Rejecting Rejection: Belonging and the Kingdom
“All of you, especially those who have been rejected, are invited to come into the kingdom of my Father” – Galilean Journey
This quote was running through my mind as I entered into San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio last month. As I did the sign of the cross with holy water, I sat down in this beautiful church staring at my Savior on a cross at the altar. We were just hours away from beginning our Destino staff conference and I sensed a strong need to pray for our time together and for the vision of where we were headed as a movement.
As I began to pray, I remembered the story of the San Fernando Cathedral that I had read in Father Elizondo’s book. It was a story about how as the priest of this church, he looked around the city of San Antonio and said that the church would be a welcoming home to those who had been consistently rejected outside its walls. Just like Jesus of Galilee invited all into the kingdom, so would his church reflect that to this city.
I then began to pray that Destino would be a place that would resemble this same truth. I prayed that our movement would be one that rejected rejection, which was what San Fernando Cathedral represented to the people of San Antonio. I prayed that we as a movement would be place where all could be included, invited to enter into the kingdom of God and participate in his kingdom work- especially those who had previously been rejected and excluded. I thought about the ways that I presently saw exclusion in our ministry and wept over how desperately I wanted that to change. I also thanked him for ways that I saw glimpses of his kingdom coming in how we were seeking to reject rejection in our midst.
I currently rejoice over the inclusion I see in how Destino offers a place of acceptance to those people living in between two cultural worlds. The pain of the mestizo identity is that we live in this liminal space where no place feels fully home to us, yet our movement has become a home to all that have this same experience. Together, because we know what it is to feel rejected by our two different parent cultures, we can say to the world that there is a kingdom coming that “invites all” to the table of God’s fellowship through the acceptance of forgiveness found in his Son. We proclaim this message with fervor and passion as it speaks to the very heart of the gospel to us. We have found a family. A place where this longing to belong, uniquely expressed in the mestizo identity, can finally find rest in the Savior. What a beautiful community we have in Destino where all those previously excluded from a cultural home have become a home for each other through the transformation of the gospel in their lives.
I also see the kingdom within Destino when I look at how in the last three years we have seen fully funded Latinos being sent to the world to take the gospel to some of the least reached places on the planet. When we first started ministering with Destino, the constant refrain we heard was that Destino students couldn’t be sent in missions because they lacked the ability to raise their own funds. I praise God for the ways I’ve seen this change and for how I see rays of light of God’s coming kingdom as more Hispanics are participating in taking the message of Christ to the ends of the earth. What a beautiful picture of all being included in his work. Latinos have such a unique role to play.
I share all this because I want us to rejoice together in the ways that God is absolutely moving among us. But to only speak of the victory would be to silence the voice of exclusion that also still exists. I want to invite us all into praying for this to change too as we look to a new future.
I currently see exclusion in the fact that while Destino has existed for 15 years, Latinos are still the minority on staff with us. We have yet to find a way to include the excluded right now in the kingdom work God has called us to as a ministry. This must change systemically for the sake of a future where the vision of Destino being “a ministry through Latinos to the world” becomes more than just a statement but a reality. There are models, structures, systems that have yet to be born that will move us in this new direction. We need to be people brave enough to step away from what we have always known for the sake of those we are meant to serve. It seems this is more difficult than moving mountains, but I believe it is what the Spirit is longing to do through us in this season of time in our life as a ministry. Can we be people that envision a different future than the one that presently exists? This takes more than slogans and resources. It takes courage.
I also see exclusion in the fact that the leadership of Destino is still majority culture leadership as well. I’m so grateful for these people that God has placed in positions of power (my spouse being one of them). At the same time we all realize the future of Destino is dependent on this being different. We need to be asking the question of why this is even the case. Why, when the ministry initially was founded by a Latino, do we lack leadership from within the culture we’re ministering to? What unjust realities right now need to move and change so that a Latino or Latina can be raised up to lead? These are important questions worth exploring and talking about relentlessly. Without these kind of frank conversations, we will inevitably stay as we are, without any real understanding as to why we are there in the first place.
The image of San Fernando represents to me a future I long for in Destino. May we be a movement that reflects the heart of Jesus, rejecting rejection and including all in the kingdom to come.