In 2008, Pastor Deb Davis of the First Congregational United Church of Christ and parishioner Deb McHenry were having a conversation about current events and decided it was time for a community discussion on race, and the Angola church was up to the task.
Ever since that first Sunday in 2008, the UCC has held Diversity Sunday and it has included as presenters members of the Multicultural Student Organization at Trine University, for which McHenry is the advisor.
The students talk about their home countries, their experiences with the anxiety of not only leaving home for college, but leaving home for a foreign land in the small town of Angola. Others, from the U.S., talk about getting along in this world made up of people of many races, colors, genders, sexual orientations, etc.
“In society today, most people view diversity as a good thing because it gives people the chance to experience different things. By being exposed to different people and cultures, someone want to learn more about a particular group which can give them insight into how and why things work as they do and possibly a way to change them for the better,” said Ayasha Faria, a chemical engineering major from Bangladesh.
It’s all about getting along, and the message from these students is always eloquent and enlightening.
Typically a half dozen or so students speak and a few friends accompany them to church. This year nearly one entire section of the church was filled with students from numerous continents. Some of the students become regular attendees at the UCC.
This year there were speakers from six countries, including the U.S. The students talk about their challenges, their new friendships, their lives in America — if they’re from abroad — and getting along in this world.
I can’t possibly share the emotions the students bring here in the printed word, but believe me, they do.
Yancy Bejarano Flores, speaking this year as the president of the MSO, always puts a smile on your face and makes us laugh — and think. As she said, we all smile in the same language.
How these students live their four years in northeast Indiana can have a great impact on the world. We have the potential to send goodwill ambassadors for the United States to many corners of the world.
The students who spoke last Sunday are becoming just that. And the students from the U.S. who are involved in MSO are spreading the word of diversity here at home.
In the coming days we will be presenting the talks on these pages. I hope you find the essays as informative as those who attended the First Congregational United Church of Christ to hear them in person.