Saturday, April 16, 2005

'Pocho' Redefined

I'll never forget my journey to a Chicago downtown hotel a few years ago to go hear Virgilio Elizondo, pastor at the San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, speak. I had read the few books he has published (ravished them is more accurate), and felt so validated as a Mexican-American by his 'Mestizo Theology', and his insights into the 'Galilean Jesus'. Galilean Journey and The Future is Mestizo are must reading for anyone captivated by the idea of mestizaje.

My expectations were fully met as I listened to Elizondo talk about his experiences rooted in the barrios of San Antonio. I'll never forget one thing he shared that day. As he was coming up from the subway station to enter the hotel where he was now speaking, he was robbed! Yes, someone had the audacity to stick up a Catholic priest in full garb. Anyway, he composed himself and gave his lecture.

After he was finished, I made my way to the front of the auditorium, and waited to meet Elizondo. He was speaking to a few people, and I was working out in my mind what I would say. "I'm a mestizo" "Horale, good to meet you." "Father Elizondo, it's a pleasure to meet you." Whatever I finally said, it must have come out convoluted and quite possibly in Spanglish. Because almost immediately, he flung his arms wide open, gave me a bear hug, and said, "Pocho!"

I was shocked, because I was used to being referred to as a pocho (a Mexican-American born in the United States with a limited grasp of the correct use of Spanish) in a derogatory way. And here, with his big smile and affirming embrace, he seemed to be communicating that it was fantastic that I was a pocho, because I represented the Mestizo Future that he often writes about.

I am not fully Mexican, not fully North American- I am an in-between person. A mestizo, a blend. And this great theological thinker (although I don't agree with all of his conclusions) was affirming this new reality as some thing positive and good.

I can't tell you how amazing that felt, and still feels today! For some reason, God has allowed me to embody this pocho-reality. While it is often confusing, and not always easy to explain or quantify, it is who I am.

To be pocho, is to be a person who has felt isolated, marginalized and labeled as inadequate for being a in-between person. To be 'Pocho!' (Elizondo style) with an exclamation point on the other hand, is to be identified as a member of the future mestizo race that is blended and beautiful and needed because he/she has the capacity because of who we are, to envision a new mestizo nation and church.

I can't wait to see Virgilio Elizondo again. Now, I know how to greet him right, 'Pocho!'

Spanglish Word of the Day

parquear (par-KEAR), v., to park. "No habia donde parquear mi carro." (There was no place to park my car)

I Need Your Help

Can anyone explain to me / help me learn how to insert pictures into my blog?

Mestizo Community

"Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children."
- Sitting Bull

Friday, April 15, 2005


Earlier I introduced the term, 'Gracism' from Dave Anderson's book to describe the intentional process of demonstrating unmerited/lavish grace towards someone especially because their ethnic make up is different than mine. From a mestizo perspective, this concept becomes 'gracismo'. Racismo (racism, in Spanish) is a harsh sounding word!

'Gracismo', is a loaded term for us Latinos, because it implies that we are called to extend, 'la gracia de Dios' (the grace of God) to everyone, especially to others who may have hurt, rejected, or sought to do us harm.

I can't believe an image from 3rd grade comes to mind fresh and clear as I think about this idea of gracismo. A red haired, freckle-faced, mean spirited young punk and his friend are chasing me down and roughing me up on a weekly basis as I walk home from school. In my broken English, I plead for them to stop, as they yell, 'You F'n Spick'! It won't be easy to forget those words, or the face of that kid hitting me in my face.

I am glad we only stayed at this school for that one year. The next year, we moved to barrio Sunnyhills, in a nearby city where I grew up in Northern California.

To tell you the truth, I still get a little nervous when I see a dude with red hair hanging around. In light of this kind of experience, gracismo is no platitude. It requires that I work through my stuff (I could have used another 'S' word), and it requires me to extend the grace that God has shown me towards others-years later, I feel compelled to forgive that kid from 3rd grade.

I pray that all of us would learn little a little Spanglish today: Gracismo!

The Lawndale Miracle (Black-White-Brown Mestizaje)

I can't believe it was 15 years ago that I first landed in Chicago. I came to the first CCDA conference held at Lawndale Community Church, and was blown away with the commitment of a small church planted right snack in the middle of the hood, loving God and loving people. At the center of it all was their youngish pastor, Wayne 'Coach' Gordon (he was a coach at the local HS when he arrived in the hood, and coach stuck).

In a whirlwind way, my family and I relocated to South Lawndale within a year of my first visit to establish a church based ministry committed to the principles of Christian Community Development, that Dr. John Perkins and Coach were living out. I was so excited to relocate into the barrio to begin meeting my mostly Mexican neighbors.

From the beginning of our time in Chicago, Coach has been just that for me: a mentor, a confidant (too many painful times of seeking his counsel and wisdom to count), and an incredible example of a servant leader. Gordie is an honorary 'mestizo leader'. When ever I call him, he answers with his bold Spanish, 'Que pasa?' (maybe the only phrase he has mastered)

I am amazed that this white pastor from Iowa, leading a black church, helped a Mexican-American from California start a ministry in La Villita!

I love Gordie because he has always encouraged me to live out my calling to love and serve my neighbors, and to fulfill my calling, using all of my gifts for him. It is a blessing to find an amigo like that.

Back to Lawndale. In the last 15 years (LCC has been around almost 30 years) it has been amazing to see all of the amazing ways God has used this church to not only bring about shalom in Lawndale, but to impact ministries all across the nation. Coach is the President of CCDA (sidekick to John Perkins, or visa versa).

I have learned so much from Coach. He has extended grace and love and encouragement at every turn of my time here in Chicago. Today, hundreds of men, women and youth in North Lawndale are walking with Jesus because of his (along with his great wife Ann and kids) faithfulness and love.

I feel blessed to be working alongside Coach these days with CCDA, and look forward to the next time I hear him answer his phone with a spirited, 'Que Pasa.'

Spanglish Word of the Day

atachear (a-ta-CHEAR), v., to attach {CS} E>>S

"Maybe I Am Part Chinese"

Today my kids had a day off from school. It was beautiful here in Chicago and I wish I was out playing some baseball like my boys or hanging with my girls (wife and daughter).

Anna, who is in 6th grade and friends with everyone, has a great sense of what it means be inclusive. At a recent birthday party we threw for her, 31 6th graders attended because she did not want any of her classmates to feel left out (or maybe she just wanted more presents!). It was amazing that night to see kids from every ethnic group at the school having fun together in our home. I did have to threaten the squirrelly boys not to set foot upstairs.

A few of Anna's closest friends are Asian. Linda, who is Chinese, is a very good friend, and she is at our home as I write this hanging out with my daughter. Not long ago, as we were eating white rice at dinner, Anna looks up and says, "Maybe I am part Chinese, cuz I love white rice and I have so many Asian friends."

I thought, ' you are already so mestizo-ized with your urban, Mexican, Italian heritage, why not add another culture into the mix?

I have to admit, I am a total rookie when it comes to understanding the nuances of the Asian cultures that make their home in the US, let alone the world. But, to be mestizo through and through, I am convinced means being a student of cultures.

I am reading a book written by Eric Liu, entitled, The Accidental Asian. Listen to what is written on the back flap of his book:

"Beyond black and white, native and alien, lies a vast and fertile field of human experience. It is here that Eric Liu, former speechwriter for President Clinton and noted political commentator, invites us to explore.

In these compellingly candid essays...Liu, a second-generation Chinese American reflects on the shifting frames of ethnic identity. He looks critically at the cost of his own assimilation. Finally, Liu illuminates the space that Asians have always occupied in the American imagination."

It is sure tempting for me to be so Latino focused (thus my continual references to Latino race and heritage) that I forget to 'see' and appreciate the incredible variety of human experience outside of my own.

My kids are teaching me that touching and being touched by other cultures is necessary in today's mestizo world. I am realizing already, that I have so much in common with the experiences of Eric Liu.

For my sake, and for the sake of CCDA, and other ministries I am involved in, I pray that I/we learn to fully embrace our brothers and sisters of Asian ancestry.

"Love your neighbor as yourself..."
Jesus of Nazareth

White Benefits, Middle Class Privilege

I have been working on developing a class on reconciliation for the CCDA Institute that is going to be taught by Dr. Barbara Skinner & Rev. Isaias Mercado in Philly next week. We have been pouring over loads of deep material on the topic. The following is an excerpt from one of the recources we will be using for the class. It is from a book entitled, Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice, by Paul Kivel. Check it out:

Privileges are the economic 'extras' that those of us who are middle class and wealthy gain at the expense of the poor and working class people of all races. Benefits, on the other hand, are the advantages that all white people gain at the expense of people of color regardless of economic position. Talk about racial benefits can ring false to many of us who don't have the economic privileges that we see many others in this society enjoying. But just because we don't have the economic privileges of those with more money doesn't mean we haven't enjoyed some of the benefits of being white.

  • We can generally count on police protection rather than harassment
  • Depending on our financial situation, we can generally choose where we want to live and choose neighborhoods that are safe and have decent schools
  • We are given more attention, respect, and status in conversations than people of color
  • We see people that look like us in the media, history books, news and music in a positive light (this is more true for men than for women, and more true for the rich than the poor)
  • We have more recourse to and credibility within the legal system (again, taking into account class and gender)
  • We will be accepted, acknowledged and given the benefit of the doubt

Since all else is not equal we each receive different benefits or different levels of the same benefits from being white. There are historically derived economic benefits too:

  • All the land in this country was take from Native Americans
  • Much of the infrastructure of this country was built by slave labor
  • Much of the housecleaning, childcare, cooking, and maintenance of our society has been done by low wage earning women of color
  • Property and material goods were appropriated by whites through colonization, internment, and through an ongoing legacy of legal manipulation and exploitation

We have been taught history through a white-tinted lens which has minimized our exploitation of people of color and extolled the hardworking, courageous qualities of white people.

It is not that white Americans have not worked hard and built much. We have. But we did not start out from scratch. Much of the rhetoric against more active policies for racial justice stem from the misconception that we were all given equal opportunities and start from a level playing field. We often don't even see the benefits we have derived from racism. We claim that they are not there.

Look at the following benefits checklist. Put a check beside any benefit that you enjoy, that a person of color of your age, gender and class probably does not. (If you are a person of color, put a check where you see white people of similar age, gender and class experiencing benefits that you do not enjoy). Think about what effect not having that benefit would have had on your life. (If you don't know the answer to any of these questions, research. Ask family members. Do what you can to discover the answers.)

White Benefits Checklist:

_____My ancestors were legal immigrants to this country during a period when immigrants from Asia, South and Central America or Africa were restricted.
_____My ancestors came to this country of their own free will and have never had to relocate unwillingly once here.
_____My family received homesteading or landstaking claims from the federal government.
_____I or my family or relatives received federal farm subsidies, farm price supports, agricultural extension assistance or other federal benefits.
_____I live or lived in a neighborhood where people of color were discriminated from living in.
_____I lived or live in a city where red-lining discriminates against people of color getting housing or other loans.
_____I or my parents went to racially segregated schools.
_____I live in a school district or metropolitan area where more money is spent on the schools that white children go to than on those that children of color attend.
_____I live in or went to a school district where children of color are more likely to be disciplined than white children, or more likely to be tracked into non academic programs.
_____I live in or went to a school district where the textbooks and other materials reflected my race as normal, heroes and builders of the United States, and there was little mention of the contributions of people of color to our society.
_____I was encouraged to go on to college by teachers, parents or other advisors.
_____I attended a publicly funded university, or a heavily endowed private university or college, and/or received student loans.
_____I served in the military when it was still racially segregated , or achieved a rank where there were few people of color, or served in a combat situation where there were large numbers of people of color in dangerous combat positions.
_____My ancestors were immigrants who took jobs in railroads, streetcars, construction, shipbuilding, wagon and coach driving, house painting, tailoring, longshore work, brick laying, table waiting, working in the mills, furriering, dressmaking, or any other trade or occupation where people of color were driven out or excluded.
_____I received job training in a program where there were few or no people of color.
_____I have received a job, job interview, job training or internship through personal connections of family or friends.
_____I worked or work in a job where people of color made less for doing comparable work or did more menial work.
_____I work in a job where people of color were hired last, or fired first.
_____I work in a job, career or profession or in an agency or organization in which there are few people of color.
_____I received small business loans or credits, government contracts or government assistance in my business.
_____My parents were able to vote in any election they wanted without worrying about poll taxes, literacy requirements or other forms of discrimination.
_____I can always vote for candidates that reflect my race.
_____I live in a neighborhood that has better police protection, municipal service and is safer than that where people of color live.
_____The hospital and medical services close to me or which I use are better than that of most people of color in the region in which I live.
_____I have never had to worry that clearly labeled public facilities, such as swimming pools, restrooms, restaurants and nightspots were in fact not open to me because of my skin color.
_____I see white people in a wide variety of roles in television and movies.
_____My race needn't be a factor in where I choose to live.
_____My race needn't be a factor in where I send my children to school.
_____I don't need to think about race and racism everyday. I can choose when and where I want to respond to racism.

What feelings come up for you when you think about the benefits that white people gain from racism? Do you feel angry or resentful? Guilty or uncomfortable? Do you want to say, "Yes, but..."?

Maybe some new insights or self awareness will help us to uproot racism and usher in a new 'mestizo' world!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Why Christian Colleges Are Not More Mestizo Friendly

I spent the day with some wonderful brothers and sisters that give of their talents, skills, knowledge, spiritual energy and passion at some of the best known Christian colleges and seminaries in our country-all members of CCDA. There was even a representative from my Alma Mater, Whitworth College in Spokane, WA.

During the meeting, which lasted pretty much all day (hard to endure for someone used to leading meetings and not sitting through them) my mind kept wandering back to my Whitworth days. I still remember the day I arrived by plane into Spokane and then onto the campus. I was taken to the gym where registration was taking place. I seemed lost, with few details about what I was supposed to do once I arrived. My football coach (and spiritual mentor- hard to believe those two things could go together) and another teacher who attended Whitworth helped me apply, and I got accepted. I showed a letter stating as much. When they gave me the bill for the first semester, I had no idea I owed so much money. I only had a couple of hundred dollars in cash. The person that was helping me check in went off like a car dealer salesperson to 'find me a better deal'. Eventually, they scraped together enough scholarships (tennis, art major, minority) and loans to cover my whopping bill of $4K (for everything- this was 1978).

All of these memories came flooding back like a mixed bag of thoughts and feelings. Out of 1300 students back then, I was one of three Latinos (one of the three insisted she was not Hispanic) on campus, along with a handful of African-American basketball players, 15-20 Hawaiian students that came through a Young Life connection, and a few international students from around the globe.

My saving grace in terms of the culture shock of this new reality (so many Anglos and so many Christians) was that 2 of my roommates were from Hawaii (and dark skinned like me). I still have not been invited to visit them! When I got real homesick, I just pretended they were Mexican-Americans like me. The year was a trip.

Well, as I fast forward back to today, I heard many comments at this meeting (mostly in side conversations), about how few non-white students attend Christian colleges today. 25 years later and not much progress has been made in this area in terms of numbers. I know there has been lots of effort made. I know that many initiatives to recruit and retain minority students have come and gone, and come again. There are some great people trying to make it happen. So, why are there so few Latinos and African-Americans from the hood attending these great institutions?

What would it take to make Christian colleges more Mestizo friendly (I use Mestizo to dramatize the fact that urban kids, like my own children, come mixed and blended more and more)? Or, put another way, what would need to happen for urban/non-white kids to flock to Christian colleges?

Well, we could begin by asking, why do white kids flock to these schools? There is history (many of their parents and family friends went there). They see administrators and professors and students that look like them and have similar experiences as they do attending there. They can afford to pay to attend these colleges (not without sacrifice- I don't know too may families of any color with an extra $20k laying around). The culture there, makes them feel comfortable and at home (many of these schools are outside the center cities of our nation). The schools have great contacts in the cities and churches where their recruits live (almost every white person associated with the school becomes an official or unofficial ambassador for the school with other white kids).

How does this compare to the experience with minority kids (while I do not like this word, I will use it because we all know that it means non-white students)?
Few if any of our parents or friends attended these schools. We see virtually no-one in positions of leadership that look like us. Finances make it almost impossible to stay at the school for 4 consecutive years. The culture and country/suburban setting is new and foreign, thus many of our kids do not feel at home. Not to mention the strange food, music, and other sounds and smells that make up our new environment. And finally, when it comes time for recruiting minority kids, there is usually one or two ethnic staff that are given the job to go out and find these students(along with a handful of other white staff that are fully committed to diversity)! No one else, really feels the responsibility to actively to seeking out these kids, because in fact, they have virtually no meaningful contact with the minority kids the college seeks to recruit. Few school representatives know their (potential ethnic students) churches, their pastors, their cultures, their languages, or their communities.

As I look at this, it is not surprising that so few minority kids attend these schools. Even though they represent wonderful institutions, that provide incredible opportunities for intellectual and spiritual growth and development. (I know, because I had a very good experience at Whitworth: getting a degree in 4 years, playing on the tennis team and traveling to Hawaii, entering youth ministry with Young Life and interacting with Godly professors that I still keep in touch with!)

The point is, it seems to be the exception, not the rule, when a person of color makes it to and through a Christian college for many of the reasons I shared earlier.

More later.

Encyclopedia Britannica

Plural mestizos , feminine mestiza- any person of mixed blood. In Central and South America it denotes a person of combined Indian and European extraction.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Process of Mestizaje

I rode the 'L' downtown today for a quick meeting, and was thinking alot about how messy and brutal the process of mestisaje (change, transformation, and re-creation) often is in our lives.

When Spaniard explorerers (lost as hell) stumbled upon Hispanola (into what is now the Dominican Republic) the blending of cultures was not pretty or even welcome by the indigenous population they encountered. The coming together of distinct peoples (mixing of races) can be called exploration, progress, domination, exploitation, all of which lead towards the process of mestizaje. The result of this mixture is always the birth of a new race/reality says Virgilio Elizondo, author of The Future is Mestizo, and a huge mentor for me in the area of my mestizo journey.

Thinking about many of my Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican, and other Mestizo/Mulato (usually seen as the mixing of African & Indigenous peoples) brothers and sisters, and their unique and amazing cultures, I wonder why it took such devestation to 'bring into being' these new (only 500 years old) cultures?

My Tejano (from Texas), Mejicano, Americano upbringing has also forged me into the person I am with great force and and sometimes devestation. Self identity issues. Lanuage issues. Confidence issues. Marginalization complexes. Victim mentality. Anger. Rage. Passion. Empathy. Creativity. Convicton. Deep burdens for the poor and the oppressed. All of these things are all part of my reality in the ongoing process of Mestizaje that I am going through...the process of being forged, and molded and transformed by God, not apart from my reality, but in and through all of my experiences and issues, into the person He has created me to be.

"For he has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise..."

I am so glad I have a God who is able and willing to take me just as I am ...and mold me into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. (A Mestizo Jew from Galilee for a short while...who now sits at the right hand of the Father, and transends/embodies every culture known to humankind)

Thanks Rudy!

I got a call today from Rudy Carrasco encouraging me regarding my blog (before this week I never used the word blog in a sentence before). Thanks bro for helping me with this. I told Rudy this was like therapy...I get to empty out all of my ramblings and see if anything good comes from it.


Caleb Rosado Comes to La Villita

Caleb Rosado, who is a professor and big shot at the Campolo School for Social Change is staying with our family tonight. He's in town for a meeting that CCDA is hosting tomorrow for seminaries and colleges interested in partnering with us on educational initiatives.

Calab has been around CCDA for a long time, but we are just recently becoming real amigos/hermanos! He's a smart dude-- Dr. Caleb Rosado. I look forward to hanging out, eating a hibarito sandwich later tonight, and listening for words of wisdom I can absorb from my brother.

Because Caleb is a more seasoned Latino leader and scholar (and husband and parent) I count it a privileged to be able to host him at our home. It is the least I could do after receiving his hospitality when I was in Philly a few months back!

Teaching a Leadership Class at La Casa Del Carpintero

Tonight, I will be with my good friend and partner in crime, Isaiah Mercado, who started a new bilingual church in Humbolt Park 2 years ago. I tell him all the time that he was crazy to 'jump in' and plant a church without the backing of any denomination or other organization. I guess he figured the Lord's backing was enough!

Isaias is a tremendous leader with a huge heart (that is not afraid to be real) who is going to continue to have a big impact on the urban church world.
  • He is a key leader with the Latino Leadership Foundation
  • He is an instructor for the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative
  • He has a CD out and can sing!
  • He has a great family
  • He loves the barrio, and lives right in the heart of the hood
  • He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother

I encourage you to check out his website:

Pray that I don't totally bomb tonight with his leaders.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Treating Men & Women in our Country without their Residency or Green Cards as V. I. P.'s

Juan Hernandez addressed the many undocumented Mexicans he met with here in the US to discuss their lives between two cultures and nations as V.I.P's: Very important Paisanos!

I like that.

Remembering Oscar Romero

I was just reading the blog of fellow community developer and advocate for the poor, Larry James from Central Dallas Ministries. We both participated in a special service commemorating the life and anniversary of the death (murder) of this amazing Catholic Archbishop in El Salvador.

I lifted this one quote from Larry's entry about this man after the event...

Romero once said, "A church that suffers no persecution but enjoys the privileges and support of the things of the earth—beware!—is not the true church of Jesus Christ" (March 11, 1979).

I'll include the link later if you want to read more. For me, an amazing insight I learned about Romero from the message delivered by Dr. Harold Racinos (great brother) at SMU, was the fact that when Oscar Romero was elected Archbishop, he seemed to be a 'safe' choice, as he had no track record of standing up for the rights of the poor and the oppressed.

After taking office, and seeing the needs of his poor, oppressed parishioners, his heart was stirred and he became a fiery advocate for justice and spoke boldly against government abuse and against US intervention. One way that he intentionally maintained connection to the grass roots was to forego the customary limo that was available to him as a top religious leader, and chose instead to get around by bus/public transportation (what identification with the people!).

This has challenged me to realize that even though I and others may have slept through many crisis' that the poor of our world are facing, it is still not impossible that I/we may still be awakened to do something great (of ultimate service and sacrifice).

Martyred for his activism, Romero's life is a great inspiration to me.

CCDA Institute in Philadelphia Coming Next Week!

Next week I will be in Philadelphia offering up 2 Institute classes at the Campolo School for Social Change. There is still room, so if you know anyone close to Philly, please have them check out our CCDA website for more info.

Proud of my 11 Year Old Daughter Anna

My baby girl Anna is working on a 'family tree' for her class. She has been cutting out pics from magazines that reflect who she is, printing out family photos, interviewing grandparents and others, and drawing the Mexican and Italian flags. She is a young lady that embraces her mestizo (mixed and beautiful) heritage! Salsa, pasta, chorizo, garlic, and lots of passion and talking with her hands.

Anna is like so many bi-cultural young people growing up in our world today. Learning to speak French, Spanish, and already mastering English & computereze, she is the kind of new-gen leader that will usher our society and the church into the future.

I give her an 'A' already.

A Day without a Mexican: Dealing with Immigration and other Issues Facing the Latino Community

At the upcoming Urban Youth Workers Institute in May, a few of us are offering a 3 hour forum that should be interesting for those working with Latino families and youth. While we are called to reach out with compassion to those we serve, we are also called to seek justice for our neighbors, regardless of their legal status in this country. Come and interact with other leaders who are passionate about Latino ministry, as we explore creative solutions to the challenges we face ministering in the barrios of our nation.

Facilitators: Noel Castellanos, CCDA Institute Director & Founder of the Latino Leadership Foundation; Andy Bales, President, Union Rescue Mission; Mayra Nolan, Director of the STARS program at Lake Avenue Community Foundation & other key leaders

Congratulations to Andy Bales

My good friend Andy Bales was just hired as the President of the Union Gospel Mission in Los Angeles. After helping to develop the Lake Ave Foundation in connection with Lake Ave Church in Pasadena, CA, he is taking on this new role that will utilize his passion for the Gospel and ministry to the poor.

Andy has a huge heart for the undocumented residents (his neighbors) in Pasadena, and is regularly writing to Governer Arnold and President Bush on their behalf. Look for great things from Andy in his new role!

Two Films that Explore the Latino Experience in the US

Maria Full of Grace, is a power film that I suspect not too many people saw. It is powerful because it gives us a glimps of what poverty and hopelessnes drives human beings to do to survive (and a glimps at what greed will allow human beings to bestow upon others for their own gain). In the movie we get to know Maria, a young woman who is a 'mule' smuggling cocaine into NY from Colombia. While the movie is about drugs, it is more about survival!

It made me wonder how many young men and women are trying desperate things to find a better life en el Norte? Also, I found myself asking what can be done to be engaged in this reality as the church.

The other movie that exposed the US public to our Latino experience was the romanic comedy, Spanglish. While it too was a tale of survival (a single mom works to take care of her only daughter) it was far too sweet, and although I love happy endings (I am an optimist by nature) I doubt too many domestic workers will fare as well as the main character in this movie (unless they look like Paz Vega).

Even so, like so many Latinos in the US dying to see someone that looks like them in movies and in the public eye (hopefully for good, positive things), I was glad that the story was told.

A Man You Should Know

I met Juan Hernandez in Washington, DC last year. I was amazed at his story and would like to point you to a link that will introduce you to him, if you do not already know who he is. Besides being an educator and a politician, Juan is a man who is seeking to follow Christ.

Undocumented Workers Paying into Social Security

With all of the controversy over undocumented workers 'taking over our jobs' and 'draining our economy', there is an interesting article in the April 5, 2005 edition of the New York Times about the billions of dollars that undocumented workers pay into SS that they will never benefit from.

In all likelihood, many of the biggest critics are also those that are benefiting the most from this unclaimed resource that the government has accumulated from deductions taken out of the minimum wage salaries of poor undocumented workers.

What's next, are we going to set up a vigilante patrol of the Mexican/US border?

"He who is kind to the foreigner is kind to God."

Multicultural Ministry

Multicultural Ministry is the name of a fairly new book written by David Anderson, pastor of Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, Maryland. In chapter 10, he uses a term I found interesting and helpful as I think about being committed to racial reconciliation and to the mestizo / multicultural nature of what the church could look like if we allowed the love of Christ to dominate our lives, versus allowing sin and our cultural norms to do so.

The phrase is 'gracism'. He defines racism as speaking, acting, or thinking negatively about someone based solely on his or her race, while grace is defined as the unmerited favor of God. When we extend kindness and forgiveness towards others even when it is unmerited, we in turn extend grace to one another. He goes on to merge the negative of racism, and the positive of grace to define 'gracism' as the positive extension of favor towards others based on race.

So, in my commitment to reconciliation (authentic Christ-following) I go out of my way to love those that are different from me (hard work) and to include / not exclude others because they are different from me.

I am particularly burdened that the Church, the hands and feet of Christ on the earth, be fully committed to this kind of gracism! With the changing of our national and world-wide demographics if we do not 'get with the program' of becoming more multicultural, I doubt we will have much of relevance to say to an increasingly diverse population.

Anyway. This little phrase challenged me to be creative in my thinking about racial reconciliation and multiculturalism.

Monday, April 11, 2005

A New Pope from Latin America or Africa?

As I was leaving church last Sunday, a reporter from the New York Times asked if she could ask me a few questions about the impact of John Paul II's life and death on non-Roman Catholics (although as a Mexican-American there seems to be a piece of me that feels very connected to the Catholic tradition). I mentioned that I respected the moral leadership of this Pope. Then, she asked me what issues the new Pope would need to address. Immediately, I said that I hoped the new Pope would be from Latin America. 50% of all Roman Catholics come from that part of the world, and I mentioned it would make a huge statement to the poor and marginalized of the developing world to see the most prominent religious leader in the globe to look like them.

The cynical side of me says that if most small evangelical churches (in comparison to the Roman church) would not be bold enough to select a 'minority' to lead their churches, how could I expect the largest church around to be this progressive?

While there may be more pressing issues besides the ethnic make up of our religious leaders, I suspect it was a big deal to God that Jesus entered our world incarnated as a Galilean Jew. As Orlando Costas stated, 'Galilee, the Circle of sinners.' Remember the reaction to Jesus being from this Jewish region? 'Can anything good come from Galilee?'

If I could cast a vote, I would choose to elect a Pope that reflects the face and complexion of one of my Latin American or African brothers or sisters. Just as the people of Poland rejoiced at one of their own being elected to the post of the blessed Father, so would millions be encouraged and inspired at the reality of one of our own being recognized for their spiritual leadership in this new millennium.

Christianity Today Article

Check out the latest issue of Christianity Today, where I was interviewed along with 3 other pastors about the Biblical mandate for churches to be multi-cultural.

CCDA Institute

In November of 2004, I became the director of the CCDA Institute. Our mission is to equip our members in the ministry philosophy of Christian Community Development.

If you do not know about CCDA, it was founded 16 years ago by Dr. John Perkins and a group of pastors and community developers from around the country. The goal of CCDA is to provide training and networking opportunities for faith-based groups through our annual conference (to be held in Indianapolis, IN this year) and now, through the Institute, that will take our core philosophy into cities across the nation. We will offer 2 classes per session, with our next Institutes happening in Philadelphia, April 20-22, and at Azusa Pacific in Southern California, May 18-20.

For more info check out our website at Also, check out the website of Urban Youth Workers Institute, where we will be holding our LA classes. Check out their website at

Latino Leadership Initiative Graduation

On April 8th, 2005, 8 Latino pastors in Chicago graduated from a 15 month leadership training program started by the Latino Leadership Foundation. Five men and three women celebrated their graduation from the Initiative with family and church leaders present at Liberty Christian Center. Graduates attended 6 overnight retreats, read 8 books, attended the CCDA conference in Atlanta, GA, and wrote a personal Flight Plan that described how they will implement all they have learned in the program.

This is the second graduating class, and we look forward to starting a new group in January of 2006.

For more info about LLF, visit

Getting Started

April 11, 2005

I was in Pasedena with the king of the blog as far as I am concerned, Rudy Carrasco, and he tried to explain to me how this blog thing works. (Rudy- I hope I get the hang of this.) I'll give it a try and see what happens.