Posts Tagged ‘assimilation’

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Reaching the Nations Among Us: Part 2 Understanding the Difference Between 1st & 2nd Generation Immigrants.

Friday, February 27, 2009

“Beto, ven aqui.” (Bobby, come here.) Grandma and Grandpa Lucero had just arrived from Ciudad Juarez and were eager to greet, hug, and kiss the family. My brother Bobby understood grandma was calling him, he just couldn’t understand what else she was saying as she bent over to shower him with hugs and kisses.

Like so many second-generation descendents of immigrants they have some knowledge of what I call ‘House Spanish.”  House Spanish refers to the simple commands and everyday terms used in the immigrant household and in their social networks among other 1.5 and 2.0 immigrants. But their primary language is English.

Among some Hispanics “Spanglish,” the intermingling of Spanish and English is the official language.  Ilan Stavans in his book, Spanglish, The making of a new American language, writes that ­Spanglish is often described as “the trap, la trampa Hispanics fall into on the road to assimilation…”  used predominately by the growing lower class, it hinders their ability for a better future.  He goes on to say, “English is the door to the American Dream.  Not until one masters el inglés are the fruits of that dream attainable.”

When grandma visited from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, the most commonly used phrase in our home was “Que dice?” or  What did she say?” 

My brothers, unlike me, didn’t have the opportunity of spending their summers in Mexico.  Consequently, they never really learned Spanish. Although my parents would speak in Spanish to one another, they would speak in English to us. So, whenever my grandparents visited us from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico either my mom or I would have to translate my brother’s comments to grandma and her comments to them. Left unattended they would just smile, shrug their shoulders and walk away not knowing what had been said.

Here is my point; a single immigrant household can have family members at various levels of English language proficiency and cultural assimilation. This assimilation diversity in a single household presents a challenge to the immigrant church.  Some challenges that lead to 2.0’s either attending an English speaking church or dropping out of church all together are:

  • The Problem of Generations. The preservation of a cultural heritage is dependent on it being passed on from one generation to the next. This process is broken when the second generation due to assimilation prefers their newly adopted culture to that of their ethnic heritage. The second generation leaves the ethnic church for the very reasons their parents joined it, to preserve language, culture, traditions, and customs.
  • English language proficiency. As 2.0’s become more proficient in English the language of their cultural heritage goes by the wayside simply because they have not been educated in it.  The words, idioms, and illustrations used by their immigrant pastors do not connect with them the way they do in English.  2.0’s have their own heart language and it’s not the language of their immigrant parents.
  • Marriage. 2.0’s that marry someone of his or her ethnic background that does not understand the language of his/her cultural heritage finds it hard to stay in the immigrant church.
  • Inter-cultural marriage.  1.0’s, 1.5’s and 2.0’s who marry outside of their ethnic groups soon wrestle with being accepted as a couple in the immigrant or non-immigrant church for that matter.  Their spouse feels out of place for lack of knowledge of the immigrant language and culture.  Not to mention the lack of acceptance experienced by  some inter-cultural couples in homogenous churches.

What is needed is a church model that will minister to families at all levels of assimilation 1.0’s, 1.5’s, and 2.0’s.  Such a model will minister to 2.0’s in English while ministering to 1.0’s  and  1.5’s in their language and cultural context.  Homogenous, ethnic specific immigrant churches serve the first generation well but often times at the expense of the second generation. 

What is a ministry dilemma for immigrant churches becomes a ministry opportunity for English speaking churches. In our next installment of Reaching the Nations Among Us we will address the Seven Fatal Errors of Ethnic Ministry.

That’s my opinion.  I welcome yours.

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Assimilation is Spiritually in the Best Interest of Our Immigrant Children.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

“Arturo”

It was Mr. Sanchez, a deacon of the Spanish congregation that rented the fellowship hall of our church for their services. I had just pulled into the church parking lot when he called out to me. 

As I gathered my Bible and Sunday school class notes from the passenger seat, he said to me in Spanish…

“Arturo, I’ve been meaning to ask you, why are you worshiping over there with the Anglos instead of here with your people?”

I was taken back by his question.  The only word’s that came to my mind as I got out of my car and started walking away were, “Because I like it.”

As I crossed the street from the parking lot to the worship building I felt anger swelling up inside of me.  I was upset that someone would use my ethnic heritage as a stick to manipulate me into changing churches. I also objected to the effort made to make me feel disloyal to my Latino roots because I was not worshipping in a Spanish-speaking congregation. And I especially did not appreciate the obvious attempt at proselytizing.

As I entered the worship center I was greeted by a number of other young bi-lingual Latino men like myself who preferred to worship in an English speaking service.

My experience is not uncommon for the 1.5 and 2.0 children of immigrants. When their English language skills increase while their ancestral language skills decrease, they will prefer to attend English-speaking services. 

I’m reminded of a story told by a Pastor of a Spanish speaking congregation who said that his own children and several other high school students from his congregation would sit in the last two pews of the auditorium during the praise time. But they would all get up and leave the service once he got up to preach to sit under the teaching ministry of the English speaking pastor.  The students commented that they preferred the livelier Spanish ministry praise time to the boring English praise time. But they better understood the teaching of the Word in English than in Spanish.

Christians at all levels of assimilation into a host country have the liberty in Christ to attend services in their language and cultural preference.  For the immigrant believer (1.0) to deny his children (1.5 and 2.0) and grandchildren (3.0) the freedom to attend a worship service in the language that best teaches and equips them in their walk with Christ, for the sake of preserving a cultural heritage can hinder their children’s spiritual growth. Believers need to hear the Word taught in their heart language and cultural context, which is not always the same as the language and culture of their ethnic heritage (Acts 2:5-11).

The reality is that you can’t fight assimilation. The immersion of immigrant youth into the educational system, culture and language of the host country will eventually draw 1.5’s and 2.0’s further away from the language and culture of their ethnic heritage.

In the days to come, I will be writing a series of blogs entitled, “Reaching the Nations Among Us,” to discuss how a local church can reach the immigrants in her community at all levels of assimilation. I would like to hear your stories of the issues you faced as a 1.5 or 2.0 descendent of immigrants.

That’s my opinion. I welcome yours. 

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The Ideal Model for An Ethnically Diverse Church

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Michael Wilson from Australia asked, “Is there one right or ideal church model? If so, what is the biblical and theological basis for this?  

 

         I have yet to meet a pastor of a multi-ethnic or a homogeneous church for that matter, who doesn’t feel that his approach to ministry is the right-if not best-approach. We can gather them all in one room and discover that they are for the most part basing their ministry on the same biblical principles and mandates.  What differs is the methodology, the manner in which they carry out the ministry of the church.  This personal guideline for ministry is called a Philosophy of Ministry. For instance, there are some pastors of English speaking congregations in the United States who see the need for providing homogeneous immigrant services in the language and cultural context of the ethnic group they desire to reach, while others refuse to provide such services insisting that immigrants must learn English and attend the English speaking services.

         The Bible clearly instructs the church what it is that she must do, but falls short of explicitly telling us how to do it.  The how is mostly based upon one’s philosophy of ministry.  For a guide on how to develop a biblical philosophy of ministry click here.  

         The ideal model, from my perspective, is a church that will, in the case of the United States, reach out to the English and non-English speaking members of her ethnically diverse community. I don’t see where the Great Commission restricts the proclamation of the Gospel only to those who speak our heart language. On the contrary in Acts 1:8 the church is to proclaim the Gospel across cultures.  Doesn’t this mandate hold true if those cultures come to our neighborhoods? That is why I believe that the local church in an ethnically diverse community is to minister to the native and foreign born 1.0, 1.5, and naturalized generations of ethnics in her community.  With that in mind lets consider a few models. Please keep in mind that this is by no means an inclusive list. But for the sake of our discussion I will address four.

         The Renter/Rentee Model.  This church rents its facilities to an ethnic congregation. The Pros, it provides the host church with additional income, an opportunity to indirectly reach an ethnic community it is unable (or unwilling) to reach and it gives the immigrant church a facility in which to meet. The Cons are that the churches continue to be segregated and there is little opportunity for the 1.5 and 2.0 extended family members of the immigrant church to be reached by the renter church.

         The Mission Church Model. This church sponsors an ethnic mission church plant of its denomination. Providing its resources, usually facilities and utilities, until the mission church is self-sufficient.  The Pros, it provides the host church with a mission outreach opportunity and it provides the ethnic church plant with resources that lowers their initial expenses while working toward self-sufficiency. The Cons are that the churches are still segregated and there is little initiative for the sponsor church to reached the 1.5 and 2.0 extended family members of the immigrant church.

         The Multi-ethnic Church Model.  This is a church that intentionally transitions from the original homogeneous congregation to a multi-ethnic one that reflects the diversity of its community. The Pros, integration is in process among all ethnic groups that have proficiency in the dominant language group. Members are learning to worship together, serve together, and love one another. The Con is that the immigrant community is still unreached.

         The Hehogeneous Church Model.  Don’t bother to Google “hehogeneous” I coined the term. This church is heterogeneous (multi-ethnic) in the dominant language service and homogeneous (multi-cultural) in the various immigrant services conducted in their respective language and cultural context. The Pros, integration is in process among all ethnic groups that have proficiency in the dominant language group. Members are learning to worship together, serve together, love one another, and all levels of assimilation among ethnic groups are reachable. The Cons? I don’t see any but then again I am biased.

         The local church should strive to reach not only the diversity of ethnic groups within her community but all levels of assimilation among them as well.

That’s my opinion I welcome yours.

 

For further reading on models for multi-ethnic churches and immigrant outreach see:

Eldin Villafañe, “Seek the Peace of the City: Reflections on Urban Ministry,” Eerdmanns, 1995

Manuel Ortiz, The Hispanic Challenge: Opportunities Confronting the Church,” Inter Varsity Press, 1993 and “One New People: Models for Developing A Multi-ethnic Church”, Inter Varsity Press, 1996