The first time I heard God’s message of reconciliation was in context of an Asian American InterVarsity fellowship on campus. As a Mexican American and white woman, listening to how Asian American identity is integral to God’s plan for the world and how it uniquely shapes Asian American’s faith and service was completely new to me. It opened the conversation to me about the intersection of identity and faith, and I was able to learn from my Asian American friends around me what their identity really is, not some stereotype or generalization, but the many different and similar ways that their life and faith are influenced by their ethnic identity, and from this I was able to begin a journey of reflecting and sharing about my own experience and identity within the context of the world.
This week we are all being asked the question, What story will you tell? We’ve already heard so many stories about the lives of those around the world experiencing God very differently than our own experiences. Over the last few years I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my own life and identity, trying to piece together my story as it is serving God’s purpose, but as I’ve met and listened to so many people from around the world here at Urbana, I am overwhelmingly being reminded by God that I am just one piece in his giant and beautiful masterpiece.
As I’ve heard each story of service, of hurt, of hope, and of discovery God is revealing more and more of himself and more and more I am surprised at how small I make God out to be. So many times I’ve been blessed and provided for by God and yet I continue to be surprised that he actually does what he says he does. In hearing stories outside my own I get to see God's work and what it looks like to believe and even hope in his power.
But these stories are not always comfortable or easy. As we've entered into these conversations about racism, injustice, other religions, climate change, and many more, it is easy to be paralyzed by fear or shame of not having engaged or even cared about these types of stories before. However, this is not what God's intention for our intersection is meant to be. God gifted us with our unique lives and stories and he uses our unique positions to share His glory.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. -1 Corinthians 12:12
We are a body, and as we come together to grow, we are also strengthening each other and building up our body. As we hear about stories outside our own we are becoming more whole and complete as a church. Just as feeling pain is necessary for a body to know where to begin the healing process, knowing what parts of our church are hurting and in need allows us to know how to bring change to our missions.
There's still two more days left at Urbana and thousands of stories to hear. As we continue to try and answer the question, what will our stories be, we must remember that if our story is to be tied to God's story it will be inherently linked to the stories of others. As missions minded people, entering into spaces that are unfamiliar and stories that are unknown opens our eyes to the world as God sees it, whole and fulfilling of his purposes. So as we continue to encounter the unfamiliar, my hope is that together we will encourage each other in our stories and when we listen we would not hesitate but we would embrace the many different and necessary and beautiful parts of our church body.