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Moving obstacles getting in the way

Road barricade

Sonya Luna names some of the obstacles her husband and other immigrants and children of immigrants must tackle as they plan their future and build a life in the U.S.

Coordinator of Hispanic/Latinx Ministries, Michigan Conference

On the drive to take my son to school, I sometimes encounter many obstacles. There are garage trucks, construction, traffic, one-way streets, deer, accidents, ducks, and the glaring sun. The advantage is that on my drive, I can easily identify obstacles and find ways to bypass them. However, in ministry, it is not always easy to identify obstacles.

In a training that I took to learn how to facilitate a strategic planning process, I learned that to overcome, remove, or bypass obstacles, we must clearly name them. Many times, we use the words “lack of” to name an obstacle or barrier. There is a lack of time or a lack of money. But in the training, I learned that using “lack of” does not clearly state the barrier. Why is there a lack of time or lack of money? What is causing there to be lack of time or lack of money? Those are the questions to ask. There might be a lack of time because work expectations are uneven or because of a miscalculation of time. There might be a lack of money because of overspending or because of a decrease in fundraising. It is important to clearly name the obstacle to move to the next step of figuring out how to deal with it.

Hispanic youth
Gino Bermudez participated in the Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy and went on to graduate from college to become a diesel mechanic. He navigated a host of challenges as a first-generation college student. ~ photo courtesy Sonya Luna

My husband has had many obstacles in obtaining an advanced degree here in the United States. He received his bachelor’s degree and teacher’s certificate from Mexico, and now he is trying to go back to school. There are many barriers that he has faced. The first barrier is that his transcripts are in Spanish. So, he had to have them translated by a certified company. The second one is that the crediting and grading system is different in Mexico. They use units, not credits, and they use a grading system from 5 to 10. So, he had to have his transcripts interpreted into the credits and grading system used here in the United States. There are still more obstacles to overcome, such as potentially having to take an English language proficiency test or provide other requirements.

I mention my husband’s process because there are many barriers and obstacles for immigrants and children of immigrants. As the Coordinator of Hispanic/Latinx Ministries, I support churches, church members, leaders, and community members in overcoming those barriers. It is usually not smooth sailing. There are a lot of obstacles in the way, but with the support of the Michigan Conference, the Conference Committee on Hispanic/Latinx Ministries, local pastors, and, of course, by the grace of God, those barriers can be removed, climbed over, or torn down. If you have faith like a mustard seed and tell those mountains to move, those mountains will move!

One program that helps youth name the barriers that they will face as they plan for their future is the Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy. The goal of the program is to help prepare youth for their future. The Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy will take place this year at the Kalamazoo Wesley Foundation at Western Michigan University on November 5, 2022, from 9 to 5 pm.

One recent participant of the Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy was Gino Bermudez. He overcame several obstacles to graduate from college. He had to drive almost two hours each way to school and back to attend his classes. He was one of the first in his family to graduate, so he had to navigate going to college as a first-generation college student. But he persevered and graduated college as a diesel mechanic. Nelly, his sister, also attended the Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy and was valedictorian at her high school, and is currently attending Wayne State University to become a medical doctor.

As many challenges continue to emerge, it is helpful to name those obstacles, make a plan to deal with them, and then do that plan. There are going to be obstacles and, unfortunately, because of the systematic bias and racism, there are more barriers for people of color, people with disabilities, people who are LGBTQIA, and people who have migrated to the United States of America. And these obstacles show up in ministry settings. We must work to change the system and remove those barriers. It is time to tell those mountains to move! ¡Muévanse!

Youth interested in participating in this year’s Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy on November 5 should complete this online form.

For more information about the Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy or other Hispanic/Latinx Ministries here in the Michigan Conference, contact Sonya Luna at [email protected].

Last Updated on November 2, 2022

The Michigan Conference