Racial ethnic ministry leaders reflect
by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – During their Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Facebook Live conversation on Friday, March 16, Rosa Blanca Miranda and Jieun Kim Han spoke about their personal experiences during Lent and how they’ve changed their views of what Lent means to them.
Miranda, who provides Hispanic Latino-a intercultural congregational support in the Presbyterian Mission Agency, confessed that how she practices and thinks about Lent has changed over time. In Mexico, Lent was very much a guilt thing — all about looking at one’s sin. Burdened, she began to bring the theme of living in the tension of Lent and “God’s kin-dom” into her Lenten practices, to let go so that the values of the kin-dom may be embraced.
“Kin-dom is a way of living your faith for Jesus, building community,” she said. “It was his mission.”
Seeing this helped Miranda “relax under the grace of God” and listen more deeply and pay attention to what was happening around her in her neighborhood. During her time of introspection during Lent, she began to ask, “How can we live the way of Jesus the rest of the year?”
“Lent is a me and God thing, but it is more,” Miranda said. “It’s God’s way of showing us as people of God how we can continue to be relevant.”
Miranda wondered what it would look like if congregations saw repentance as more than a legal, personal thing. What if it was more like a conversation in community about what we need to repent of, to discover what we need to do to have the Spirit engage with us, “so that we become more like the beloved community God intends,” she said.
For Han, who is an associate for racial ethnic leadership, development and recruitment in the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the Lenten season is a parallel journey with Jesus, who began his ministry by spending 40 days in the wilderness. This became real to her as a Korean-American immigrant, which she tries to remember every year in her Lenten practice.
“All of sudden I was a stranger in this country, with new language and culture,” she said. “For a time, I felt like I was in prison. It challenged but also nourished me. I want to remember that time and space, to be able to become a friend and neighbor to those who are strangers.”
The conversation, which was moderated by Gail Strange, Presbyterian Mission Agency’s director of church and mid council communications, featured questions from viewers. One person wanted to know how Miranda and Han keep hope in the midst of circumstances of oppression — or in anger over what is happening in the world. Another wanted them to reflect on how Lent season began this year, with yet another school shooting on Ash Wednesday.
“When I drop my son off to his school, I think he could be the one,” Han said. “Enough, enough. We have so many structures and conflicts of interest.”
Han admits that sometimes she feels furious about what is happening in society. Yet she has hope in the gospel of Jesus and the way he lived a nonviolent life. Jesus being willing to sacrifice his own life should lead us, Han said, “to reflect on how we overcome our own fear.”
Miranda believes we must begin to look more holistically at the issues we face. Using immigration as an example, she said we must ask, “Why is this happening?”
“People don’t want to leave their homes, culture, tradition and families behind,” she said. “For so many, life as God intended in beloved community, the opportunity to have a plentiful life, is not available.”
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