Alexia Salvatierra is an amazing woman that I have gotten to know a little bit this year and who presented at CCDA 2012. On her Facebook page she describes herself as a Lutheran Pastor committed to building a society where the equal and infinite worth of each person is fully appreciated. I think that describes her well.
One of the most important moments for me at the conference was a breakfast I had with her and my colleague Antoine Taylor. I had recently written a 65 page paper outlining some of my thoughts around the future of community development at River City, and she was one of the mentors I had passed it onto for feedback. I didn’t actually expect her to read it – it’s 65 pages after all! She had trouble sleeping the night before we were to meet though, so she took it as a sign from God to get out of bed and meticulously go through the document.
When she met with Taylor and I for breakfast she shared some wonderful insights. Showing her wisdom, she first spent some time affirming the parts that she really liked about it (as a words person that always makes the constructive go down easier for me). She emphasized how unique our ministry is in both its racial and socioeconomic composition, and talked through why and how that can be leveraged in a powerful ways. She really liked the way we put an emphasis on caring for children from birth through college, and gave a number of really helpful suggestions as to how to enhance that strategy. She affirmed the centrality of a “whole Gospel theology” to build up “whole Gospel disciples,” both of which are phrases I have really started using regularly (and perhaps should be its own blog entry sometime).
She then shared some constructive thoughts with us as well. She talked about the importance of keeping the whole family tethered to the college-to-cradle strategy, reminding us that children never exist in isolation from their families. She pushed us to be more involved in catalyzing reconciliation discussions between churches and nonprofits in our neighborhood – to remain sensitive to trust building dynamics but to also embrace the unique role that a multicultural church plays in those discussions. And finally she continued to push me to embrace organizing and advocacy as important elements of community development, something I’m still trying to wrap my mind around.
There were numerous pearls of wisdom that came from her presentation and other discussions we had with her, and almost all of them would merit their own entry. But since I’m running out of time I will just list some of my favorite sound bytes from her, and hopefully something will capture your imagination as it has mine:
- Bring people together to talk about common dreams – “common dreaming for our children”
- Get together to create solutions and dreams together – because we believe that God is real and therefore that dreams can come true
- God can do anything – which means God can do anything in YOUR neighborhood
- We need to love people intelligently
- We need to be living lives of whole discipleship
- Focus on developing relationships to help each other understand the dreams of the people in the neighborhood and seeing what resources we can all bring to bear, together, to achieve these dreams
- Circle of reflection and action – no way to learn the gospel without living this cycle
- Prayer and discernment – know that God has even more of a heart for this people / neighborhood / problem than we do – we can trust him to show us the way
- Intergenerational organizing – children should be included, actively, in the life and mission of the church community. How do we take seriously Jesus’ directive to bring the children to him? Children should be involved creatively – they are not just baggage, they are gifted and called.
- If you involve the kids in the process, everyone has more fun. Also, it also can help bring people down to the basics – e.g., kids need to eat. Also, info we take in via the right side (i.e., creative) of the brain lands on us differently.
- We can all be wounded healers (and really, there’s no choice about this!) – we need spiritual maturity – we need to be really (really!) working together in our mission
- Every church (if it’s worth its salt) has people at various phases of spiritual development. Any church trying to do something important can easily be judged. What we can hold accountable in a church is the authenticity and commitment of the leadership to the mission. If that is genuinely there, then we should extend a lot of grace, because it’s hard work.