PC: KSB

Evangelicals embracing diversity – it’s a thing

Live in harmony with one another…If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  -Romans 12:16a, 18, ESV

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. -Psalm 119:13-15, NIV

PC: KSB

PC: KSB


Norma took the stage, her voice shaking as she shared her story.

Through pauses and tears, she told the group about growing up as a migrant worker, not fitting in with her Texan friends because of her Floridian accent, and experiencing microaggressions because of her brown skin. She joined the church in Denver, thinking it a safe place, but still did not fit in. Her stories of regularly being tailed while grocery shopping, for example, are not believed.

This she shared on stage in front of the church itself. Norma pleaded to be believed and understood, said her Latina sisters there felt the same way, and called for unity. Being in a white space can be exhausting when that means people cannot relate to you, or when they question your experiences.


Our church is actually very multicultural,

especially for an evangelical church – that’s why I love it and why I want to share about it with you today. The worship team is equal parts black and white with one or two Asian or Latinx musicians completing the group. Mixed race children zigzag around the aisles after church while their parents mingle.

Yet many people in our community still feel as if they cannot fully be themselves or be known and believed.

We are working on it. We have a diversity committee. We, an evangelical church in a predominantly white denomination, are an example in our intention to be racially inclusive. Though we are still imperfect, the attempts are showing results.

The diversity committee is about two years old, and I have heard women of color say that it has been helpful. The committee is part of the reason why we recently had an untold story event where people of color were able to share some of these microaggressions they experience, and it is why we had a service dedicated to discussing racial diversity.

The space last Sunday allowed for testimony, listening, and lots of applause. The speakers were honest. The message was about unity. You can watch all of the service here. In addition to testimonies, one of the older men who leads worship explained the history of Negro spirituals and shared one.


Unity is important, but we need to dig deeper into what that means.

Harmony, too, is necessary. We do not need to put aside our differences to get along; we need to put aside our division.

A song is made stronger by its different, cohesive sounds – the harmonies. We, as disciples of Christ, need also to embrace who we are and build each other up using our unique gifts. If we try to fit in or suppress the parts of us that have caused us trouble because they stand out, we hurt ourselves and the Body of Christ. We suppress the Spirit within our bodies by suppressing how God made us to be.

Some of those gifts from God are our identity and our very appearance. We are God’s beloved children, designed according to his specifications, just as the Tabernacle was designed with physical measurements for utmost holiness and beauty. Let me share some examples of these gifts:

  • For Sho, it means her dark skin and bald head, her understanding nature and loving spirit. All of that is intentional. She is tall for a reason. She is black for a reason. She is strong, lovely, wise, and holy.
  • For Fabian, it means his ability to speak both Spanish and English, his passion to care for his students and to fight for their best interests, his athleticism and his servant’s heart. He is American for a reason. He is Hispanic for a reason. He is in Colorado for a reason. He is considerate, kind, and intelligent.
  • For Lee, it means his Dragon Ball Z-esc hair, his endless knowledge of everything that exists, and the way he interacts with people. He is Korean for a reason. He is white for a reason. He gets caught on subjects that fascinate him for a reason. He is encouraging, dedicated, and thoughtful.
  • For Djeffrey, it means his big, welcoming eyes and bright smile, his energy, his commitment, his voice, and his body that was made for dancing. He is Haitian for a reason. He is a man for a reason. He is black for a reason. Regardless of how he does his hair or how much energy he has on a particular day, he is serious about people, crazy about Jesus, compassionate, and giving.
  • For me, it means my light skin, my ability to shift between cultures and build relationships, my short stature, and my voice. I am white for a reason. I always seem to be the one who doesn’t quite fit in the crowd, and that positioning is for a reason. I am inviting, knowledgeable, hospitable, and beloved.

David, a Korean-American man who shared his testimony last Sunday, recapped a story where a friend told him not to be “that Asian guy.” He initially agreed with his friend and then thought about it later with curiosity. A woman who shared her story told of the teen girls around her also being told not to act their race.

“Don’t act black,” or “don’t be that Asian guy” is like saying “don’t be the way God made you to be.” It is spitting in the face of God! It is also racist.

God made you in your skin and placed you with your kin for a reason. If you are black, God smiles upon you. If you are Native American, he sees you. If you are Latinx, he is proud of you. If you are Asian, he knows your innermost thoughts and desires. If you are white, he loves you too.


I am proud of my morning church for its efforts to be racially inclusive.

Some ways we can continue to improve are to incorporate Spanish songs into our worship to benefit our large Hispanic population and add some Korean, French, and Creole songs as well. We sing a little bit of Gospel and have recently learned a couple spirituals, but the majority of the worship is still CCM, aka white Christian music. As a white attender, I think we are doing pretty decently, but I know we can definitely push ourselves more for the love of our Body, who is Christ.

Although our church is multiracial and the people on stage represent that, most of the elders themselves are white, and they are all men. Adding more people of color to our leadership (and women, but I have intentionally left gender out of this because that is a different story at our church) will change the way our church is run so that we can grow more harmonious and united and reflective of Heaven.

To other Christians who may be reading this, and church leaders especially, consider taking our model as an example for how to grow your church in the glory of God, and share with me how you have harnessed the strength that comes from the diversity of God’s Kingdom!

Peace.

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Ten things I love about Denver

While I’m not a native Coloradan, I lived in Denver during a life-changing summer two years ago. Now I am back for a bit, and I am so happy. Here are ten things I love about this city, culminating with number 10.

  1. Public transportation.

    Riding the bus is inexpensive and provides the opportunity to people watch, rest from a fulfilling day or observe the city itself through discolored windows. I feel independent when I take the RTD, and I learn about social dynamics by observing where people sit and how they speak to each other. If you’re from a city, you can probably relate.

  2. Sunshine.

    If I could define Denver in a word, I would say yellow. Yellow defines the feel of the summer sun on my skin, the invisible color of the air, the feeling I have while living here – due in part to the serotonin-boosting sunshine. As John Denver croons, “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.” Even his name reinforces how the sun connects to this Coloradan city!

  3. Mountains.

    The Rockies awe me with their majesty, the majesty that reflects their Creator. Although I behold them daily, they have not lost their splendor. They always provide me with some metaphor, and they draw me closer to God. In this city, they also help me find my way since I can always know which way is west. As a directionally challenged person, I appreciate that.

    Denver blog view from LFS office

    The view from my office, PC: KSB

  4. My internship.

    I could write blogs upon blogs about my internship. I work with refugees who are resettling in the United States, and I love showing up to work every morning. My coworkers are caring, relational, hard-working and fun, and I relish being surrounded by their many languages. I hear a lot of Arabic in particular, and one of the case managers is teaching me Kiswahili since I am on my way to the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is my second time interning here, and each time I’ve been thrown into learning and doing. I could go on forever about how amazing my internship is, but I’ll move on from describing my amazing weekdays to the event that makes my weekends so fabulous.

  5. Jazz in the Park.

    For ten consecutive Sundays each summer, thousands of people gather in City Park to hear live jazz and consume cuisine from the food trucks. Elderly couples and children dance together by the gazebo, and families hold picnics by the algae-covered lake. Whether chatting with friends or vibing to the music alone, I love the atmosphere.

    Denver blog leaving Jazz in the Park

    Leaving Jazz in the Park, PC: KSB

  6. Old friends.

    Since I lived here two years ago, I have been able to reconnect with people whom I met during a formative time in my life. I have enjoyed catching up with old friends, having fun in community and being near people who can build me up in my faith. These friends vary in age from children to people more than twice my age, and some even call me family.

  7. Walking.

    I appreciate the calf muscles I have been able to sustain by walking; I like feeling strong. While walking is obviously a good way to travel from place to place, exercise or release stress, it is also conducive to exploring. Immersing oneself in Denver’s shops and neighborhoods is easier by foot than by car since it allows for more spontaneity and closeness to the details that characterize Denver. What you discover will depend on where you walk and how open you keep your eyes and heart.

    Denver blog Izzy and me at Juneteenth 2016

    Izzy and I at the Juneteenth Festival, PC: KSB

  8. Festivals every weekend.

    There’s always something to do in the city. With many of these events free and public transportation so easily accessible, Denverites have no reason to be bored. Although I am a bit of a homebody, I also find it healthy to get out of the apartment and explore. I particularly enjoy the cultural festivals such as the one in Five Points celebrating Juneteenth Independence Day. Participating with friends makes the deal even better.

  9. 16th Street Mall.

    Street musicians fill the air with sweet melodies, and public pianos beckon from the center of every block; it is basically the dream. The street is always crowded, which makes it a great place to observe or potentially make connections. (I once met a man who works for the Denver Voice, the homeless newspaper based in my building, while heading toward the movie theater there.) For consumers, 16th Street Mall is the place to satisfy physical hunger, find any item one may desire or simply browse the windows. The mall bus is free and can take you closer to your destination if you’re not in the mood to walk.

    Denver blog 16th St Mall

    A group of activists on 16th Street Mall, PC: KSB

  10. Diversity of people.

    This plays into almost all my previous points in some way. Living with a family of another race and nationality, learning about my friends’ religions in a setting where we all respect each other and can make civil and genuine conversation, appreciating global cultures daily through my friends’ food and the city’s festivals, the buzz during Pridefest when rainbow flags decorated all of Colfax and hundreds of thousands of people from around the country came to celebrate – I do not experience most of these things in my wealthy, white suburban college town, but in Denver I am surrounded by diversity of all forms.

    I am learning so much in this city, and I am thriving off the diversity in which I live. Even if you do not live in a city, I encourage you to seek this out. A trip to Denver won’t hurt either.

What are some things you love about Denver? Comment below!

Five things I learned from my science-major friends

This summer, I became friends with a group of students taking Organic Chemistry. We began to hang out every weekend, and we had tons of fun, but they also stretched me and caused me to grow. Here are a few things I learned in the past month or so:

1. I operate in a very different world than they do. I didn’t understand anything they said when they talked about A-Chem, P-Chem, O-Chem, professors, tests or assignments. I’m used to debating which sociology professor is better, not which lab to take. I’m accustomed to being online doing social media all day and reading articles about race, not studying intricate scientific formulas. I understand journalistic jargon, not bio patois. When I was one of the few non-hard-science majors present, if not the only one, I felt a bit lost and left out, but I understood that this was only natural since I was the only non-hard-science major. I was glad to see their shared passion although I did not comprehend their vocabulary.

I also realized that other people might feel this way around me and my closer friends who operate in more social science/ humanity and writing or even international circles. As a journalist, working in a discipline created for the people, I should be especially careful to speak in terms that everyone can understand in an attempt to make everyone feel included.

Despite our different academic interests, my science major friends excelled at making me feel welcome by inviting me to hang out each weekend, giving me rides and always smiling and listening as good friends do. Of their own will, they went out of their way to include me. And as I grew to know them better, I discovered (as I had glimpsed from the start) that they were way more than super-smart science nerds.

2. People can love biology or chemistry yet also have other passions and places to which God has called them. Some of my summer friends are concerned with social issues such as race in the United States and the genocide of Native Americans as well as the human body and marine biology. As humans we all have passions, dreams and maybe even a draw to specific locations placed in our hearts. Christians may feel this calling more acutely because God wants us to live out his will in specific ways. Needless to say (yet apparently not obvious to me at first), God calls bio, chem and physics majors too.

3. Science majors work crazy hard, but they also have crazy fun. And they can be crazy weird. Together we traipsed through Wheaton, Glen Ellyn and Naperville this summer watching fireworks; belting Christmas carols; chasing each other on the starlit playground like school children; creating a sand octopus that strangled one friend; eating Korean, Indian, French and Italian food; participating in a surprise birthday party and performing incredibly realistic chicken sounds. (The chicken imitation was the weirdest part, and it got even weirder when three of my friends were doing it in a parking garage on the way to the birthday party, suddenly ceasing when other people appeared to claim their car. However, we still have plans to make a larger impression this school year. Stay tuned to campus news, Wheaton College. 😉 )

wheaton fireworks 2015 o-chem friends photo by falecia sanchez

Photo Credit: Falecia Sanchez

4. God is powerful and deserves to be sought. This past week I heard about my friends’ student-led Bible study and attended the last night with the O-Chem students present. I listened as one of my friends, having sought the wisdom of a professor, explained 1 John 5:26. We all wrestled with that Scripture together. We discussed the power of prayer, and they encouraged me in my missionary endeavors to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The way they sought God reminded me of the passionate college students I’d admired in Connecticut.

God used these students to teach me more about himself though regular interactions as well.

5. The diversity of our Messiah’s Body goes beyond race and ethnicity. Most people in this group of amazing men and women were white Americans and thus appeared homogenous. However, we came from varied backgrounds such as the suburban Midwest, SoCal and the “boonies” of Minnesota. I do not intend to demean the significance skin color and ethnic culture plays in our lives and the lives of those around us. However, I was surprised at the cultural diversity within the group despite our shared skin color, and I’m grateful that God showed me how amazing my white skinfolk can be! I needed to learn that lesson. We learned from each other, compared cultural differences we noticed and tried to understand how our cultures influenced us.

Our dreams also varied: One friend has already been accepted into optometry school, and a couple friends are anticipating their upcoming marriage and future children. Yet another is looking forward to working in a Boston lab before potentially going overseas to India. These friends are so welcoming, humble, and inspiring!

You would think that I’d already know all these points, having lived with two hard-science-turned-other-major students this past year. (Common sense is a thing, too, but I’ve always been a little lacking in that area.) I had to be in a group composed of bio, chem and physics nerds in order to learn these five lessons.

These friends have loved me and welcomed me into their circles, offered me generous hospitality and extended warm hugs of friendship. They remained their weird selves in front of me, and they welcomed me with my own quirks and interests and unsightly allergies that make me cry uncontrollably once the pollen builds up each evening. These gracious, intelligent, godly and fun friends filled my June weekends with laughter.

The Organic Chemistry class finishes this Friday, and I won’t see some of my new friends again until school resumes in August. I will miss them! Here’s a shout out to the friends who are leaving for the month: I thank you for loving me. Thanks for teaching me about God and the joyful, vibrant life he’s given us. Thank you for stretching me in unexpected ways!

Photos by Falecia Sanchez