Every Student. Every Story.
My wife and I have been working with The Destino Movement for over 3 years. There have been ups and downs along the way. Overall, I think we’d both agree that its been an amazing ride. We’ve seen God do so much more through Destino nationwide than we ever thought possible. The evangelism statistics have been off the charts. For example, one Destino movement this year saw more people trust Christ than any other Campus Crusade movement in the country. To quote Steve Douglass, “God is stepping things up.”
As God has worked in miraculous ways we’ve begun to have opportunities to share on a broad scale what is happening in Destino. We are always excited at the possibility to give more people the chance the hear. Inevitably though, there’s a problem. You see, one of the biggest ways God has been working in Destino has been through undocumented students (college students who currently have an illegal immigration status).
Under Texas State Law, undocumented immigrants are allowed to attend college if they meet certain eligibility requirements (above and beyond the requirements for citizens or international students). Though there are only around 200 undocumented students at Texas A&M, they make up 10% of our movement and 10% of our student leadership. They are a loved and significant part of who we are. And God is using them in unbelievable ways.
In the Fall of 2009, one of the undocumented students in our local Destino movement personally saw more people accept Christ than any other Campus Crusade movement in 6 regions of the country. People love that the student shares their faith. They’re uncomfortable with the fact that the student is undocumented.
A Fight for the Gospel
Twice in the last six months we’ve wanted to share their story in non-Destino venues. Both times people have been scared because of the immigration status of the students. Its understandable, immigration is a hot topic in American politics. Typically people want to avoid controversy. But it is not okay to shrink back from sharing these stories. Ultimately, this is a fight for the very soul of the Gospel.
Story and Community
Professor Juan Martinez from Fuller Seminary recently spoke at the Wheaton Theology Conference on the topic of “Hispanic Theology”. In the last part of his presentation, he mentions nine issues that Latino theology raises for Evangelicals. In one of his points, while not specifically referring to undocumented students, he frames the issue perfectly:
“Will the stories of U.S. Protestantism be expanded? Will the narratives of those of us who have been on the fringe be included? Or are we not part of the story? If the story doesn’t include us, then we are not part of the community. [emphasis added] Remember that history is always telling the story of who we are and how we are. And we always include what we consider important. So if I am not in the narrative, obviously I’m not important. And that’s how we’re telling the story.” – Latin American Theology, time mark 36:30
When we tell stories as a church or an organization we have an opportunity to share our identity. The stories we choose to share communicate who we are and what we value. When we decide that certain stories should not be told (whether out of fear or other sinful motivations) we are saying that the people whose stories they are do not belong in our community. We only value our stories, not theirs. Ultimately we value ourselves, not them.
This is directly contrary to the gospel. Acts 10, Galatians 2, Acts 15 and a host of other passages clearly show that the good news of Jesus Christ is for everyone. If it is for everyone, then everyone is a part of the community. The Body of Christ includes people of every tribe, tongue, people, nation (and immigration status). To exclude the stories of the undocumented from the ones the church communicates says they are not a part of it. That’s a direct affront to the Gospel and it’s wrong.
Our Responsibility to Speak Up
The current national debate on immigration has taken an ugly tone. It has been suggested that undocumented immigrants should be shot like pigs. Others have said they should be afraid to go to the police to report crimes like rape. They’ve become our newest national scapegoats.
In this type of environment it becomes even more imperative for us to share their stories. When the dominant narrative is so horrible we have a responsibility as the church to speak on their behalf. Undocumented immigrants are people. They are worthy of honor, respect, and value. God is using them in wonderful ways. We can’t shrink back from telling their story.
Salvation Will Arise
Today we find ourselves in a similar situation to the Old Testament character Esther. She understood what the German Church of the 1940s and the majority of the White American church of the 1960s didn’t get: God’s purposes will be accomplished. Evil will be defeated. Racism will be eliminated. We have an opportunity to be a part of what God is doing. But if we shrink back from our calling God will still achieve His goals, “Salvation will arise from another place”. We just won’t be a part of it.
We have to ask ourselves if perhaps we are in this place “for such a time as this”. What if we are here specifically so we can share the God stories of the undocumented? What if we have the privilege of saying to the world, “They are a part of us. We are them. We are a community together.” We can ignore our responsibility. God will arise and help these brothers and sisters. It just won’t be through us.
I pray the church will be a place for every student and every story.
photo courtesy: Roxana takes Photos