Pastor Sandra is currently pastoring at Redlands Church as an Interim Associate Pastor. She loves music, working out, and spending time with her friends and family. She is passionate about working with youth and young adults and pastoral counseling. She lives in Riverside, and aside from pastoring at Redlands and doing Clinical Pastoral Education at PIH Hospital, she's either at home watching movies, going on a long walk/run, at the gym, at Disneyland, or living life with friends and family.
“Ni de aqui, ni de alla,” meaning “Not from here, Not from there.” I guess you can say
that’s a summary of my first year or so in ministry. My life as a first-generation professional and minister has sometimes made me feel stuck in a gray zone. Is the gray zone a good or bad thing? Not really; it’s just a zone that has required adaptation, reflection, and growth. It’s a gray zone that constantly keeps on changing and evolving. About a year and a half ago, I remember getting ready to enter a male-dominated field. As I was getting ready to leave seminary and graduate, I realized that I would become a young working professional with a master's degree, the first in my close and distant family. I was getting ready for a life away from school, finally! It would also be a life different from what I knew growing up! Little did I know what I was in for. While preparing for ministry with academia, I had no idea that life would be so radically different and would teach me how to do life beyond the classroom and beyond books.
Growing up, I was raised in a family of Hispanic-Mexican immigrants and those who had no opportunities to receive higher education. I’ve been privileged to strive for goals and possibilities that are still considered a dream and have been acclaimed by my struggling community. I’m navigating through new territory and constantly find myself in new communities that consider higher education a norm. That being said, the struggles and encounters I have faced are hard to share with either community because those struggles are unknown and can be hard to understand or relate to. I’m caught in being between; I’m caught in between success and overcoming. Throughout this first year of ministry, I’ve ventured to live on my own paying California rent, along with learning how to be a real adult. That alone is different from the cultural norms that surrounded me growing up. Thanks to therapy and the ministerial department's “Journey” process, I am learning what it means to rest and to self-care. I didn't experience these concepts growing up, nor did I see them with the people around me because there’s been a constant rush to survive and to provide. I remember several times in which the utilities in my home would get shut off due to payments being late and my parents having to negotiate for time to pay the full amount. Looking back on this, while these moments may seem small, they can trigger feelings of anxiety and survival even today while being able to afford to pay my bills and more. Aside from this, pastoring in a predominantly white location is considered an Adventist ghetto and a blue zone completely different from my Adventist upbringing. Yet, for some weird reason, I am here. So often, I’m caught between the English and Spanish languages to communicate what I truly feel and know. Still, it’s usually to share with others who speak one of those languages. Boy, has it been a culture shock?!
Several times I’ve thought, “What can I provide to this group of people that they don’t already have?” There are so many things that are considered normal to many, yet to me are new experiences and so many Adventists cultural norms I wasn’t raised with, “How can I minister to this congregation when I find myself in a place of abundant resources coming from a life of scarcity? How do I create inclusion in my ministry when feeling so out of place myself sometimes? Do I have to let go of a part of my upbringing to embrace the new reality of who I’m becoming? Well, why not embrace both? I think that’s the beauty of the gray area. It’s the beauty of not being from here or from there but creating a new space within these two spaces.
The reality is this past year has been an ongoing journey. I’ve been learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, and, boy, has it been uncomfortable! I have dived into this new life, knowing it’s ok to rest because I can. I’m slowly letting go of the need to survive and learning to be because I can. I am learning to embrace my story because it brings a distinct perspective to the people I minister to because why not? Will there be challenges in my life that cause anxiety and uncertainty as I’m “adulting?” Yes, but I realized I am in uncharted territory with uncharted ways of handling them. This first year of ministry has been about finding the crossroads and sensing where God is leading. You see, God, through it all has walked with me through these gray areas and through in the between. We have a God that understands being in between and, from a theological perspective, being both. God is human and divine, strong and vulnerable, self-revealing, yet full of wonder and mystery. I’m learning to embrace the gray, to embrace the space, and to embrace the journey.
Author - Jon Ciccarelli
January 28, 2021