Celebrating with your family of choice is just as important or maybe even more important as celebrating with DNA family. Yes, that distinction needs to be made.
In 2015, the Pew Research Center did a study that documented the reality that most of us already knew. The American family is changing. Divorces are up, two-parent households are down, single parent households are up and family dynamics are as complicated as ever. Another study stated that there is alot of family dysfunction in America and more and more articles like this one are being written because there is a chance that you or someone you know has had to learn how to deal with toxic family members.
But I don't want to waste time talking about all that. I simply want to point out the fact that all families do not look like the Hallmark movie you just watched yesterday. This is the time of year, the beginning of the holiday season, when many of us long for that ideal family gathering. Yeah, but uh no. Not everyone has a family to gather with and some rather not gather with the family they do have for a variety of reasons. Families are complicated. And that's why Friendsgiving matters so much.
Gathering with people who actually like you maybe even love you is always better than just gathering with people just because you share DNA but don't like or love you as shown by behaviors, attitudes, etc. For me, this is not about the Christian forgiveness "talk" it is about mental health. Many people I know have forgiven or have asked to be forgiven. But they still don't feel like they can even tolerate one night together without a fight or without having to fake a smile. Who wants to spend holidays like that?
Friendsgiving with people who either already like and love you or people who you are interested in getting to know deeper is a way of having a community that everyone needs. Everyone wants to be known and accepted for who they are, baggage and all.
Friendsgiving celebrations have become more popular as of late and they are all done very differently but they are all done with the hope of not only sharing a meal but sharing our heart.
My friend Silvia started a tradition last year of hosting Friendsgiving for her friends. I actually look forward to it as it starts my holiday season festivities but more importantly, like family we have seen many sides of each other and we have CHOSEN to work things out, forgive, start again, believe in the gift of friendship and stay connected because we each mattered to the other.
Choosing a person and working on relationship is not easy and many family members simply do not know how to do it and won't put in the work on themselves to learn. Many family members do not know how to start over. They only know how to tear down perhaps because that's all that they have seen in a family that is used to talking about each other or whatever drama that particular family is good for. And you see, to be a healthy family or have healthy friendships and relationships in general, you are going to need to learn how to start over.
Friendsgiving is sometimes a person's way to start over. With a new set of family and friends or a way to dig deeper in building those relationships. Silvia always does an amazing job of setting the environment and even giving her guests a gift as they leave to remind them just how special she thinks they are. Friendsgiving with Silvia reminds me that I am not unloveable, that I am valued and celebrated for whatever it is I bring to her life. Sometimes gathering with DNA family reminds you of the opposite - all the mistakes you've made, how unforgivable you are, how you no longer fit the picture they want to see of you. No one who values their mental health would willingly put themselves in that kind of toxic environment.
Soooooo, Friendsgiving matters to some of us because those friends are our chosen family. For some, their chosen family is people from church. That's actually how many of these folks became fam to me. Some I knew from my home church in NYC and we go way back to teen years and others I met here in my pastoring days and we are still connected. Thrilled about that.
As I go into the last few weeks of the year, I am settling in on what is and not on what is not in my life. So every opportunity I feel driven to connect with folks, I'm doing it. Do you host a Friendsgiving? How do you go out of your way to connect with those you love or look forward to getting to know?
This Sunday, I'm coordinating a Friendsgiving through the church I attend in this season of my life. It's open to anyone who is seeking community and/or is part of the church and wants to connect outside of just a wave on Sunday. If any of this reasonates with you, I hope you'll consider attending. Regardless of your story and your 'family' story, regardless of whether you have tons of friends or not, if you know another friend or two would make your life even sweeter, come on out. Register here. Maybe you will see why a yearly Friendsgiving will matter to you too! Hoping to meet you and make sure you come up to me!
With 58 million Hispanics in the U.S. according to a Pew Research Study and the second fastest growing racial group, a study on Hispanic Church Planting was in order. That study conducted by Lifeway Research was released on July 2019 found here and there were some surprises that a few of my friends and colleagues have already written on. Such articles can be found here and here. But since the release of the study, I also found some surprises that has kept me thinking. One that I would like to elaborate on is my first surprise. Stay with me.
When we were told the survey was going to denominational planters represented by the study's advisory council that consisted of representatives from Assemblies of God, Baptist Missionary Association of America, Converge, Evangelical Free Church of America, Vineyard and others, I was sure we would get a range of ages.
The first surprise was that the planters who actually took the time to do the survey that was sent to a broad number of people across denominations were for the most part (80%) first generation, Spanish-speaking immigrants over 50 years old who identified predominately as Mexicans (24%). Seven out of ten of them (70%) started their church plants with the intention of reaching "ALL" Hispanic people and 64% of them were conducting services only in Spanish. Not so surprising was that 24% of the new church plants surveyed were in my new adopted home state of Florida.
My first thought was obviously that we need to do another study! I know way too many church planters who could have given us some crucial information but they either did not get the survey or did not think they fit the "criteria" to answer it. Which brings me to my second thought that there are many Hispanics who do not see themselves first as Hispanics or even as exclusively planting Hispanic churches. The survey also revealed that 73% of the first gen, immigrant churches had no plans to transition to English. Only 22% said they were considering either adding an English service or going to a bilingual service.
So here are the issues I have:
Juan Francisco Martinez shares the complexities of the Hispanic reality in his book, Walk with the People. It has served as a teaching tool for me with planters seeking to work with or plant Hispanic churches. There are a number of Latino Sub-Cultures that anyone looking to plant should be aware of. As has been said and written about extensively, Hispanics are not a monolith. The training of our church plant organizations have to help planters define who they are targeting and if they say, “we want to plant a Hispanic church” a new kind of training must take place where they can identify the various levels of Hispanic culture and identities. Rodriguez identifies seven types of identities in our culture:
I think it is time church planters (even Hispanic ones) know who they are and who their target population is. Take the time to identify the Hispanic in your Hispanic church planting dream so that you as the planter have a chance at succeeding with your goal and the myriad of Hispanics looking for a church that gets them can find you. They find you when you know the language they speak and how they identify in the complex world of Hispanic ministry. I am rooting for you!
 See Daniel A. Rodriguez, A Future for the Latino Church: Models for Multilingual, Multigenerational Hispanic Congregations (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Press), 16.
 See Juan Francisco Martinez, Walk with the People: Latino Ministry in the United States (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock), 5-8.
"No longer satisfied with easy answers, I started asking harder questions." -RHE
Today the world woke up to the news that Rachel Held Evans (known simply by the acronym of RHE), a popular progressive Christian author died at the young age of 37! I literally gasped then cried for a solid hour as my husband watch and asked, "Liz, what what happened?" I couldn't even get it out. Eventually I explained, "a woman who impacted my life greatly is dead."
It was just a few weeks ago, on April 14th when she sent a tweet out into the twitterverse that she was at the hospital with a bad reaction to antibiotics and she was bummed she was going to miss Game of Thrones. Today, I had to re-read the statement her husband had posted on the medical update blog that was started to keep her fans and followers abreast of her condition. Reporters have already tried to encapsulate the life and impact that was RHE...Washington Post, Religion News Service, and others.
RHE had a profound impact on my spiritual journey. She was there when I was asking the questions many others were asking and made me feel welcomed in a world of uncertainty. Troubling for a person who was told all her life that when it came to her theology x equaled y with certainty. I don't remember how I found her but I remember that I was grateful I had. Finding her helped me find another tribe that have kept me believing in God even while in deconstruction. Additionally, I was honored to be on book launch team for her last book, Inspired. But this post is not written to do what others are already doing. They are much better qualified for that. What I want to do is ask a question.
What can we learn from this particular life gone too soon?
We are all used to talking about the great impact of people after they leave us. It's what we do and yes, it is honorable to do that. But as I reflect on the life of RHE, I believe we need to reflect on what she did that moved us so and then commit to doing the next right thing, in this way, we keep her legacy alive.
One of the biggest things I admired about her was her guts. I didn't know her personally, so I can't speak to the characteristics of her persona that someone up close could. But as a distant observer of her life, as a reader of her books, I can say this young 37 year old woman had the guts to go up against the machine that we know of as white evangelicalism without flinching. She was going to battle before any of us know there was a war going on. She was writing fighting words before anyone even knew she was there. But then one day, everyone noticed. Who is this RHE? She's fighting for truth. She's fighting for inclusion. She's fighting for the right to ask questions that we were told should never be asked. She was saying it is ok to leave what you have always known because it no longer feeds your soul and makes no theological sense. We found in her a champion. We found in her a warrior. We found in her a person who was willing to take the hard hits for US so that the dialogue could stay open. So that the "machine of evangelicalism" could take notice that she was not merely speaking for herself but many.
Here's what I think we can learn from her life gone too soon...
There will never be an RHE. That is the beauty of the way God creates us. Unique in design. Distinct in our contribution to the world. But now as we mourn the incredible, courageous life of this life gone too soon, as we sit with our feelings trying to understand yet again, how this fits into God's story for our world, we have to ask ourselves what part of Rachel will I take with me as I continue to walk the path of Jesus as people of the way. What part of her work will I pick up and add to? How can I in my own simple way honor her memory?
What would you say you can learn from this life gone too soon?
When we feel a tug on our heart and a stirring in our soul for more that is usually God's way of getting our attention. The thing is, once He has it, He will also usually point us in a direction that is way outside of our comfort zone. And if we are honest, we are often afraid to venture past our comfort zone, aren't we? Outside our comfort zone is where we experience the true awesomeness of God. Just take the plunge and say yes!
That one word has an extraordinary power to change our life forever and have eternal consequences.“By an act of faith, Abraham said YES to God's call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going!” (Heb. 11:8, MSG)
When I have tried to say yes to the many things I feel God leading me to do, I’ve always felt way out of my comfort zone. I have said yes to things that turned out to be amazing and some things that turned out to be flops. However, all of my yes's were lessons and although, I may have had a hard time with some of them, I regret none of them. Thank goodness I am not the only one who said yes to something with no clue about where it would lead or where I was I going.
If you read through the Bible about all the men and women who decided to say “yes” to God, you will find that it was always a task that came with a side of crazy. Let’s see, there was:
Noah had the choice of building an ark or not. He said yes!
Moses stood before the burning bush, knowing that listening to God would put his life in danger. He said yes!
Mary, in the midst of what was perceived to be a scandalous situation, said yes and broke out into song singing, “my soul magnifies the Lord.”
Though I don’t exactly recall saying yes quickly or busting out in Elizabeth’s Magnificat, I did say yes. All of us who say yes to this crazy, rollercoaster ride called church planting, that first pulpit preaching, leave our jobs and trust God for our income or anything else for the kingdom have entered into an extraordinary faith journey. We are saying yes to the story He is creating in our hearts and through our abilities, dreams, and faithfulness. It’s not just a special story—it’s an extraordinary one that each of us, with God, will experience together.
God asks plain, ordinary people like you and me to join Him in an adventure. He finds us in overlooked places and expects us to do extraordinary things. God issues us an invitation to a fuller life that makes a difference.
By saying, “yes” to God we are essentially saying that He is the most important thing in our lives, and that we trust Him even though we have no idea how things will turn out or where we will end up. I most recently said yes to being on a national council (to be revealed later) that I honestly didn't feel qualified for mostly because I'm a brown girl in a white world and imposter syndrome creeps up when we say yes to walk into the spaces where we usually don't see too many that look like us. However, saying yes will be your greatest act of faith on this journey.
It took me longer than it should have to say “yes,” to my most recent invitation and when I think of it, many others. As I look back now, with the perspective that comes with time, I realize that God has been asking me to trust Him even when I couldn’t trace Him. I also know I got to this point because a single “yes” naturally leads to the next one.
By continually saying yes to God, we can have the satisfaction of knowing that we made a life-altering decision that will have eternal consequences not only for our own lives, but also for the generations that follow us and for every person that we come into contact with through the work that we do for the kingdom.
Remember that fact when the work gets tough, when the world gets colder and when the ones that were supposed to be by your side walk away. The satisfaction you will experience is similar to that of the Apostle Paul who near the end of his life, knew he had “fought the good fight, finished the race. and kept the faith.”
So let’s celebrate that we went beyond our comfort zone and said yes to God. We are a group of world changers even if no one ever knows our name beyond our local tribe. By saying yes, you altered destiny. Lives have been and will be transformed. Hell will lose souls while heaven will gain them. Light will win over darkness. And that, my dear friends, is all because of the life-altering, eternal consequence of one simple word…YES.
This Independence Day, I'm going to celebrate the Brown that makes America Great. William H. Lamar IV, a preacher from Hyattsville, MD reminded people a few years ago via a Huffpost article that we actually have the right not to celebrate on July 4th. In it he asked: "How can I celebrate liberty with bondage — economic bondage, educational bondage, political bondage, health care bondage, and religious bondage — all around me?"
So instead I am opting to celebrate the Brown people among us who are fighting the good fight. Standing up and raising their voice through various mediums to continue to advocate for all people in America. Perhaps you know some of them, perhaps not, but would you join me in sharing a thank you to them for what they do, where they do it and for whom they do it for? I know most of the people on this list and have been blessed to work with, under or alongside many of them. By no means is this an exhaustive list and I realize that so don't get crazy. I would just love for you to know them. I get it when people say "I hate lists" because inevitably someone gets left out. I did leave out folks that I think are famous - meaning get alot of exposure and is usually the person everyone goes to as "the" person that speaks for "all brown evangelical people". No one really does. There are so many of us doing great things so I want to showcase the ones that usually do not have a light shone on them. The whole purpose of this list is to help my friends know some of my other friends, mentors or people I simply admire.
However, if you know of others that you feel is doing great things, I would love for you to comment and let me know who they are. It's just a way for more people to know of others they may not have heard about and maybe even support. We good? Ladies and Gents, I present to you my Just Us League List. Please do share this list so your friends can know these folks too.
The Frontrunners (They Laid the Foundation)
Rev. Dr. Raymond Rivera
Rev. Ray founded the Latino Pastoral Action Center (LPAC) in 1992, which started as a division of the Manhattan-based NYC Mission Society, the city’s oldest and largest social service agency. He's the author of the book Liberty to the Captives: Our Call to Minister in a Captive World and is the Board Chairman of the National Latino Evangelical Coaliton (NaLEC). He is beloved in the urban ministry community for his contributions to field and his model of holistic ministry. He was my boss for 10 years and I consider him one of my Spiritual Dads and mentor in the work of justice.
Rev. Cortes founded Esperanza in Philadelphia in 1987 after seeing the prevalence of poverty, addiction, and homelessness among the Hispanic community in Hunting Park. The goal of Esperanza is to strengthen Philadelphia’s Hispanic community through economic, social, and educational development programs — for example, one-on-one housing counseling, a legal service for low-income immigrants that has helped naturalize 90 new American citizens, and a job training program that serves 2,500 welfare recipients each year.
Noel leads the charge at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). He has worked in full-time ministry in Latino urban communities since 1982, serving in youth ministry, church planting, advocacy, and community development in San Francisco, San Jose, and Chicago. Noel was the founding pastor of Chicago’s La Villita Community Church. He has a deep passion to serve and invest in the lives of leaders committed to serving the poor. Noel is the coauthor of A Heart for the Community and New Models for Urban and Suburban Ministry and has contributed to various other books and publications including Deep Justice in a Broken World, A Heart for the City, and Crazy Enough to Care. He and his wife, Marianne, have three children and make their home in the barrio of La Villita in Chicago. Update: Noel no longer serves as CCDA Executive Director but we know that his next step will include being a blessing in the area of community development.
Practitioners & Pastors (Continuing the Work)
Rev. Dr. Gabriel & Pastor Jeannette Salguero
Rev. Gabriel Salguero and his wife, Rev. Jeanette Salguero, are senior associate pastors at Calvario City Church in the Orlando, FL area. Rev. Gabriel Salguero is the founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) which offers an important leadership voice for the close to 8 million Latino evangelical in our country. Rev Dr. Gabriel Salguero is a graduate of Rutgers University with a B.A. in History and Spanish. A member of Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society. He also has an M.Div (magna cum laude) from New Brunswick Theological Seminary and did PhD work in Christian Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Salguero also received a Doctor in Divinity (honoris causa) from Eastern Nazarene College in Massachusetts.
Lisa Trevino Cummins
Lisa founded Urban Strategies out of her desire to make a difference within communities in need.
In 2001, Lisa was recruited to help launch the White House Faith and Community-Based Initiative. During her two-year tenure, Lisa was instrumental in creating initiatives that welcomed small community and faith-based organizations, advocated for increased accountability of federal resources, and encouraged the removal of barriers that prevent new entrants into the federal funding stream. Since leaving the White House, Lisa has been a catalyst for several initiatives that have resulted in more than $40 million in new programming primarily focused on the Latino community.
Lisa earned her BS in Accounting from Trinity University San Antonio and her MBA from University of Texas in San Antonio. She currently serves on the boards of the Christian Community Development Association, the Seed Company, World Vision, and the Latino Advisory Group for the Campaign to Prevent Unwanted and Teen Pregnancies. Lisa, her husband, and their three children reside in the Washington, DC area
Minerva Garza Carcaño
Bishop Minerva is the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the episcopacy of The United Methodist Church (UMC), The second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States. She also serves as the leader of the United Methodist Church's Immigration Task Force.
Sandra Maria Van Opstal
Sandra is a second-generation Latina, pastors at Grace and Peace Community on the west-side of Chicago. She is a preacher, liturgist and activist who re-imagining the intersection of worship and justice.
She's worked with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, mobilizing thousands of college students for God’s mission of reconciliation and justice in the world.
Sandra’s influence has also reached many others through her leadership and preaching on topics such of worship and formation, justice, racial identity and reconciliation, and global mission. Sandra serves as a board member for Evangelicals for Justice and the Christian Community Development Association. Sandra holds a Masters of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois and has been published in multiple journals. She has authored God’s Graffiti Devotional, Still Evangelical, The Mission of Worship and The Next Worship. She is married to Karl and has one son, Justo.
Rev. Dr. Michael Carrion
Michael Carrion serves as the Senior Pastor and General Overseer of the Promised Land Covenant Churches located in the North and South Bronx. He serves as the founding Chairman and Superintendent of the Bronx Academy of Promise K-8 Charter School in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx; Dr. Carrion also serves as the Regional Coach for Church Planting and Development for the East Coast Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church. His family consists of his wife, Elizabeth, five children, three grandchildren and three pitbulls. Pastor Mike resides in the Bronx.
Theologians, Educators & Thought Leaders (Molding Minds)
Elizabeth Conde Frazier
Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier was the Academic Dean and Vice President of Education at Esperanza College of Eastern University until recently. This month, Asociación para la Educación Teológica Hispana (AETH) announced that Dr. Conde Frazier will be serving as their Coordinator of Theological Institute Relations. Previously she was a professor of religious education at the Claremont School of Theology and taught Hispanic Latino/a theology at the Latin American Bible Institute. She was also founder of the Orlando E. Costas Hispanic and Latin American Ministries Program at Andover Newton Theological School where she developed programs for ministers and lay leaders including youth. She is a mentor to Latino/a scholars and leaders of the church and has written in the areas of multicultural education, practical theology, theological education, Christian higher education in the urban setting, Participatory action research, the spirituality of the scholar and Evangélica theology. She has been a mentor to me personally and was the first to open the door of opportunity to me in academic writing. She continues to push me. She's like the big sister I never had and I appreciate her immensely.
Joanne Solis Walker
Rev. Dr. Joanne is an ordained minister of The Wesleyan Church in the Florida District and serves as Assistant Dean Global Theological Education at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, where she also teaches as an adjunct professor. Dr. Solis-Walker is committed to the formation of Hispanic-Latino/Latina pastors and leaders. She also earned a Ph.D. in organizational leadership and development from Regent University, holds a Master of Divinity with a focus on pastoral studies/theology from Asbury Theological Seminary and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology-Industrial Psychology from the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico.She is married to Rev. Dan Walker and they have a miracle daughter, Adriana Nicole. The Walkers recently relocated to Indiana from Florida.
Rev. Alexia does so much I was not sure which category she fit best! I was recently introduced to her due to my own work for my dissertation and she was so willing to share her work. Rev. Alexia Salvatierra is the author with Dr. Peter Heltzel of “Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World” (Intervarsity Press) and the founder of the Faith-Rooted Organizing UnNetwork.. She is a Lutheran Pastor with over 35 years of experience in community ministry, including church-based service and community development programs, congregational and community organizing, and legislative advocacy.
Dr. Robert Chao Romero
A few months ago in researching for my dissertation I came across this scholar's book, Jesus for Revolutionaries. Then last month, my former boss, spiritual dad and mentor actually met him at a conference and told me I need to speak to him. I reached out and he was so down to earth. He's not only a scholar but a practitioner with a new non-traditional church based out of Jesus for Revolutionaries book.
With a Mexican father from Chihuahua and a Chinese immigrant mother from Hubei in central China, Romero’s dual cultural heritage serves as the basis for his academic studies. His research examines Asian immigration to Latin America, as well as the large population of “Asian-Latinos” in the United States. His first book, The Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940 (2010), tells the forgotten history of the Chinese community in Mexico. The Chinese in Mexico received the Latina/o Studies Section Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association. Drawing upon his background as attorney, Romero’s second area of research examines the legal history of Chicano/Latino segregation as well as immigration law and policy. His most recent research explores the role of spirituality in Chicana/o social activism. He recently wrote a book to be published on the Brown Church and we are excited about what the church at large will learn about Latinos and our role in church and society.
Romero received his J. D. from UC Berkeley and his Ph.D. in Latin American history from UCLA.
Rev. Dr. Jules A. Martinez-Olivieri has a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has five years of academic teaching experience and 14 years of pastoral ministry experience in the USA and Puerto Rico.
Dr. Martinez served as Assistant Professor of Theology at the Seminario Teológico de Puerto Rico. He is an Adjunct Professor of Religion and Theology at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, the Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Nyack Theological Seminary, and Seminario Teológico Centroamericano (SETECA) in Guatemala. Among his recent publications is A Visible Witness: Christology, Liberation and Participation in Latin American Protestant Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016. He blogs over at Theodrama.com.
Juliany González Nieves
Juliany is an Puerto Rican evangélica fourth-year M.Div. student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. Her interests include systematic theology, Majority World theologies, and discipleship. She is a blogger and I know we will see much more from this wise Latina.
Young Bloods - a new emerging force
Rev. Enid Almanzar
Enid Almanzar is the director of scripture engagement at American Bible Society, a 200-year-old ministry that works to make the Bible available and alive for people in the most difficult circumstances around the world. She recently was installed as the Assistant Pastor of Civic Engagement at my home church in NYC, Primitive Christian Church. Rev. Enid lives in New Jersey with her husband Samuel and two children.
Pastor Dan Prada (Cuban Costa Rican) is a local South Florida radical pastor preaching truth from the pulpit of Heartway Church in Davie Fl. He's sharing on topics in ways that SoFlo has never seen. I am a full-fledged fan of this young pastor who is authentic, transparent and is simply about Jesus and Justice (my two favs). A church filled with millennials, he is a pastor on his way to major impact in the Broward county area and beyond. He graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry Leadership, and from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity. He has served in a multitude of ministerial capacities over the years, including several pastoral and chaplaincy positions in both mega-churches and non-profit organizations. Pastor Danny is also in the process of working towards his Doctor of Ministry degree at Fuller Theological Seminary. Update: I recently decided to make this my home church in Florida and look forward to serving here as it grows in its development as a JUST church.
David Rosa Jr.
I was introduced to Pastor David (a fellow Boricua) by a mutual friend and when I saw what he was doing in his church, I knew he would shake the foundations of Hollywood. David knows the streets because he came from the streets. Drugs, violence and poverty is whee he says his story began and although he dropped out of school in the 7th grade, he eventually returned to finish and be trained as a church planter. With his drive to #PoundTheConcrete and his commitment to justice, I am sure Hollywood and surrounding areas will be positively impacted for the Kingdom.
I am always proud when my fellow Brown brothers and sisters believe for great things and attempt great things for God. It isn't easy doing what any of these folks do, so when possible, support their efforts. Go to a special event, show up on a Sunday and say hi, donate to a cause. While there are many working for the kingdom, sometimes we need to take a moment and support our own. We simply do not do that enough. Sometimes it even feels like JUST US. So... pray for them, invest in them, or join them. But whatever you do, don't ignore them.
A friend of mine posted on her Facebook page a while back that life is not easy, although social media makes it look as if it is. She then went into a detailed account of how some of her days look "behind the veil." As I read her post, I immediately was reminded of something an inner circle chica had told me once. She said, "Liz, you make it look easy. People think you are able to do all you have done because you are just smarter or haven't had the trials some of us have had." To which I replied, "that is absolutely not so." She then said, "well how would we know. You don't share your struggles." I never forgot that talk. Since that time, I have been very intentional about sharing defeats as well as wins. With social media nowadays, our failures are usually very much on display for all to see. But today, I thought I'd share again.
I was raised by a single mom who struggled to raise two daughters. The extent to which I still only imagine because she was not one to share her pain or struggles, always opting to show herself strong in an effort to raise strong daughters. My half sister and I are seven years apart. We are similar in that we have both fought for what we now have. None of us was handed anything in life. I don't remember much of my dad. Although I do know he left my mom with nothing when I was two. A "religious" man, a store front church preacher, he was also violent. My mom has a scar on her arm as evidence from his barber toolkit.
Much of my early life is a haze. I guess my brain did its best to protect me from pain. Anyway, being a child of a single parent was not a picnic. Economically, we struggled. In the religious community, one that celebrated two parent homes, we were shall we say "not celebrated." I used to dread both Mother's day and Father's Day as a teen. Why? Because my mom did not come to Jesus until late in life thus she was not in church attendance when I was until much later. So every Mother's Day, when they called the mother's up with their families, I was alone. I would encourage myself by telling myself that "at least I had a mother in my life." On Father's Day, alone again, I felt worse because I could not tell myself "at least I had a Father in my life."
Most of my teachers did the absolute minimal work in class and I never heard an encouraging word. As a matter of fact, I remember in 10th grade at my high school, I would skip school because as a "church girl" I could not wear pants and was not seen as a cool chick. One day the guidance counselor called my mom and told her of my absences and told her to come in. I was called down to her office to find my mother there. I was then part of what seemed to be an hour long lecture on why I would NOT pass my Regent's exam and why I would NOT go to the next grade. Guess what? I not only passed my Regent's with flying colors, I also went to 11th grade. I never liked people telling me what I could or could not do based on THEIR opinion. That always served as fuel for me to exceed expectations.
In my book, Don't Buy The Lie: Eradicating False Belief Systems that Keep You From Your Destiny I share how even in the church some folks thought I would not amount to much because of a silly teenage mistake. Let's just say, I proved them wrong too.
Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves of just how powerful we can be if we unite in the fight, which in this case is the resistance against unjust policies that are continually hurting the black and brown communities of the world. We are brown. We are Latinx. We are here to stay.
While the United States is heading toward a time where there will be “no clear ethnic majority, at this present time, it is the nation’s largest community of color at 25 percent of the population, followed by African Americans at 12.7 percent. By the year 2050, the Latinx population is expected to exceed 100 million individuals. While there are some in society that view all of the Latinx community as Mexicans, the reality is that there are many subgroups. There are Mexican, Honduran, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Cuban, Chilean, Dominican, Colombian, Argentinian, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, Ecuadorian, Bolivian, Peruvian, Panamanian, Costa Rican, Nicaraguan to name just a few. Each community has its own ethnic, political, racial, socio-economic, linguistic, and cultural diversity.
Older research places the Latinx population in the larger metropolitan areas in what is known as gateway cities including Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Chicago. However, a 2016 Pew Research Center study found that from the 1990s onward the Latinx community were bypassing these traditional gateway cities due to available jobs and affordable housing. Now one can find large Latinx communities in North Carolina (particularly Charlotte), New Orleans, and even what is known as the Black Mecca, Atlanta, Georgia. A surprising fact is that North Dakota and Utah mostly white populations have been attracting a large amount of Latinos due to an oil boom that again brings jobs with it.
Religiously, the Latinx population is also quite diverse. There are Catholics, Protestants, Muslim, Buddhists, Santeros (worship of saints), Curanderos (a traditional Native healer, shaman who use herbs and spiritualism) and even agnostics and atheists. Yet, for the most part, approximately 93% of the Latinx community self-identify as Christian. Of this Latinx group that self-identify as Christian, more than “one million self-identify with the Assemblies of God (AG) across the United States and Puerto Rico, 700,000 plus of whom are noted in AG statistical analyses. The rest are Latinos who do not regularly attend church for various reasons, but who still self-identify with the AG.” In addition, Pentecostals make up approximately 64 percent of all U.S. Latino Protestants and 65 percent of the U.S. Latino Protestant electorate.
Politically, existing literature emphasizes that the Latinx electorate as a whole is showing signs of substantial changes that are worth noting. Bell states,
The potential Latino electorate has increasingly taken on the characteristics of the second- and third-generation immigrants filling its ranks. New voters are US-born, US-educated, and more fluent in English than the generations who preceded them, and their interests, political awareness, and sense of civic responsibility often diverge from those of their elders. They are increasingly taking up residence outside of the geographically-narrow enclaves of their parents and grandparents, and while Latino communities are not yet pervasive throughout the United States, their political influence is slowly extending across the nation.
Educationally, in 2011, 11.4 million Latino students were enrolled in public schools. It is expected that by the 2022-23 school year, 30 percent of public school students will be Latino. Researchers and educators alike assert that the success of Latino students is critical to the success of our nation as a whole. While more Latinos are attending college, there are still large bachelor's degree attainment gaps. In 2013, only 16 percent of Latinos ages 25-29 held at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 40 percent of white young adults. The percentage slightly increased during the 2014-15 academic year with a total of 22 percent of Latinos (25 and older) earning an Associate degree or higher. 
This information on the Latinx population is important to acknowledge as they have ushered in what David Carrasco’s coins the “the Brown Millennium” which he believes “will profoundly shape the spirit, ethos, and cultural complexion of American religion, politics and society.” Furthermore, Espinosa stresses the importance of the Latino Assembly of God members when he states they, “may be one of the movements in the vanguard of the browning of American Evangelicalism and Christianity.”
Because Latinx people have been the victims of racism, suffer through educational equity issues, and a host of other justice issues, it is not surprising that justice has become important to them as it became important to the Black community in the civil rights era. Espinosa writes “Contrary to popular perception, Latino Pentecostals have been involved in faith-based social, civic, and political civic action throughout the twentieth century. Although their work is not framed in terms of the Social Gospel or Liberation Theology movements because such movements are not Christ-centered enough for them.” Espinosa advocates for a blending of Pentecostal distinctives that has an emphasis on the power of the cross, supernatural healing and God’s grace. He elaborates further,
While traditional Evangelical and liberal Protestant churches have split evangelism and social justice into two different types of ministry, Latino Pentecostals blend them together in evangelistic social work and outreach. This approach seeks to use social action, civic engagement, political participation, and acts of mercy as vehicles through which to demonstrate and incarnationalize the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ to a broken and suffering world. …Latino AG leaders …call this blending Jesus Christ’s “agenda of righteousness and justice,” which combines Billy Graham’s vertical reconciling message of salvation and hope in Jesus Christ with Martin Luther King Jr.’s horizontal prophetic focus on civil rights and social justice.
To the Latinx Pentecostal community their understanding of missio Dei is to bring salvation to a world in need by whatever means necessary and that is la causa (the cause) that they all are driven by to this day. They embrace what Michael Gorman states, “The mode by which that salvation is conveyed to the world is the preaching of this good news both in word and in deed.” Samuel Rodriguez illustrates this beautifully,
…The cross is both vertical and horizontal, redemption and relationship, holiness and humility, covenant and community, kingdom and society, righteousness and justice, salvation and transformation, ethos and pathos; it is John 3: 16 and Luke 4, orthodoxy and orthopraxy, Billy Graham and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., faith and public policy, imago dei and habitus Christus, prayers and activism, sanctification and service, the New Jerusalem and Washington DC.
In deed, or as Rodriquez states, the horizontal, is what some Latinx Evangelical Pentecostals feel many White Evangelicals dismiss. Of course, anyone can communicate scripture from the pulpit but biblical justice is living it out. Gorman states, “The Church is a living exegesis of the gospel of God. The church performs the gospel as a living commentary on it...it lives the story, embodies the story, tells the story.”
Are you part of the Latinx Evangelical community? How are you attempting to live out the gospel message in light of everything going on in today's America? Has your church's involvement in justice issues (whether too much, too little or not at all) impacted your church attendance? I'd love to hear about it. Please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
. Center for American Progress. August 2015. Demographic Growth of People of Color. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress accessed February 22, 2018, https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/05075256/PeopleOfColor-Democracy-FS.pdf
. Havidán Rodríguez, Rogelio Saénz, and Cecilia Menivar, eds., Latinos/as in the United States: Changing the Face of America (New York: Springer, 2008), 10.
. Jorge. J. E. Gracia and Pablo de Grief (eds.), Hispanics/Latino in the United States: ethnicity, Race and Rights (New York: Routledge, 2000), 1.
. Hugo Martin, "Top 10 Cities for Hispanics to Live In: Where Latinos Love To Live, Work And Play." Hispanic, 08, 16-18, 2005. 20-22, accessed April 18, 2018, https://seu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.seu.idm.oclc.org/docview/237003580?accountid=43912.
. Renee Stepler and Mark Hugo Lopez, “U.S. Latino Population Growth and Dispersion Has Slowed Since Onset of the Great Recession,” Pew Research Center (Hispanic Trends), September 8, 2016, accessed April 20, 2018, http://www.pewhispanic.org/2016/09/08/latino-population-growth-and-dispersion-has-slowed-since-the-onset-of-the-great-recession/
. Gastón Espinosa, Latino Pentecostals in America: Faith and Politics in Action, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 4. To further clarify “Christian”, Espinosa noted included people and/or with a Christian tradition, movement, or experience such as being born again, Pentecostal/Charismatic, and/or independent/nondenominational Christian.
. Ibid. 3.
. Aaron T. Bell, "Diversity and Potential: The Latino Electorate in The 2016 Elections." Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 8, no. 2: 2016.243-262, accessed April 27, 2018 https://seu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.seu.idm.oclc.org/docview/1848083544?accountid=43912.
. A. P. McGlynn, Latino college-going & graduation rates moving up but gaps remain. The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, 24, 18-20. (2014, Sep 08), accessed April 17, 2018, https://seu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.seu.idm.oclc.org/docview/1562505767?accountid=43912
. Miriam Rinn,"Graduate Education: Maintaining Equal Access to Graduate School." The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, Jun 27,1997, 8, accessed April 17, 2018, https://seu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.seu.idm.oclc.org/docview/219297942?accountid=43912.
. Excelencia in Education “Latino College Completion: United States” Handout, 2014-2015 enrollment and completions data, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), U.S. Department of Education, accessed April 28, 2018, https://www.edexcelencia.org/sites/default/files/LCCStateStats/Exc-2018-50StateFS-USA-04_0.pdf
. David Carrasco as cited in Gastón Espinosa, Latino Pentecostals in America: Faith and Politics in Action, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 5.
. Ibid. 322.
. Gastón Espinosa, Latino Pentecostals in America: Faith and Politics in Action, 322. For more insight on this see Samuel Rodriguez, The Lamb’s Agenda: Why Jesus Is Calling You to a Life of Righteousness and Justice, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2013).
. Michael J. Gorman, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2015), 23.
. Samuel Rodriguez, The Lamb’s Agenda: Why Jesus Is Calling You to a Life of Righteousness and Justice, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2013). Kindle, 2.
. Ibid. 43.
I am sure you have felt it. The person in the meeting who goes against everything you suggest. The person in your group activity that never seems to get your point of view. The person who stops talking when you enter the room or who sizes you up when you get there. You probably have a picture in your head of that person. Or maybe there are more than one.
Whether it is a need for control or a need to be right, these kind of folks can be annoying and sometimes even demoralizing. Contrary people can be exhausting and sometimes you have to decide what you want to do with that. If it is a work situation, obviously not everyone can get up and go and to be honest, in a work environment, you will probably have alot of that. You might just have to grin and bear it because you need that check. But if you believe the person is fairly reasonable at some level, have a talk. Ask, "is there a reason why you are always the contrary conversationalist?" You will be surprised of what people confess to. Some share about their family background where their voice was never heard and they will be damned if they don't raise it now with anyone on anything. Some will even say they did not realize they were doing that. But it is your call how you want to handle that kind of person at work. Worst case, you can try to avoid them. But what happens when this kind of person is in something you belong to for personal development, socialization or philanthropic reasons.
Here you still have a choice but you have more room to make it and you can weigh it against the things that matter to you other than money to pay your bills! Thank God. Here's what I think:
There are enough places in this world that can make you feel inferior, unwanted and disliked and where you have no control of the situation i.e. work, etc. But when you can take control of the situation do so. Where you are celebrated is where you will grow. Where people make it a habit of checking themselves and their interactions with folks is where it is healthier. Go find people, places and spaces like that or create your own.
Yeah, sometimes you just have to go and guess what, you will thrive. Being around healthy people has a way of helping you bloom. Go. Find. Them.
Recently, I have been thinking about the power of STORY. Actually for a few months before meeting my Professor Dr. Leonard Sweet for a seminary class in February. It was in that class that I understood even more the power of STORY especially in sharing gospel truths. I left that class with more information that stirred my spirit on this STORY story.
Dr. Sweet reminded us that there is always more to what we read in the scriptures than what we read in the scriptures! There is a story behind the story and our job is to uncover that so that we get the real story and can communicate the real intent of the passage. This line of thinking is the same for OUR STORY. There is more to anyone you meet than just want you sense or what you see. Everyone has a story. While we don't have to take the time to get to know everyone's story, if someone is interesting to you and you want to build a closer connection, you should ask "what's your story? over some cafecito.
Just last night, I saw the movie Coco by Disney's Pixar Studios. I loved the various messages embedded in the story line of the movie. But here's the thing that resonated with me the most, if we don't share the STORIES of the ones we loved from one generation to the next, they are forgotten as if they never existed. Story was important in this movie and it really is important in the real world too.
You see, from a legacy perspective, we tell our stories for ourselves and as a gift to future generations. How does telling our stories benefit us? We need to know and express our own stories. Difficulties arise not because we have a story, perhaps a very sad or painful story, but because we become attached to our stories and make them an essential part of our very selves.
Telling our stories is not an end in itself, but an attempt to release ourselves from them, to evolve and grow beyond them. We tell our stories to transform ourselves; to learn about our history and tell our experiences to transcend them; to use our stories to make a difference in our world; to broaden our perspective to see further than normal; to act beyond a story that may have imprisoned or enslaved us; to live more of our spiritual and earthly potential.
Annette Simmons in her book, The Story Factor shares that “we cannot wish old feelings away nor do spiritual exercises for overcoming them until we have woven a healing story that transforms our previous life’s experience and gives meaning to whatever pain we have endured.”
As I learned from the movie Coco and even from the fact that we have a New Testament today because first hand eyewitnesses were able to share stories with the gospel writers is that stories benefit future generations. How does telling our stories benefit them? Stories connect the past and present to the future. Our stories and our learning from them honors and respects our ancestors and us. They can awaken future generations to their potential. They model a way to use their stories to release themselves as they connect to their history and to our values.
In my first book, Don't Buy The Lie I share my story and how I had some belief systems that really came from my early years. They were not good ones. Later on in life, I learned that I was part of a meta narrative and that my life had meaning and purpose in spite of the pain.
And what have I gained by sharing my story? The ability to see beyond it. To notice that I’m not the only one who experiences disappointment and loss. I feel deeper compassion for those sustaining great losses. My respect for human resiliency has grown, as has my commitment to help people who must start over completely after devastating loss: rebuilding lives, homes, and hope.
In “The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning,” Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham said:
Release ... is experienced rather than “gotten,” received rather than attained. And so it does not work to tell one’s story in order to “attain” release; yet Release does emerge from the practice of telling one’s story ... The deeper release ... is of our attachment to the chains that bind us.
Because of the power of your story, I want to invite you to join me for a STORY breakfast this summer. where I share more about how you can get started in exploring your story and what you need to do to join God in co-writing your next chapter. It is an invitation to a journey to start where you are to explore who you are and who you want to be. I hope you'll give it a shot. It will be a fun way to meet new sister friends and/or make the bond you have with a sister you already know stronger. This will be fun, impactful and could change the direction of your life. Send me an email if you would like to know more here
When it comes to every kind of relationship, they say that, “everyone has a price." What price you ask? The value that you think you are worth. Now value is instilled in us from the moment that we have some cognitive ability. How our parent (s) treat us. How our friends treat us. How our significant other treats us. You get the picture. But I would like to suggest to you today that we give too much power to others for the price tag on us. Why do they get to decide our value?
The relationships around us sometimes leaves us feeling kicked, empty, and wondering if it’s all worth it—or if we are worth it. But God leaves no doubt of the tremendous value He places on every human life, including yours. God says that we were knit together on purpose, intricately and intentionally in Psalm 139. We are definitely worth more than birds according to Matthew 10:31 and we are valuable and honored so says Isaiah 43:4. I mean, if we were the only one in this world, Christ still would have died for us (Rom 5:8). So why on earth are we letting other people decide our value, if our Creator says we are all that and more!
But how exactly can you take the price ringer back and change your price tag? I think you can start by doing these three things: