They moved here from Columbia, two of the nicest kids in our youth group. But we could hardly speak to each other.
English was brand new to them and they were just learning to speak it. We did our best to get them involved, we explained things to their spanish-speaking parents with hopes that they would know we wanted to connect with their kids—even through the language barriers. As I grew and learned through this relationship, things I learned in college about the nature of inclusivity and the beauty of God's diverse Kingdom came to life for me. I started thinking things like, “maybe I should read the Scripture in Spanish sometimes, just for Daniel”, during my sermon planning.
It's been a couple of years since Daniel and Christopher, our students from Columbia, came to our group. And it's awesome to see them serving as ushers in our church, attending mission trips, playing flag football and soccer with the youth group. Even in our broken attempts they were able to connect to a group that is mainly white and mainly English speaking.
This is not to say that we have arrived. It is to celebrate God's ability to work in and through a group or a person, regardless their limitations. And, at the same time, bring us to wonder what our groups might be like if we were to reach out in more intentional and diverse ways.
For example, do you know the difference between a Latino and a Hispanic?
“Do you know what they call people from Colombia in Colombia? They are called Colombians. Similarly, people from Guatemala in Guatemala are called Guatemalans and in Panama they are called Panamanians. You get the picture.
You see, all the people from Latin American countries do not become Hispanic until they come to America. Hispanic is a general term used in America to identify anyone who speaks Spanish or comes from a country where Spanish is spoken.”
What would our groups be like if we starting really thinking about the language we choose to identify our students? Would they notice our efforts. I think so. My husband once asked a spanish speaking parent to slow down as they spoke to him because they were “speaking to fast”. Bernardo commented, “no, you are listening too slow”. Everyone had to laugh. I thank God for those who help us learn to embrace our limitations but who also believe in us–that God can help us grow in areas that are challenging.
I'm wondering if more students might feel at home in all of our ministries if we started with the small do-able things. I would love to be able to speak Spanish fluently, but Daniel and Christopher are proof that I don't need to “know it all” before I can connect–it's the willingness to try, to stumble, and sometimes even fail that brings about differences in our ministries that connect more people to Christ.
What do you think?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.