DIGNITY – what do you hear when this word comes to mind? For us, it takes on renewed meaning each summer when LUCHA Ministries refocuses our efforts on Latino youth outreach through PROJECT 3-D. Latino youth, many from immigrant parents and/or who are immigrants themselves, hear repeatedly that they are “different from” (implying “not as good as”) their peers and the surrounding culture. Through summer youth activities, we seek to lead youth to a renewed sense of pride in themselves and their identity. We stress the value of each young person by affirming her or his:
Personal Dignity. No matter the cruel remarks heard in the media or the unending, illogical attacks against measures like the DREAM Act (which would allow eligible, undocumented youth who complete college or serve 2 years in the military a chance at citizenship), we lead Latino youth to reaffirm their personal dignity before God, because each one is made in God’s image and of infinite worth in God’s sight. No law and no opinion can take that away. Spending time with Latino youth, encouraging “difficult” teenagers to attend activities and camps, and listening one-on-one are just a few ways we try to show youth we care about them as individuals.
Cultural Dignity. Like all young people, Latino youth are tempted to conform to their peer’s standards, but for Latinos, this can also mean the temptation to deny their cultural and linguistic heritage. We want youth to realize that their heritage – from Mexico or Guatemala or Colombia or any Latin American country or (yes!) even the USA – is a rich and wonderful gift from God, something to be treasured and enjoyed. Lock-ins where youth are taught pride in their culture and activities that welcome the use of Spanish as well as English signal a little of how we elevate the goodness of each person’s cultural background.
Spiritual Dignity. God is real in the lives of these youth, even when they may not recognize it themselves. We want them to pursue and deepen their faith in God as they come to know Jesus as a trustworthy Friend and his Spirit as their constant Companion. We want them to know that God will never leave or forsake them, no matter what their surrounding environment has to say. Bible studies, worship events, and Passport mission camp have been avenues in past summers leading to spiritual enrichment and wholeness.
This summer, Amy Beth and Jessie will work with us as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Student.Go personnel. Pray for them as they arrive June 2 and serve as fresh eyes, ears, hands, feet and hearts for our youth ministry. And pray God will use LUCHA Ministries and PROJECT 3-D this summer to continue to reaffirm the dignity and worth of these youth as children of the living God.