"Latinos are more than a mission field. We are a missions force."
Last week, InterVarsity Staff from around the country gathered in Pasadena, CA to to explore this idea at the LaFe Staff Conference. I had the opportunity to go to the conference and serve as the emcee. And I found myself to be very challenged.
We started out by looking at Latinos engaged in God's mission on college campuses. Lots of people are thinking about reaching out to Latino students. But there is something special that happens when Latinos throw their unique gifts into the mix in campus mission.
One story really stood out to me. Stacy and Eric Rafferty shared about their work to launch ministry to college students in Nebraska. That's right, Nebraska. Stacy is one of my best friends in LaFe and Amy and I are really delighted to support the work that the Rafferty's are doing on campus. They shared the story about the start of their chapter plant. They started with one Latino student and, because Latino students tend to be natural networkers, they ended up with a healthy and diverse chapter on their campus.
If Latinos are natural networkers, this could have huge implications for our participation in God's mission.
From there, we talked about how God is using Latinos to serve in global missions. We heard from a man who leads PM Internacional, an organization that mobilizes Latinos for to reach the Muslim World. From him, we learned that, by God's grace, Latinos are some of the most effective missionaries in the Muslim world.
Latinos can often pass as Middle Eastern. There's a great deal of overlap between Spanish and Arabic. But the effectiveness of Latinos in the mission field goes deeper than that.
History reveals an intimate link between the Latino and the Muslim worlds. For 700 years, Muslim Moors occupied the Iberian peninsula, deeply embedding Spain with their culture and worldview. When the Spaniards retook their land in the Reconquista of the 1400s, they carried elements of Islamic culture and worldview with them to the Americas. When Latinos step out in mission to Muslims, it's like reaching out to long-lost relatives. There is a deep, cultural resonance between the two communities.
Perhaps Latinos have been prepared by our long history in order to be incredible agents for God's mission to those who desperately need to hear God's good news.
The last session on mission wrestled with this question: Sure God can use us on campus and on the other side of the world, but what about in our own communities? Rev. Alexia Salvatierra spent the morning with us teaching us and training us how to be God's agents in our own families and neighborhoods.
She talked about the concept of the pueblo (a village, a people). In the Latino community, there's this deep sense of mutual ownership and responsibility for each other. Loyalty. Love.
As Alexia trained us in community organizing, I started to see how important it was to be part of a pueblo when trying to participate in the change that God is creating in a local community. Change efforts by outsiders sometimes lack the sense of acceptance and commitment needed to fuel the change. God gives us power to identify with communities in need, to remember them, to consider ourselves one with them.
This can be extremely difficult. But Latinos are prepared for that difficulty, especially those of us who are several generations in. We have already struggled to identify as Latinos. We have already chosen to identify. The pueblo is our pueblo by choice. And there's something powerful to that.
What if God's work through us wasn't just for the whole world, but also for our neighbors?
There was a lot more that I could say about the conference. If I get a chance, perhaps I'll take time to reflect on it here. If not, feel free to ask me about it on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/steven.tamayo) or Twitter (@yostevetamayo).