Think living abroad is hard? How about stepping outside of your culture right where you live, work and pray? April Diaz, a white chick from the Midwest, worked at a wonderful church filled with people just like herself. She took a leap of faith and accepted a position at Newsong, a historically Korean church in Orange county. Newsong is attempting to create a church where different ethnicities actually worship in one place–despite Martin Luther King’s observation that “[when we stand and sing] at 11:00 on Sunday morning…we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation.”
Whether or not you attend religious services, intentionally living cross-culturally is difficult. April said yes to doing so. Read on to learn how it changed her.
You say on your staff page that when you first arrived at Newsong, “It was really hard season where our faith was tested to the max.” Why was it hard? Why was your faith tested?
It was hard exclusively because of multicultural issues. Honestly, the first eighteen months were really hard. I felt misunderstood and alone.
I was the only white person on staff, and the only woman after the only other female staff member left six months into my job. I could count on one hand the number of white people in the congregation at Newsong at that time.
I’d only ever known being the majority. I felt like I was on top without knowing it.
To be clear, seeking out a multicultural church was intentional. We wanted our family to be in a multicultural setting. My husband is Hispanic, I’m white. We wanted to be exposed and entrenched in other cultures.
It’s hard for Caucasians especially to learn how to be in the minority. I had to lay down a lot of pride, judgment and misconceptions about people who were not like me. To get to the point of having real friendships and relationships required a lot of breaking—I’m a prideful person.
I did express my frustration and loneliness to the leadership at Newsong on occasion. I didn’t try to hide from it. We had to figure out how to be in community together. I would tell our senior pastor, Dave Gibbons, “You say you want a multicultural church, but we’re not living that way yet.”
What sustained you in that time of upheaval?
My marriage sustained me. I was married to a man who got being misunderstood as a minority. He helped me through that.
I also leaned on my spiritual director (a life coach for spiritual issues). I asked her to keep walking with me. We did monthly phone calls to navigate through the experience. She was intentional in helping me process everything.
It helped that I felt a deep sense of calling. I kept thinking, “This is sucky and painful, but God is calling me to this.”
What would you say to yourself if you could go back and give advice?
“This is something that you want, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. There are going to be bumps and bruises.”
At the time, my spiritual director told me, “It’s going to take you three to five years to create deep connections in this new church.”
I thought she was wrong—I figured 6 months to a year. She wasn’t wrong. I wish I had known to be more patient.
You have adopted a boy (Judah) and a girl (Addise) from Africa, and just given birth to a new baby (Asher). How does having multiethnic kids change your perspective on living multiculturally?
One of my favorite moments since having our third was when we brought our newborn home from my time at the hospital.
I asked my oldest son, “Hey Judah, who does baby Asher look like?”
And he said, “He looks like baby Addise.”
Kids don’t see racial and ethnic boundaries the same way that we do. Adults have restrictions that “black people are like this, Asian people like that.” But kids are open and engaged–they lead us.
April Diaz is the Human Development Director at Newsong Irvine. She’s also a follower of Jesus, wife, momma to three, a pastor, writer, speaker, orphan advocate, and a lover of Africa. You can follow her on Twitter at @AprillDiaz, or check out her family’s journey to parenthood at http://planaethiopia.blogspot.com/.
Images courtesy April Diaz and Newsong.net