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
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
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
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