Journey to Mosaic Squared – A Change in World Perspective

Post a Comment » Written on August 11th, 2008     
Filed under: News
By Regina Wang

OAKLAND, CA (August 11, 2008) – As a person of color, 21-year-old Sandra Santiago thought she knew all about diversity. But a three-week summer experience in Oakland, she said, has changed her understanding of the world – especially the role of the church – in an increasingly diverse America.

Santiago was one of the seven young adults who participated in Journey to Mosaic Squared (J2M2), an inner-city plunge designed to explore God’s heart for justice. Together they shared a two-bedroom house in East Oakland. In the span of three weeks from July 5 to July 26 they pursued intense, formative experiences that included learning from local pastors, camping on Angel Island, and washing the feet of the homeless in San Francisco.

Her teammates not only came from different geographic areas, they also attended churches very different from hers. Santiago, a junior at California Lutheran University, worships at Nueva Esperanza, a Hispanic-American church in Simi Valley. One of her teammates, Dominique Gilliard, hailed from Georgia and grew up in a gospel-singing African-American church where going to church on Sunday was an all-day event.

“It was a little crazy,” Santiago said with a chuckle, explaining that she had never shared a bathroom with anyone before. But in Oakland she played, cooked, hiked, and most often worshipped with her teammates, whom she came to love, she says. “They had so much to teach me.”

During the second week the team jumped on a bus and traveled throughout California in four days, exploring the history of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Hispanic-Americans. They were paired with a group of leaders from various Covenant churches.

The most powerful experience for her on this trip, Santiago said, was when an African-American pastor shared her personal fears. The pastor wept when she recalled her young sons being followed in stores. She often worried her six-foot-five husband was being suspected as a criminal.

Racism, Santiago realized, is still alive and divides people- even Christians – as churches in America still remain segregated in ethnicity and class.

When she and her teammates returned to Oakland after the bus journey, she said she did not know what to do with this new knowledge. “I was depressed. I felt powerless to change things.”

“Where is God?” She found herself wrestling with this question during J2M2.

And God surprised her, she said, as she saw him in a place she least expected – inside a county prison.

During the last week of J2M2, the team visited a Santa Clara County prison. Through the help of Peggy Bingham, a Covenant pastor and chaplain, they had the opportunity to meet with some inmates.

Santiago was astounded when the inmates shared their love for God and gave testimonies of miracles. “I knew God had to be there, because it was impossible for someone (without God) to live in that condition and praise God,” she said. “He showed me that he is there – and he wants to use us.”

She had another revelation: The church, Santiago learned, bears the hope to a world thirsty for living water.

“Before, I thought church was all about entertaining and caring for people in your church, watching out for them. Now I see the opposite – people who are outside the church are important.”

The experience of living with people of different ethnicities, hearing their stories and learning about their cultures has broadened her vision of who God is, she said. And she wanted to share this vision with her church in Simi Valley, Nueva Esperanza.

At the same time, she said she understood the challenges that her church faces – as most immigrant churches do. She has seen the tensions that occur between a Spanish-speaking and an English-speaking congregation. Alienation can occur between an immigrant church and a more established mainstream church.

But she said that all churches need to live out the purpose of Christ.

“I want to share the need for the church to go outside, to open its eyes to the reality we are living in, and to make them aware that there are people out there who need help,” Santiago said. “He taught me to be bold and open to whatever he has for me. And to let him show me the way, and I will follow, instead of doing things the way I want. There’s so much more than my selfish plans and goals.”

“I am excited,” Santiago said.

Editor’s note: Regina Wang attends and is involved in ministry at University Covenant Church in Davis, California.

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