MAS, If You Will

By Sophia Botello

La versión en español está disponible al final de este documento.

Recently I attended the 3rd Annual Statewide Summit on Implementing Mexican American Studies for Texas Schools. The summit was organized by the National Association of Chicana & Chicano Studies (NACCS) and the Tejas Foco Committee on Mexican American Studies (MAS). The goals of the summit were to “identify institutional barriers, establish priorities, and develop a plan of action for the implementation of MAS in Texas schools for Pre-K – 12th grade and for increasing the access to MAS courses and content within the community.” This was my first time to attend the summit, and I was in awe of the educators and activists that I had the privilege to speak to and learn from. 
I work in higher education; so why did I attend a summit for Pre-K – 12th grade?  I attended this summit because, for one, I identify as a Mexican American, a Chicana, a Tejana, and a Texan.  These multiple facets of my identity have been formed by historical, political, and social events that occurred over the last 200 years. The narrative of my identity is a unique one that, sadly, tends to fall into the margins of U.S. history, and, although the narrative of my identity is unique to me, it is also a collective narrative shared by many others like me. I also attended the summit to see how my college students could benefit from the implementation of MAS.  
I know, first-hand, the importance of ethnic and cultural studies. The first time I studied Mexican American life and culture in an academic context was in an upper-level multi-cultural literature course in my undergraduate program. To learn about my history and culture was extremely validating – the only other time I had studied anything that had to do with Mexican history was in my eighth grade Texas history class. And the teacher went into a discussion about how “bad and evil” Mexicans were at the Battle of the Alamo. (I remember how I wanted to disappear from this class because the embarrassment was just too much.) At that young and impressionable point in my life, I didn’t know I had a cultural history. However, that changed in my college literature course, when the professor put the work we were reading in context, framing the work in a factual and historical way that opened my world completely. I began to wonder why it took so long for me to learn anything about my culture. 
In graduate school, my graduate research project centered around Chicana writer, Bárbara Renaud González’ work, Golondrina, why did you leave me? Through this literary work, I delved into Mexican American history and culture. It was such a rewarding and moving experience to research the complexities of the Mexican American. Currently, I teach Survey of Chican@ Literature II at Baptist University of the Américas, and I am constantly amazed at how many students of all cultural backgrounds tell me that this class transformed their lives in a positive way. Again, I thought: why do students have to wait until college to learn about the complex experience of Mexican American history and culture? 
At the summit, I learned that one reason for the development of MAS is the rapid change of the demographics in the U.S.  Over the last five years, educators, activists, community members, parents, and students have pushed forth the development of MAS in Texas. It is predicted that by the year 2050, Latinos and Latinas will become a “minority majority,” a term that Héctor Tobar utilizes in his National Geographic article, “How Latinos Are Shaping America’s Future.”  Based on data produced by the Pew Research Center, Tobar highlights that approximately 63% of Latinos identify with origins from Mexico. This percentage includes native-born U.S. citizens, foreign-born U.S. citizens, and non-U.S. citizens. There are 36,203,000 people in the U.S. who identify as Mexican Americans; the demographic is changing, and savvy educators know that the U.S. education system must change to reflect the diversity of this changing student demographic. This starts by implementing courses such as MAS. 
Another reason for the development of MAS is that educators want their students to succeed academically and socially. Research shows that programs such as MAS have positive effects, and from a sociological standpoint, when students see themselves reflected in the curriculum, they are more likely to be engaged and to think critically about the diverse world around them.  Studies about these types of programs in Arizona and California have concluded that students who take these courses excel academically with improved GPAs and higher graduation rates. And isn’t this what we want for all our students? For them to be engaged in their studies and question the world around them? 
In addition, at the summit I was empowered as I met some important leaders and role models among the Mexican American community. I heard Dr. Carmen Tafolla, President of the Texas Institute of Letters and the first Chicana to head a Mexican American Studies Center in the nation, give the invocation for the summit; I met one of my activist heroes, Tony Diaz, co-founder and leader of the Librotraficante Movement, who is part of my Chican@ course curriculum; I had lunch with Angela Valenzuela, who works in both the Educational Policy and Planning Program within the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Texas at Austin and who holds a courtesy appointment in the Cultural Studies in Education Program within the Department of Curriculum & Instruction; and I took a picture with the keynote speaker, Dr. Cinti Robert Rodriguez, an associate professor at the University of Arizona Department of MAS. 
I was in MAS heaven, to say the least. 
I have written about the importance of cultural studies before because it is a subject that is close to my heart. The summit is attempting to develop a structured approach to MAS, and I believe it will happen. And I truly believe Texas, along with Arizona and California, will be an agent for educational reform in the nation, a change that is long overdue. Additionally, Texas will lead the way for other cultural courses of study such as Asian American Studies, African American Studies, and Native American Studies. 
Yes, the Mexican American civil rights movement continues. I am glad that at BUA we have the opportunity to educate and empower Mexican American students by teaching them about their history and culture as we prepare them to serve more holistically in their communities and beyond.

Sophia Botello Picture

Sophia Botello is Instructor of English and Director of the Writing Center at Baptist University of the Américas in San Antonio, Texas.

La versión en español está disponible aquí.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Teachers, Teaching, and self-confidence

By Teresa Martinez

La versión en español está disponible al final de este documento.

Have you ever felt like a “poser,” a “fake,” or an “imposter?” I fight that feeling sometimes.
Sometimes, I have also felt like I could do anything! In those moments, I feel “highly capable” as Dr. Gabriel Cortes notes in his seminars on raising children.  
Today, as I reflect on why I shift back and forth on the status of my competency, I think it has much to do with my teachers. Through them I experienced myself positively and negatively.
It is hard for me to grasp, but this year I completed a total of 20 years working in higher education! The first two years were spent serving doctors, medical students and lawyers while at the Texas Tech Regional Academic Health Center Library in El Paso, Texas. For the last 18 years, I have served at Baptist University of the Américas in the Learning Resources Center in many capacities; first, as the Assistant Librarian; then as the Interim Library Director; and since 2006 as the Director of Learning Resources. I have provided resources and services via the LRC to this diverse academic community through several accreditation cycles; three major changes in leadership; a total reclassification of materials; conversion from a paper/pencil system to a digital operation; and on-going assessment and implementation of academic library processes and procedures. Now and then, I have even had opportunities to review the academic compliance of other college and university libraries around the country through my participation with the Association of Biblical Higher Education.
Who would have thought that the little Mexican-American girl from the barrio in El Paso would be here? Certainly, my first grade teacher at Lamar Elementary did not. She reported to my mother that I was a dreamer and never did my work on time. Also, it is likely, my third-grade teacher in Glasgow, Montana did not imagine it either. She was very concerned that I would never master the English language since I could not read without my Spanish accent. My fifth-grade science teacher reported that I would likely not finish elementary school, much less high school. Not even my own momma could imagine that I would finish both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree and even begin a Ph. D program. After all, she said, “people like us are not smart enough or have enough money to go to college.”
Perhaps, however, my second-grade teacher also in Glasgow did have farther vision. Could that be why she suggested I read Amelia Bedelia? Could she have known that the book would be a first step in developing confidence that even I had something valuable to offer to the world like Amelia Bedelia’s scrumptious lemon meringue pie? Maybe she knew that even unrefined people bring redeeming work to the table. So what if Amelia Bedelia actually drew the drapes on the drawing pad and dressed the chicken in pants and suspenders? When her employers took the first bite of that pie, it made up for every weird awkward thing she had done that first day on the job!

TMartinez girl

Then there was Mrs. Ceballos who taught me in fourth grade. Maybe she knew that all I needed was healthy food every day and extra help with my homework so I could learn properly. Maybe she could see that I had the potential to lead and teach others and that’s why she told me about the free lunch program and modeled for me how to learn my multiplication tables using flashcards. Maybe that is why she sat me next to other students who also struggled with their multiplication tables then required me to help them. Maybe she knew the sense of accomplishment I would get when I received the “Most Improved” award at the end of the year. Was it her plan all along to change my trajectory?
And what about Mrs. Navarro who when I did graduate high school gave me a new Webster’s Dictionary, a book on classic plays and three back issues of Writer’s Digest? Maybe she paid attention when I wrote in my journal that I wanted to be a writer. Maybe she believed in me when I did not believe in myself. Maybe someone believed in her at one time, too. Maybe she took reading my homework assignments seriously and saw my heart for learning. Maybe she carried the twin banners of preparation and possibility for me when I could not—just to show me how to think forward and large.
Presently, I am preparing my professional development notebook. I am reflecting on why I enjoy the instructional aspects of librarianship so much. I think about how Dr. Jimmy Adair and I came up with the syllabus, content and learning outcomes for the Fundamentals of Academic Research course that I teach solo now. He was also my teacher—modeling thoroughness and excellence as we went through the process of developing a new course together. To this day, my students are benefitting from all the teachers in my life. I have had plenty in the home, in the classroom, and in the ministry of the Gospel.
Some of my teachers I have not met in person, but know them through their writing. One of those is C. S. Lewis. He and I have had philosophical discussions on many topics including education. In his book, Mere Christianity, he inspires me when he states, “One of the reasons why one needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself. That is why an uneducated believer like Bunyan was able to write a book that has astonished the whole world.” The best model of a teacher I have ever had is Jesus Christ who knows how to 1) “Express Care;” 2) “Challenge Growth;” 3) “Provide Support;” 4) “Share Power;” and 5) “Expand Possibilities.”
So sometimes, when I need a reality check, I remind myself of who I am in Christ and whose I am into eternity. God has eternal purposes for people, and I have learned to consider that there are visible and hidden talents in each person. I teach with this special calling to “pay forward” the gifts of inspiration, preparation and education. I love to invest in people because God does.

TMartinez picture

Teresa Martinez serves as the Director of the Learning Resources Center and Chair of the Associate of Arts in Cross-cultural Studies at Baptist University of the Américas.  

La versión en español está disponible aquí.

Continue reading

Commencement is not just a beginning —it’s a continuation

By Craig Bird

La versión en español está disponible al final de este documento.

I had a welcome and surprising mental visitor during graduation this year. And another reminder to thank God daily for letting me teach at Baptist University of the Américas.
My favorite seminary professor popped up when commencement speaker Dr. Delvin Atchison nailed down his reminder that every graduate almost surely has some tough times in front of them by advising, “When the call of God seemingly obliterates the promises of God—there dwells the dark night of the soul.”
That insight, he noted, is from the heart and mind of Dr. J. W. MacGorman. And though it’s been more than 30 years since I inhaled his every word during my seminary studies, his name summoned scores of vivid and powerful memories of a brilliant mind in service to a Jesus he adored.
I regularly share with my classes some lessons Dr. MacGorman gifted me from his own dark and terrible times of heartbreak and testing and, eventually peace. Lessons that have ministered to me when I begged, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.”
I also begin each semester reminding my classes and myself, that I might face a more challenging heavenly reckoning that most because those who teach “will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1).
A life in academia was nowhere on my radar for my first 55 years. I attended seminary (and took every MacGorman class I could) in pursuit of a career and calling to be a missionary photo-journalist, a path that culminated with 10 years living in Africa and covering stories of God and God’s people in 26 countries.
I had no doubt I was doing what I was created to do and that nothing would ever let me feel God’s pleasure more than telling those stories.
But dark and troubled times came to me too. God’s calling on my life had taken me places where I was emotionally and spiritually battered. It was the darkest of nights in my soul.
But as Dr. MacGorman taught and as Dr. Atchison reminded—the call is primary, and faith let’s cling to the day the promises will come true.
And in 2003, I “happened” to meet a BUA professor who assured me I was just what the university needed because I had a master’s in English. 
God, with no advance notice, had given me a second “best career ever.” The best of many good parts of teaching at BUA is our small size gives me the opportunity to engage all of our BA students since I teach so many required classes.
So, each year new men and women—many the first in their family to attend college—greeted me at the beginning of the semester, any those from earlier classes showed up to continue the journey. I get to teach some amazing courses that include enriching your spiritual life, mastering a fear of public speaking, encountering other religious word views, considering how Christians should respond to racism and learning to forgive yourself and others so you can be the person God created you to be… When you gaze into the soul and mind of such students they become part of you.
My first three graduations were pure celebration. I didn’t remember then that goodbye always follows hello—and in college that happens every four years.
In 2007 I experienced my first sad-laced graduation. That was the Spring students I had known for four years and who had taught me more that I taught them, walked across the stage and out of my everyday life. I shared their joy and enjoyed their hugs—but I knew parts of my heart were leaving with them.
This year was my 15th BUA commencement. And more pieces of my heart headed for churches where they will be leaders, for businesses where they will be witnesses, and for graduate studies where they will uphold BUA’s sterling reputation.
One graduate overcame a childhood of abuse and rejection to claim a place as a child of God, confident of God’s approval—and a double graduate of BUA.
Another found direction when an inspiring professor (not me!) opened the way for God to whisper, “I want you to be a professor.”
A third had acquired the knowledge to discuss faith with his atheist father—and the grace to forgive him for abandoning the family.
A fourth shared at the graduate dinner how God used the familia of BUA to heal her heart and mind—she earned two bachelor’s degrees too.
Halleluiah what a Savior that blessed me to sit among a faculty I admire and strive to emulate as we applauded “our” students’ successes.
What a God that granted me an amazing career as a journalist—and gave my family an incredible decade in Kenya and now has given me 15 years in the college classroom.
What a Holy Spirit that directed me on a path I didn’t even know was there to a place that lets me use my gifts and ministers to my weaknesses.
Now BUA commencement, personally, is a sadness-spiked joy as I celebrate and say goodbye to every student brandishing his or her just-acquired diploma. Each one took at least one class with me and most endured me three or four times. That means they learned, second hand, from Dr. MacGorman.
The great news is that they all will live in my heart—next door to Dr. MacGorman—as I soak up unmerited blessings by being part of a chain of knowledge and inspiration that continues in unexpected and miraculous ways.
Freely I have received so freely I can give (with apologies to Matthew 10:8)

wilderness point mug

Craig Bird is Assistant Professor of Missions and Cross Cultural Communications

La versión en español está disponible aquí.

Continue reading

A Case for Mutual Submission

By Mario A. Ramos

La versión en español está disponible al final de este documento.

Since I was raised in a Hispanic family, I experienced a soft, patriarchal hierarchy. My father was the unquestioned benevolent dictator of my family. My mother accepted her role as being his helper, and enforced his patriarchal code. The family’s purpose was to serve him. For example, when it was time for him to come home from work for dinner, we were to make him feel loved, respected, and welcomed. We were not to make too much noise. The house needed to be kept well-ordered. Supper was to be ready when he got home and would not be served until he sat down and said “grace.” We could not ask our father for anything until supper was finished. No one dared challenge his authority. His word was the law and the final appeal.  
When I got married to an Anglo wife, I expected the same kind of husband/wife role. Was I in for a surprise? Since I had become a Christian seven years before we married, I had learned much from the Bible and treated my wife well. However, I expected her to serve me all the time, starting with breakfast. Our first breakfast did not go as I had dreamed. 
When I woke up, the day after our honeymoon, my wife, Linda, was already in the kitchen. I could smell the coffee. I walked into the kitchen, kissed my bride, and asked, “What’s for breakfast?” Linda smiled and replied, “Whatever you want.” I smiled. Then she said, “There is milk and eggs in the refrigerator, cereal in the pantry, just fix whatever you want.” It took me a moment or two to realize that she was not going to make breakfast. She expected me to make my own breakfast. My parents had been married over 50 years, and not once do I remember my father making his own breakfast, lunch or dinner when my mother was in the house. That day I was introduced into a new way of relating to my wife, called mutual submission.
In her book, Extraordinary Relationships, Roberta Gilbert states that the ideal relationship is one that is “separate”, “equal” and “open.”[i] It is “separate” in that each person in the relationship is responsible for their own stuff (boundaries, emotions, thoughts, opinions, body, decisions, etc.). It is “equal” in that each person considers the other as his or her equal, not superior nor inferior. In addition, each person is “open” in his or her communications. Each person has developed a measure of trust that they can confide in each other without the fear of being judged or shamed.
After 42 years of marriage, I agree with these notions, and I believe the Bible supports them as well. In Ephesians 5:21 Paul highlights the right way to relate to fellow believers, including husbands and wives, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (NIV). He then expresses how this mutual submission relationship works between wife and husband, children and parents, and slaves and masters.
The husband, the father, and the slave owner normally were the same person. Women were considered his inferior as were his children and slaves. The role of the household was to serve the patriarch. But that is not what Jesus taught. He said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, NIV). The gospel of Jesus Christ changed everything, especially one’s relationship with each other. 
The society of Ephesus followed the sentiment expressed by Greek philosophers. Aristotle, (322-384 BC) wrote:
Of household management we have seen that there are three parts—one is the rule of a master over slaves… another of a father, and the third of a husband. A husband and father rules over wife and children, both free, but the rule differs, the rule over his children being a royal, over his wife a constitutional rule. For although there may be exceptions to the order of nature, the male is by nature fitter for command than the female, just as the older and full-grown is superior to the younger and more immature…[ii]                                       
In Ephesians 5:22-24, Paul tells the women, Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head (kephalē) of the wife as Christ is the head (kephalē) of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Paul is calling Christian women to have a different attitude in their marriage. They are to do all things unto the Lord. He uses the Greek word kephalē for head instead of the more common word for leader, which is arche. If Paul wanted to impose a strict, patriarchal pattern, arche would have settled the issue. Kephalē means head, but the issue is what kind of head? Like in English, the word head is not specific in itself.
Kephalē can be translated as head as in the ruler, the source or origin (headwaters). It can also be translated as ruler. A third option is source or origin, as the headwaters of the spring. One scholar expanded the idea of source or origin to include as first, the one who goes first.[iii] The word head is vague enough to include one, some, or all of these meanings. One has to consider why did Paul not use arche?
Kephalē was commonly used in Paul’s day as a military term to describe one who went into battle before the rest of the troops. Thus, it indicated chronology rather than leadership or position of authority. Kephalē indicates those who willingly sacrifice and lay down their lives. Such understanding is consistent with Paul’s metaphorical assertion that Christ is the kephalē of the church.[iv]               
Whether it means authority or source, the meaning of the word is spelled out in Paul’s instruction to the husbands, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25, NIV). It was bold enough for Paul to assert love as a command. The patriarchs in the congregation were more likely expecting “rule” not “love.”
The concept of mutual submission was radical in Paul’s day as it is today. Mutual submission has theoretical and practical marital, social, and ecclesiastical implications. There was a time when I thought women were created to serve men. Thankfully, I married a wise, godly and loving woman, and had the privilege of obtaining an education that helps me better understand the Bible. Thus, I can agree with Paul when he affirms, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21 NIV), because in him “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, NIV).

Mario Ramos

Dr. Mario Ramos teaches Practical Theology courses at the Baptist University of the Américas. He earned his Master’s degree in Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theology Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas and his Doctorate in Ministry from George W. Truett Theology Seminary at Baylor University. Dr. Ramos has pastored in different churches in South Texas for more than 15 years. He is married to Linda for 42 years. They have three grown sons of which two are married and have four grandchildren.
[i] Roberta M. Gilbert, Extraordinary Relationships (pp. 98-99). Leading Systems Press LLC. Kindle Edition.
[ii] Benjamin Jowett, translation of Politics by Aristotle,  http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/politics.1.one.html, accessed April 13, 2017
[iii] Lisa Baumert, “Biblical Interpretation and the Epistle to the Ephesians,” Priscilla Papers, Vol. 25, No. 2, (Spring 2011): 25
[iv] Ibid.

La versión en español está disponible aquí.

Continue reading

A Time to Exit

By Patricia Villarreal

La versión en español está disponible al final de este documento.

Transitions are a part of life. Life is all about change. Whether it is a change of life stage – childhood to youth to adulthood or changes in life -academic pursuits, career moves, or marital status. Change is inevitable, but change can be hard. Dr. Albert Reyes, CEO and President of Buckner International states that no one likes to change except a baby with a wet diaper.
The famous passage of Ecclesiastes 3:1 states that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (NIV). It continues with a litany of a season for life experiences, personal emotions, and various times to act and change. We need to know how to move on even, at times, from good and valuable stages in our journey.
Transitions are an integral and vital part in the life of a leader. Webster’s dictionary defines transition as “a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another.” A leader embraces transitions because the life of a successful leader is in constant movement and development. God places ideas, visions, and initiatives on the mind and heart of a leader and provides ways and means of implementation of these ideas. Leaders are great with the startup or sustainability of these initiatives. Whether it is a brand-new concept/ministry or moving that concept/ministry to the next level, a great leader is in constant evolution.
I have been blessed to be used by God to be a part of His Plan in the start-up of new initiatives. What a thrill it is to be a part of something new, to witness a successful launch, and be a part of God-sized growth in ways that you had no idea could possibly be so fruitful! It may be the fruition of a ministry that touches the lives of others for a greater good. A bonus is in watching growth in the life of a person God allowed you to cross paths with. As in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a season for everything under heaven. However, a topic most people in leadership don’t often discuss and even less plan for is when it’s time to exit your position or even time to close a ministry once its mission is completed.
I am co-founder of the Christian Latina Leadership Institute, an organization devoted to train Christian women leaders from the Latina perspective. The Institute offers a certificate in Latina Leadership Studies, and one of our classes is related to exits. We explore both planned and unplanned exit strategies in the life of a leader. We felt this was a vital subject that the students need competency in.
I recently experienced the content of this class, as I led a leadership team that addressed human trafficking in San Antonio in this process of an exit strategy. Here is some background:
As a part of the core leadership team, nine years ago we began San Antonio Against Slavery (SAAS). We were a part of a coalition of federal, state, and local agencies and organizations located in San Antonio that dealt with trafficked persons and persons at risk of being trafficked. Our team began serving after recognizing that local, common SA residents were not aware of this horrific crime against humanity happening right in our neighborhoods. The education and information on trafficking was staying within the confines of the professionals. SAAS began with a team of five Christian women who were very concerned that modern day slavery was right under our noses. We began to host monthly informational meetings at night and Saturday workshops inviting the public to hear about trafficking in San Antonio. We were the only ones within the coalition providing educational meetings to the residents of San Antonio. Our presenters came from the coalition.
By the grace of God, within these past 2 years, the coalition (Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking) continued to evolve and began to host educational meetings to the general public. Agencies in employment, legal services, law enforcement, social service agencies and others began informational meetings to the local public. Last year, SAAS leadership began prayer and dialogue with each other and our constituents as to the need for SAAS meetings. Our numbers in attendance were dwindling. The leadership still felt committed to their role but our lives, too, were “evolving”. We prayed and reviewed our work over the holidays. Coming together in January, we agreed that it was time to close the doors of SAAS services. Agencies and organizations were doing what we were doing and could reach a wider scope to our fellow San Antonians, Bexar county residents. and outlying areas.
When we sent our notice of closure to the organization, we received many emails thanking us for what we began almost a decade ago. Agencies and individuals in congregations shared how we made an impact in their lives not only in knowledge but encouraged them to start their own service of addressing human trafficking awareness. One member of the coalition wrote, “SAAS events served as the catalyst where so many were transformed to committed agents-of-change. Because of their work, so many were moved to volunteer with local agencies, some were moved to start their own initiatives.” We had no idea that SAAS had made that type of impact. Certainly, we struggled with the decision. We grieved that we were letting go of “our child of nine years”. But it was time. We declared the need to remain as friends and a pledge to see each other at least annually, if not more.
It’s much easier to exit when it is planned. You have an opportunity to reflect on what has been accomplished and that all is in place for the next stage of development. However, even unplanned exits for individual leaders are opportunities of growth. Reflection and process just comes after the good-bye. An investigation of what was accomplished may be more difficult due to a possible emotional upheaval. If this has happened to you, leader, take heart. God places us in areas of service where He needed us for that season. Transition is a part of the life of a leader.
At Baptist University of the Américas, our mission as an institution of higher education, is the formation, from the Hispanic context, of cross-cultural Christian leaders. Every year, we conclude the formation of a group of students as they finish their studies and graduate. We are proud of them, and wish them the best as they face changes, transitions, and prepare their exit strategy from BUA. Change is hard, but the God who does not change, has promised to go with us wherever we go.

Patty's pic 2016

Patty Villarreal, LMSW celebrates 41 years as a social worker this April. In her 12th year, she serves as an adjunct professor in social work for the Baptist University of the Américas. She co-founded the Latina Leadership Institute, and is currently serving on several boards that deal with community development, social work education, and health issues.

La versión en español está disponible aquí.

Continue reading

Wise Women

By Sophia Botello

La versión en español está disponible al final de este documento.

Last month marked the celebration of Día de los Reyes. For many Christians, this is known as Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings Day, a day when three wise men, or Magi, followed a star across the desert to Bethlehem to find and present baby Jesus with three symbolic gifts. This year, during the Epiphany, I pondered upon the word ‘wise’ and began to think about the wise women in my life. 
First, what does it mean to be wise? We often think of older people who possess discernment or educated people who carry a vast amount of knowledge as being wise. But, is this always the case? I am often struck by the amount of wisdom a young person radiates, even though they have had few life experiences, or how a person with no educational background can know exactly how to resolve a problem. On the opposite end of that, I have known older people who do not possess a sense of right or wrong or educated people whose intellect is questionable. To this end, we can conclude not only that society has certain stereotypes of wisdom but also that wisdom is present in many forms. 
This being said, I would like to discuss those I consider to be the wise women in my life. These women range from my grandmother, who had only a seventh-grade education to my peers who have earned doctorates and who excel in their fields of study. These wise women have inspired me. They have transformed me. They have mentored me. 
My grandmother, a migrant worker and mother of ten who now is with the Lord, is, to me, a wise woman. She worked hard to care for and provide for her children, cooking stacks of tortillas daily and washing clothes by hand. When she gathered her family together, it was often to read to her children from the Bible. She loved the Word of God and passed on her love of the Word to her children. To me, these things made her a wise woman. She may not have had book smarts, but she knew how to run a home and instill a love for Christ and a desire for salvation in her children and grandchildren. And, even though she is not on the earth physically, in my memory, she continues to inspire me with her wisdom.
The women I teach at Baptist University of the Américas become wise women as they attempt to navigate a national educational system that often obstructs their access to information or rebukes their academic contributions. These young and not-so-young women walk into my classroom and into my life – some fearless and some fearful – with no knowledge on how to maneuver within this system. Nevertheless, with no formal training, these women persist and thrive within the very educational system that tends to marginalize them, all the while being transformed into enlightened and informed individuals. Through this transformation, these women ‘wise-up,’ and their transformation is mine, as well, for I have experienced what they have experienced, and we share our experiences with one another, forming a collective metanarrative full of wisdom and power. 
My female professors and colleagues who have master’s degrees and doctorates are wise women in my life. They are experts in their fields of study, often balancing family, school, and work. They gladly share their intellect and their knowledge. They encourage me to continue in my studies, all the while informing me of the obstacles they faced and that I may face. I relay on them as good sources of information and they propel me forward, instilling in me the idea that education is good for all. These wise women function as mentors in my life. 
Now, let’s go back to the story of the wise men. Since I was a child, I have always been fascinated with the wonderment surrounding this story, and part of my feeling of wonderment lies in the symbolism of the star. Depending on system beliefs or cultures, stars symbolize many things. Here, in the story of the wise men, the star symbolizes birth, wisdom, enlightenment, realization, inspiration, dreams, hope, pursuit, and God’s divine guidance. 
When I think of all these things that this star symbolizes in conjunction with the wise women in my life, I feel the wonderment of the story even more, for all these wise women are earthly manifestations of everything that the star symbolizes. This is not a coincidence.  God has placed these stellar women in my life to guide me not only in my daily life but to guide me to Christ, to help me in my own journey of faith. 
March 8 marks International Women’s Day, and many people will be observing this day, as well as the whole month, by remembering and honoring important women and their achievements, both in general history and their personal lives. I encourage you, the reader, to think about the many forms of wisdom and to identify the women in your life who are, to you, wise. Think of all the ways that the epiphany star manifests itself on a daily basis through these women. I also encourage you to think how you, yourself, may be the guiding star in someone else’s life. Together, we join a chain of wisdom (past, present, and future) that I am sure brings glory to the God of wisdom and gives us strength and power for the journey. 
Author’s note: 
I dedicate this blog to my beloved mother, Maria Angelita (Angie), a woman whose wisdom radiates through her laughter and her smiles. 

Sophia Botello Picture

Sophia Botello is Instructor of English and Director of the Writing Center at Baptist University of the Américas in San Antonio, Texas.

La versión en español está disponible aquí.

Continue reading

Boxtrolls and Immigrants: A Brief Musing on Otherness, Immigration, and the Historical Persistence of Boxtrolling in America

By João Chaves

La versión en español está disponible al final de este documento. 

Some time ago I watched the animated movie The Boxtrolls, which is based on the novel Here to Monsters, written by Allan Snow. I did have the recent immigration battles in mind as I watched The Boxtrolls and I could not help but notice some similarities between the movie and the way in which some of the battles for the rights of minority groups in America in general—and the recent immigration wars in particular—play out. I’ll try to tell the story without completely ruining the movie for those who haven’t watched it yet.
In the movie, the villain, Archibald Snatcher, feeds on a distorted narrative about small subterranean creatures called Boxtrolls. Although Snatcher knows that Boxtrolls are peaceful and shy, he helps spread rumors that they kidnap, hurt, and even kill young children because he wants to further his socio-political status by hunting and then killing the harmless creatures. Snatcher strikes a deal with the mayor of Cheesebridge, Lord Portley-Rind, in which he will join the city’s membership council when he exterminates every single Boxtroll.
The Boxtrolls live underground and, because people are unduly afraid of them, they only come out at night to get mostly unwanted items that they then use to make inventions. Snatcher is able to catch most Boxtrolls but, in the end, the truth about the Boxtrolls comes to light and they live in harmony with the townspeople for the surprising benefit of all. With the help of a human who fully identifies with them, the Boxtrolls are able to come out of the shadows and the people of Cheesebridge find out that the Boxtrolls bring a particular set of valuable skills to society.
The similarities between Boxtrolls and minorities in America are striking because, historically, a number of minorities have clearly been victims of Boxtrolling in America. By “Boxtrolling” I mean the disposition to create or disseminate distorted narratives about minorities in order to exercise power over them and/or gain socio-political privileges. And although this impulse is by no means a monopoly of white Anglo males, in American history it was white males who by far Boxtrolled others the most.
I say this not to exercise “reverse racism,” but only to acknowledge that Boxtrolling is more effectively manifested and forcefully exercised by those who control the vehicles of cultural output. Historically, it seems clear that it was white males who have had the privilege of controlling the institutions that deployed the most powerful definitions of reality in America. It must be also acknowledged, however, that without the support of sectors of the white establishment, some progress in the rights of minorities would not have been possible. Back to my analogy!
Although many minority groups can be correlated to the image of a Boxtroll, undocumented immigrants seem to fit the image more closely than any other group. Boxtrolls live in the shadows, are constant victims of distorted descriptions, and have their potential contributions to society curbed from widespread acknowledgement due to a popular imagination that has been captured by a narrative of condescending disdain. Analogously, in contemporary America, images of undocumented immigrants as bank robbers, terrorists, and even sex-offenders are not hard to come by.
Some sectors of American society insist on fabricating a strong correlation between rising crime rates and the presence of undocumented immigrants and yet a number of social scientists have demonstrated that, when first generation immigrants move into communities, crime rates tend to drop. Some sectors of American politics insist on claiming that granting legal status to millions of immigrants would hurt the economy and yet a number of studies have argued the exact opposite. Some argue that “amnesty” will be a danger to American low-wage workers and yet a very compelling argument can be made that the American workers may benefit from the legalization of undocumented workers. Obviously, there must be examples of violence, free-riding, and other forms of negative behavior on the part of immigrants. They’re people and people are complicated.
But the bulk of the narrative against immigration reform smells like Boxtrolling to me.
Hopefully, the end of the current immigration wars will be somewhat like that of the movie, where most were able to get along and appreciate their differences despite the challenges that difference bring. But life is hardly as sweet and clean as in animated movies. In real life sometimes, perhaps most times, the villain wins. But it seems important to identify with and speak for those who are victims of Boxtrolling. As Martin Niemöller, a man who also opposed an even more pernicious form of this impulse, said:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

joao-chavez

Dr. João Chaves, BUA adjunct professor, is a Brazilian-born historian of Christianity. He loves trying to catch up to his marathon-running wife and playing board games with his two American children. Chaves is the author of “Evangelical and Liberation Revisited” (Wipf &Stock, 2013) and of several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.

La versión en español está disponible aquí.

Continue reading