anything, alone. So it was this day, as Laura and her friend, Khrystal, sat down with Christy to eat together.

After listening to what was going on in Laura’s life, Christy shared that when she goes through difficult times, she has God with her to help her. Because Laura and Khrystal come from a traditional religious background, they easily chatted about how they’d been exposed to and taught about God since they were little. Laura was more involved in her church and youth group, while for Khrystal church was not a regular part of her family’s routine.

Even though Christy had come to encourage Laura, she knew she wanted to express to both of them the truth of how much God loved them, how Jesus died to reconnect them in relationship with God. He wanted to help Laura and Khrystal, through the power of His Spirit, to work through whatever might come into their lives. She asked if she could share the way the Bible describes how we can know God personally?

Both girls were open to discussing more. Christy explained that it’s not enough to know about God’s love, the reality of our sin and brokenness, and Christ’s death and resurrection. We have to accept God’s gracious gift of salvation. It’s an act of our will to place our faith in Christ alone.

Christy held out her pen to Laura and said, “Laura, I’m giving you my pen as a gift,” but then asked her, “So when do you actually possess this gift I’m offering you?”

Laura replied, “When I take it.” Laura and Khrystal admitted that they knew about God, but didn’t feel they had ever invited Christ into their lives to be their Lord and Savior. Christy asked them if they’d like to pray and invite Jesus to be just that.

Laura and Khrystal both said yes. So there in the Corner Bakery, with empty coffee mugs and lunch plates strewn about the table, Laura and Khrystal together prayed to Jesus, asking Him to forgive them and to come into their hearts and lives in a way He never had before. Two friends had become sisters in Christ.

Christy Lopez is on staff with Destino in New Mexico.

Photocredit: smuconlaw.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Discipleship, Outreach, 0 comments
Dear Latino College Student,

Dear Latino College Student,

Dear Latino college student,

You might not know it, but there is an army of people praying for you. You may not have the support you need at home, but there are people who believe in you. Your dad might have not been around or he might have never told you that you are loved, valuable, cherished, and that if you work hard, you can be anything you want to be. Your mom may think you are wasting your time on campus —between philosophy classes and study breaks-—while you could be working more hours at McDonald’s to help your family. I see it all in the way you walk.

You probably carry the weight of responsibility on your shoulders. Your sibilings look up to you. You are the first one in your family to ever go to college. You are the only one of your brothers that hasn’t been to jail. You are the only 18 year old in your family who isn’t preagnant or that hasn’t done drugs. You are studying hard to keep your scholarships. You’ve lost hope that your immigration status will ever change. I see it all in your big brown eyes.

Yet you wake up every morning and believe.

I know you’ve been marginalized and that you have to prove yourself. I know you hurt. Yet you wake up every morning and believe. You believe that maybe, and just maybe, today will be better than yesterday. You walk around campus and greet your classmates with the friendliest and warmest smile the world has ever seen. Like you have it easy. Like things are going to be O.K. You have experienced God in the deepests of pain, and you have found Him to be faithful. I see it all in the way you talk.

Dear latino college student, I believe in you. I believe that you will lead this nation. I believe that you have what it takes and, with God’s help and perseverance, You will succeed. For His Glory. For the good of His people.

Dear tired latino student, I pray for you. I pray that God would draw you to Himself. I pray that God would build you up and make you a man or a woman who shares the good news with his/her family and the world around you.

Dear latino college student, even if you never read this, I promise to keep showing up on campus and to keep interrupting your conversations. I promise to keep sharing the Gospel with you. I promise to keep texting you and calling you and inviting you to a Bible study. I promise to keep offering to buy you coffee to hear your story. I promise to keep pursuing you. Because God loves you too much, for me to even dare to stop.

Diana is on staff with Destino in Denver, CO.  This was originally posted on her blog, Diana La Latina.

Photo credit: Leo Hidalgo.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Academically Achieving, Culturally Connected, Outreach, 0 comments
What I’ve learned from talking about ethnicity–Part 2

What I’ve learned from talking about ethnicity–Part 2

The following post was written by an Anglo staff member ministering with Destino.

In our ministry, there are some older staff who I look up to–Latinos and Latinas who have a deep relationship with Jesus.  Over these last few years I’ve heard them share what it means for them to follow Christ specifically from the perspective of being Latino.  They have expressed a wide range of feelings:  One was on staff because he wanted to see Christ use Latinos to change the world.  Another shared that in her life there had been a time when she wanted nothing to do with her culture and thought that “Spirit-filled” and “Hispanic” were opposites.  Another had considered his ethnicity irrelevant but then came to realize that he had been intentionally created as Latino by the Lord.

In my last post, I started explaining what I’ve been learning through various conversations, interactions, and discussions about race, culture, and ethnicity.  The first thing I learned was that I myself had an ethnicity and a culture, and that I should explore exactly what that means.

One of our values in ministry is that people experience wholeness through Christ in their ethnic identity.  God has made each of us, and if we are in Christ, the Bible says we’re a new creation–He’s re-making us as well!  One aspect of the Christian life is that we are discovering more and more of who God is, as well as who we are.  There are so many dimensions of who God is, that if we spent all of eternity learning and experiencing who exactly He is, we would never finish.  We would never read the last page; we would never see the last facet of the gemstone of His character.

I believe that although we are finite creatures, there is enough to our identity as human beings to fill a lifetime with discovery of who we are.  There are the relational roles you play–father, mother, child, etc.  There are also vocational roles–the things you do for a living or do for fun.  Everyone also has a gender identity, a citizenship, and a cultural identity.  For each of these roles, a Christian at some point ought to consider, “What does Christ’s death and resurrection mean for me as a ______ ?”  Here are some identity questions we Christians tend to ask today in America:

What does it mean for me to be a man or a woman in Christ?

How does the gospel change how I act as a spouse?

How does God want me to raise my kids?

How does God want me to act toward my coworkers?

Over the past few years I’ve had the privilege of listening in as my coworkers ask, “What does it mean to be a Latino/a in Christ?”  Naturally I started asking, “What does it mean to be a white person in Christ?”

If I believe that God knit me together in the womb and ordained my going out and lying down (Psalm 139), then it follows that my place of birth, ethnicity, nationality, and culture are not happenstance.

And if God ordained it, shouldn’t I consider what the gospel entails for this area of my life?

Maybe God’s plan for me in my ethnicity has to do with redemption or healing of past hurt.  Perhaps it means recognizing where I have privilege and power that could either be used to oppress or to lift up.

If I fail to ask the question, “What does God want for me in my ethnicity,” I can still experience Christ.  Just like I can still experience Christ if I never think about what the Gospel means for me as a man, as a husband, or a father.

But I can experience deeper life in Christ the more of my identity I probe.

For example, as I learned more of what Christ wants for me as a man, I treasured that aspect of who He made me to be, and desired to be more like Him in that arena.  The same goes for every other facet of who I am.

I am convinced that considering the totality of who we are, and what God wants for each facet of our identity brings glory to God and makes us whole.  We are being transformed as we are renewed by Christ, and we transformed people are used by God to transform the world around us and announce the sure coming of the Kingdom of God.

How about you?  What does God want for you in your ethnicity or your culture?

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

Photo Credit:  John Hritz.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Culturally Connected, 0 comments
What I’ve learned from talking about Ethnicity—Part 1

What I’ve learned from talking about Ethnicity—Part 1

The following post was written by an Anglo staff member ministering with Destino.

One of the things I love about doing ministry with Destino is that we value wholeness in one’s ethnic identity.  Since our ministry’s mission is done in the context of a particular culture, we talk about culture a lot.  Let me tell you–this has been interesting for a white guy to be a part of.  I was thinking about some of the things I’ve been learning, and there were a few surprises.

I remember a time when I was really uncomfortable talking about race and ethnicity.  There’s a few reasons for this.  One of the common phrases we hear about race is “separate is inherently unequal,” from the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.  I think I had applied that to my thoughts about race and ethnicity:  different means separate, and so if we are to be equal, then we must be the same.  Another reason I’ve been afraid to talk about race and ethnicity is that I was afraid of saying something stupid or offensive.  But over the years I’ve been able to make more friends with people who are of a different ethnicity than me, and the more we’ve gotten to know each other, the more we’ve all been able to talk and ask questions about our different cultures.  It’s run the gamut from, “what’s that food called?” to “why do I feel like I’m interrupting people when I’m here?” or “why was I so offended by what so-and-so said?”  These honest conversations have blessed me greatly, and have taught me about myself, about the world, and about God.

Anyway, here’s the first lesson I’m kind of currently distilling:

I am an “ethnic”.  In my hometown there was an aisle at Walgreens for “Ethnic Hair Care Products.”  In my town that meant products that African Americans use, but that white people don’t, by and large.  At Shop ‘n Save there was also an “Ethnic Food” aisle, where one could find Bosnian canned goods, tortillas, and salsa that wasn’t Old El Paso brand.  There’s a subtle but powerful idea that the way we speak affects the way we think.  In this case, our language suggests that I am not ethnic.  On forms and documents I do have a race, but “ethnic” is reserved for people who aren’t like me.  So in other words “ethnic” means “different than me.”  Have you ever said, “I wish my culture was more interesting” or “American culture is just so boring compared to…”?  For me, I developed a love of travel and learning about different cultures, partly because I thought we were sort of devoid of culture.

My basic understanding of the world was that other cultures and customs exist beyond our borders, but they’re basically just different flavors of the way I do things.  I am the basic model, and they are the variety.

Here’s another one of my favorite phrases:  “plain ol’ vanilla.”  Vanilla’s really just the plain ice cream, am I right?  Well, if you’ve ever had good vanilla ice cream, then you know that’s wrong.  It’s actually a legitimate flavor, worth enjoying on its own for what it is.  Pistachio is not “green vanilla,” and orange sherbet is not just orange vanilla with a twist. Yet, we treat culture and ethnicity as if that were the case; as if, for example, Hispanic culture(s) were just “plain ol’ vanilla” plus some tropical fruits.

The first lesson I’ve learned about culture and ethnicity is that I have one!  To be white American actually consists of something!  If it’s the vanilla ice cream (I know…playing into the stereotype), then it’s a real flavor!  If I consider our nation’s cultural variety to be just variations on me, I disrespect my own culture’s value, and diminish all the others as well by trying to reduce them!

There are a lot of well-intentioned “we’re all basically the same” sentiments out there, but I fear that “we’re all the same” usually means “I’m normal and you’re all like me but a little different.”  Let’s face it, “you’re abnormal, but it’s ok” is really disrespectful at best, and has some destructive implications at worst.

Practically, I find it’s much more productive to talk about ethnic majority or ethnic minorities.  That keeps us honest and helps us give respect to the way we are.  I’m no more or less “normal” than my African American, Latino, Korean, or East African friends friends.  When comparing two cultures, “Which one’s normal and which is ethnic?” is the wrong question.

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

Photo credit:  Brian J. Matis.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Culturally Connected, 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  Originally posted April 20, 2012.

photo courtesy: craigcloutier

Posted by Devin Tressler in Culturally Connected, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
Wanting a Change.

Wanting a Change.

“Hi, I go to FIU but I’m not a Christian, I do want to get involved and be more connected to God. Please contact me, thanks.”

God had been working in Andrea’s life. She was spiritually hungry and searching for a different way to live. Her email went to one of Destino’s leaders, Rachel, in Miami. A few days later, Rachel, and another student, Nicole, met with Andrea.

Andrea grew up with a faith tradition that she wasn’t practicing and wanted to know more about God. As the women opened up to one another, Rachel and Nicole shared God’s message of love and forgiveness with her, and she said it was something that interested her but had a lot of questions. They began to meet regularly for more conversation.

After a few more times, Andrea asked them how God could guide her life. They told her He needed to be in her life to be her guide. She also wondered how she could become a better person. Rachel replied, “The only way to become a better person is if God changes you. You need to ask Him to come into your life and make you the kind of person He wants you to be. Is that something you want to do?”

Andrea didn’t hesitate for a second. She was ready for His solutions and gave her life to Christ.

Over the next six weeks, Andrea eagerly learned more about what it means to walk with Christ. Not only that, she sought out community through a Bible study and weekly campus gatherings.

For a week, the students focused on looking for ways to share their faith stories. Andrea was nervous, yet trusted God to help her join in. She spoke with several people, and one guy came to the group as a result.

When God’s changing your life, and you see Him at work, you want to share it with others. That’s what Andrea’s experiencing as God uses her to influence other students.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Outreach, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
How Can I Live a Godly Life?

How Can I Live a Godly Life?

“How Can I Live a Godly Life?”

That’s a great question for believers as we’re growing spiritually.

Have you ever said, “I want to live for God, but I just keep messing up!” Or, “I’m sure if I just try harder then I’ll get it right”?

Tyrell is a Destino student with whom you could relate! He was asking these questions. He and his mentor, Matt, agreed that it’s because of Jesus that we’re made right with the Father, not by our self-effort. So then Tyrell’s next question was,

“Am I ready to surrender control of my life to Jesus Christ?
What would you say?

Tyrell admitted, “I want to say no because I don’t feel like I have it all together, but…it seems like that’s the point. I won’t ever be able to do it on my own. So yes, I’m ready to surrender control of my life to Jesus.”

You can check out the resource that was helping Tyrell understand how to live out his faith. It’s called Satisfied? It helps explain the significance and importance of the Holy Spirit and His role in our lives.

Tyrell prayed that through faith he’d be filled with the Spirit and empowered to live a life honoring to God. He’s gone from being unsure of how to live for God, sometimes even doubting his salvation, to being confident in Jesus Christ and trusting in the Spirit to guide him through life!

Photo credit: Michael Foley

Posted by Devin Tressler in Discipleship, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
He wants you as you are.

He wants you as you are.

“Last year I went to Destino’s Fall Retreat for the first time. There I decided I wanted God to be my Lord and savior. I’d been thinking that I had to get my life together, but Jesus doesn’t want you to get your life perfect, He wants you as you are.

I realized no matter how hard I tried I’d never be perfect. Trying to become perfect before God is an impossible dream. God accepts us as we are, and then He does His work inside us. It was after this realization that I decided to give my life to Him.

At Fall Retreat 2015, Ruben shared the story of how his life was changed, and was ready to be baptized. Over the year he helped a Destino staff member lead a men’s Bible study.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Discipleship, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
Wendy’s Story

Wendy’s Story

A woman came to speak to my basketball team after practice one night in December. She talked about us being physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, and that the best athletes are growing in all those areas.

My family went to church every week, but I wasn’t doing much about that side of my life. When I sat down with her later, she asked me what I thought would happen if I crossed the street and got hit by a car and died. I said I’d go to heaven because that’s what I’d heard in church. But that night, alone in my room, I wondered how can you know? What if, despite my best efforts, I wasn’t good enough?

I started to hang out with some Christians who seemed like they really knew God, like it made a difference in their day-to-day life. I learned that I could be sure about things like heaven and my purpose in life by having a one-to-one relationship with God.  

I’d always thought it was like a giant scale, if I did enough good things to outweigh the bad, I was “in” with Him. But they explained that no one is good enough, we’re all separated from a relationship with God.

The great news is that He didn’t leave us there; He loved me so much He sent Jesus as a GIFT to connect me back to God. “So that’s it!” I’d never really understood my need for Jesus (other than the occasional “Help me!”) or why people said they were saved—saved from what?! Suddenly I understood that I was saved from that separation and always trying to be good enough.

What a phenomenal Christmas present I received that year, when Jesus’ GIFT of forgiveness and new life became mine.

Wendy is on staff with Destino in Indiana.

Photo credit:  kris_mouser-brown.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Outreach, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
Destino Winter Conference—Who God Made Me to Be.

Destino Winter Conference—Who God Made Me to Be.


Fabiola grew up going to church, loving the traditions. Her abuela would say, “Every little prayer is a step closer to heaven,” so Fab’s faith centered on praying and being a “good girl.” When she was nine, Fab’s family came to the U.S. She set out to prove she was American. “I didn’t want anything to do with being Mexican or singled out as Latina, so I assimilated quickly.” She learned English, made American friends almost exclusively, forgot about church and took up American hobbies like dance team.

In college, Fab enjoyed a good party. Then she’d go to a Christian group to still “do the right thing.”

God used a conference that Fab attended to speak truth that opened her heart:  Jesus died to forgive her because of His great love for her. “I thought of God as a bossy god who just wanted us to pray and not have any fun. But I was believing things that weren’t true.”

Then God used another conference, Destino’s Winter Conference, in Fab’s life. There, she learned He made her the way she is. He made her “brown” for a reason. “He very purposefully made me who I am, how I am. I sat there surrounded by people like me, and it was OK. Being Latina was actually celebrated!”

“I came to know the Lord at a conference; He spoke to me about my ethnic identity at Destino Winter Conference. You can go to get away, hang with friends, as something to do…lots of reasons, yet what a great place to grow!”  

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