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Embracing Multicultural Ministry

This guest post was written by Luz Gálvez de Figueroa.

Falling in Love with a Different Culture

The first time we stepped onto American soil was at the Miami airport in 1987. Sitting there for 6 hours after a long trip from Chile was overwhelming.

As we waited, a strange lady wearing a long coat, a big hat, and a big bag came to us asking for money. We were moved with sympathy.

However, in our broken English, we were able to tell her that we were missionaries on our way to Canada, and we had very little American money. To our surprise, she immediately opened her big purse, took what money she had, and put it on my lap saying, “God bless you.”

This touched our lives with an incredible love for this North American culture. Since then, serving in Anglo churches in Children’s and Family Ministries for many years has helped me learn more about this culture, and has renewed my passion for this generation.

I believe that the call to serve and bring my own culture together with this culture in love is from God. We must respond believing that “God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.” (1 John 4:16 CSB)

This may be one of the highest aims for which we were created. Each person, and each culture, is distinctly unique. Each is capable of knowing something about God which no one else knows. In meeting strangers, we have the opportunity to share that treasure with each other.

That’s why the mission of Entre Niños is to train, encourage, connect, and resource all of those who serve children in Jesus’s name, as it is so vital to connecting all cultures for Christ.

It is a multicultural ministry serving Latino leaders throughout the globe by providing a free digital magazine that includes articles in Spanish and different articles in English.

Training is provided through webinars, local seminars, and an annual conference. Additionally, we partner with Bethel Seminary providing an online Certificate program fully in Spanish for students from the USA and other countries. 

Embracing Latinos in North America

The 2020 US Census counted 334,735,155 people in the United States and Puerto Rico. English is the number one language spoken at home (78%), and Spanish is second, comprising 13.5%.

The total Hispanic/Latino population is 18.4%. In other words, the United States represents the fifth largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and Spain.

To love the approximately 60,481,746 million Latinos living in the United States means that we not only need to understand diversity, but we must also embrace it!

Accepting diversity starts with an awareness of what is beneath superficial behavior and the environment.

In his book Cultural Intelligence, David Livermore introduces the concept of cruise control and gives the metaphor that when we drive around familiar places, we can use the cruise control because we feel comfortable, and it is the same thing when we interact with familiar cultural context.

But when driving in unfamiliar territory, we turn off the cruise control to pay attention, which is similar to what we need to do when we interact with people from different cultural contexts.[1]

Understanding the Latino culture is vital. Being Latino means to feel, behave, love, eat, and live in a Latin way, while still speaking a mix of both English and Spanish.

Despite the diverse mix of cultures because of the different countries represented, we value “faith, family, hard work, honesty, sharing, inclusion, and cooperation.”[2] 

This cultural framework is the base that guides Latinos to put more emphasis on family and community than they do on the individual.

Bringing Culture and Ministry Together

For our ministries to families, I consider it of foremost importance to envision a multicultural family ministry that shares God’s Word in the context of multiple cultures. It is different from cross-cultural ministry which tends to focus from one culture into one specific other culture.

In a multicultural ministry to families, we need to reflect that the gospel message is universally and ultimately true. It is therefore important to keep in mind that not only human factors are involved in this relationship process, but also the living God who still speaks through His Word today.

The gospel is not bound to any one culture. The gospel is bound to the revealed Word of God and it is God’s truth and revelation for all peoples of all nations at all times.

Because of this, we can believe that every culture adds to a fuller understanding of the gospel by bringing important features to light that are less visible in other cultures.

This reminds us of the mission described by Paul: “We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28 CSB).

The calling to imitate God is inescapable in the Scripture. The people of God are called to treat strangers kindly because God welcomed and treated them well when they were strangers in Egypt (Exodus 23:9).

Taking Personal Cultural Inventory

Finally, to be a leader who wants to love others including their cultural differences, one must first start focusing his or her attention on the leader’s own self-evaluation about personal leadership.

Irving and Strauss state, “Christian leaders are encouraged to look at their own life and consider issues at the core of their personhood. They must consider their personal beliefs and values. They must consider their life and how they are living in light of their convictions and beliefs.”[3] 

Please consider reflecting on the following personal questions:

  1. Which cultural group or subgroup do you find it hardest to relate to? Why do you think this is?
  2. Share one way that you have grown in cultural intelligence in the past five years. What do you think contributed toward that development?
  3. Think of a situation in which you made a misattribution because of a stereotype about a specific culture that shaped your assumptions.
  4. What are four or five historical factors that have shaped your faith, particularly its cultural expressions and attitudes toward other cultures?
  5. Are there some specific sins that you could name that have become part of your faith community’s historical baggage? For example, racism, separatism, intolerance, or others.

Conclusion

As we know, Jesus challenged the notion of the power dynamics of His time when He reached out to others because He saw all people made in the image of God.

Our goal in a multicultural ministry is not to erase cultural differences but rather to seek ways to honor the presence of God in different cultures.

God has a plan and a mission for the world that was established in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension. He still intends His kingdom to be established on earth, and we are invited to participate together with others in doing this.

As leaders serving together in a multicultural setting, we are to be a living testimony to the transforming power of the gospel in action.


[1] David Livermore, Cultural Intelligence (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 147.

[2] Juana Bordas. Salsa, Soul, and Spirit (Berret-Koehler Publisher: San Francisco, CA, 2012), 11, Kindle.

[3] Justin A. Irving and Mark L. Strauss. Leadership in Christian Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019), 35, Kindle.


About Luz

Luz is the founder and director of the Entre Niños magazine and ministry. She served as a pastor and director of Children’s and Family Ministries in several large churches in Canada for approximately 28 years. Luz is an internationally known leader in children’s and family ministries, a prominent speaker, teaching and writing for various conferences and events.

Luz has a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation (MASF) and a Master in Divinity (MDiv) from Carey Theological College Vancouver, Canada, and she is currently a candidate for her Doctorate in Theology and Leadership from Bethel Seminary. She resides in Vancouver, BC, Canada, with her husband José. They have two grown children, both married, and are the proud grandparents of two of the sweetest granddaughters.

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