Leaders of Color – Latinx

In this episode of the Be the Bridge podcast, founder Latasha Morrison talks with minister, writer, speaker, and consultant Dr. Elizabeth Rios. They share an open, honest conversation about racial solidarity within church planting, leadership as a Latina woman, centering marginalized voices in a world of colorism, and envisioning a future where justice is built into churches’ DNA.

“Justice is a God idea. It’s not a liberal idea, it’s not a political idea, it’s a God idea.” –Dr. Rios

“A lot of churches don’t talk about heritage. They basically tell you to leave it at the door because once we’re ‘under the blood,’ everything goes away. But in reality, once we’re ‘under the blood,’ our heritage should be even richer! We should celebrate even more.” –Dr. Rios

“Every community is dealing with colorism, especially brown and Black communities, which is really a product of white supremacy—and we don’t realize that and how we can perpetuate the problem. When we start talking about the basis of racism and disunity, we start looking at this anti-Blackness, because no one wants to be on the bottom. No one wants to appear to be like the group that is being oppressed.” –Latasha Morrison

“We have to pay close attention to that development of our souls if we want to live out God’s justice in the world. There’s a direct correlation between our relationship with God and our acts of kindness, and our acts of mercy, and compassion, and justice. Even this desire even to have racial solidarity comes from a place of having that understanding of what God wants for all of us.” –Dr. Rios

About Dr. Elizabeth Rios
Dr. Rios has been in ministry for over 30 years serving in a variety of roles including pastor (Executive Pastor and Co-Pastor). She now is the Founder of the The Passion Center that is dedicated to educating people who have a passion for justice, advocacy and change in the South Florida area. She’s worked most of her life in nonprofits and in higher education. She has also been an entrepreneur and has consulted schools, faith-based organizations, small businesses and non-profits since 1996. As an Afro-Latina, Puerto Rican American she considers herself to be a writer/activist and advocate for women in ministry, faith-based civic activism, and biblical justice. 

Listen to the full episode and subscribe to the Be the Bridge podcast for more conversations on racial healing, equity and reconciliation!

The full episode transcript is below.

Narrator  0:06  

You’re listening to the Be the Bridge podcast with Latasha Morrison.

Latasha Morrison  0:12  

Well hello! This is Latasha Morrison, and I am the host! And I am also the Founder and President of Be the Bridge. And I am so excited today because we have Dr. Rios here and we are going to have a great conversation. Her name is Dr. Elizabeth Rios. And so I just want to read a little bit about her, and this is someone you need to get to know! Dr. Rios has a number of passions, but one thing is certain: she has always been an advocate for the healthy local church, and a supporter of people who lead in those spaces. She’s been known for her work in education, faith space communities, non-profits, as well as her writing. And she lives currently in Florida, we’ll get her to explain that a little bit later. But she has also served as the Assistant Professor of Christian Education and the Executive Director of Advancement of a college. She started the Urban Ministry conferences in New York and drew hundreds of people to learn more about being effective urban missiologist practitioners and pastors. And so I just want to bring her on, she can actually tell you a little bit more about her space and leadership, and some of the things that she’s contributed to, and what she’s doing right now, and where she resides. So thank you for joining us, Dr. Elizabeth, and I’m so glad to have you here! But if you could just explain, I know I’m reading your bio, but you could probably bring a little more clarity to this. Tell us where you’re living now, what you’re doing, and just some of the work—explain some of the work that you’ve done in this space of leadership.

Dr. Elizabeth Rios  2:00  

Sure! So first, let me just say thank you for having me on, it’s always a great honor to have people appreciate what you do and bring to the world. So I also appreciate what you do in the world! So I’m very honored to be on your podcast. So thank you! As far as myself, I think women have a way of having multi-passions, and we wear a number of different hats, and that’s definitely what has happened in my life. I was born and raised in New York City, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan during a time when there was a lot of gun infestation and violence. And what really saved me from being a statistic was going to a local church. My uncle was the one who introduced me to a church, and he took me to church. He would pick me up all the time when I was living in Brooklyn. He would pick me up and take me to church in Manhattan. Eventually, as I grew, I would pray and ask God, “God if you love me, if you want me to serve you, can you please make sure that my mom moves to Manhattan so I could be closer to the church? And if that happens, I’ll serve you the rest of my life.” And then lo and behold, we went from the tenement to the George Jefferson dream of moving to the East Side, but we ended up in the projects and that was good enough for me! We had a view on the 12th floor next to the East River. And for me that was moving on up, and I stayed there until I got married and was involved in the church. Since a young age, since the age of 11, I started getting involved in the church (and we’ll talk about that in a little bit). 

But I live now in south Florida near Miami and Miramar, and I am involved on a national level working with Black and brown church planters who are interested in planting in urban communities. And you know, I’ve evolved from—you know, I was a pastor for a while, I was an executive pastor, was a co-pastor, I’ve been an Assemblies of God minister for the duration of my marriage, actually, so about 30 years. You know, just worked in various different places and was introduced to justice and urban ministry through the work of the Latino Pastoral Action Center in the Bronx, through my spiritual dad and mentor, Reverend Dr. Raymond Rivera. So through that process of working with him and being exposed to leaders that were Black and brown, which was the first time I ever saw that, I was able to see that there was another way, another path, that I could continue my education that I can actually, you know, leave a footprint in this world. And I ended up just doing urban ministry conferences and empowering women through the Center for Emerging Female Leadership. So I’ve done a lot of different things, but at the end of the day, it’s really all about helping people find their passion, pursuing their purpose, and being educated to pursue what it is that they feel God put them on earth to do. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a formal way, I don’t always advocate that everybody has to go get a degree, even though education is the pathway out of poverty. But I do believe that there’s a lot of informal ways that we learn, and my journey began that way, so I definitely do not begrudge it.

Latasha Morrison  5:25  

Yeah, that’s so good to hear. I think one of the—you know, one of the ways that I came in contact with your work was through Freedom Road, and just some of the work that you’re doing with Lisa Sharon Harper, working alongside her. So I love when I’m exposed to new leaders and people who have a heart for the local church and just the work of justice. So tell me a little bit about—this podcast is all about justice, okay? So tell me—and when I say justice, I’m referring to restorative justice—so tell me a little bit about what justice means to you? And how is it integrated into your space?

Dr. Elizabeth Rios  6:06  

Now that’s a great question, you know, because I was just talking with someone last week about this, from a Latino perspective, you know, it’s not something that’s been talked about a lot. You know, the Black American tradition has a long history of addressing justice and civil rights. But the Latino community, it started—even though we have a 500-year history of Latinos being involved in social justice issues, we didn’t have the language to know that it was justice. It was more knowing that we have to have that right living, and that right relationship for restoration, and bringing this shalom into our communities. But at the time when everybody was practicing these things in the Latino community, they didn’t know what it was. They didn’t know what shalom was, you know, we weren’t set up in the academic terms, you understand? So sometimes we—for me, as I have evolved in it, and I continue to evolve, it really is, you know, making wrong things right. It’s really living right and having those right relationships and having that understanding of the gospel that will help you to, you know, again, leave that footprint to be a shalom and peacemaker in the world. However that looks like, because that translates very differently to everyone. We’re not all going to do the same thing. You’re doing something amazing. You know, Lisa [Sharon Harper], I have an honor to work with her as well. And we are trying to educate people to, you know, to build a better world through all the things that we’re doing with Freedom Road and the Freedom Road Institute for Leadership and Justice. So it’s really about helping people to understand that justice is a God idea. It’s not a liberal idea, it’s not a political idea, it’s a God idea. And helping people to understand that, it gets us further along.

Latasha Morrison  7:58  

Yeah, and I think that’s a misconception. Some people hear the word justice, and they don’t—they’ve tried to separate it from being a God idea. So I love that you said that. And you know, as you’re speaking about the, you know, just Latina community, when we’re talking about that as a whole—I know it’s just like the African American community, it’s not monolithic. It’s so different, you know. And so I wanted to, just so that the audience knows a little bit more about you, let’s talk about your ethnic heritage and how this connects, because I know you identify as Afro Latina. And so I want you to kind of explain that because we want to educate people. Because, you know, we put, you know, in America we like to put people in boxes. You know, we create these categories of race and they make no sense, especially outside of our country, they make no sense. So let’s give a little education to just kind of help people as it relates to your ethnic heritage.

Dr. Elizabeth Rios  8:57  

I love that, because I think that, you know, we all should know where we come from—you know, the people that came before us and the DNA that we have flowing through our body. And I think that curiosity has been lost. And if we were to be a little bit more curious, it would lead us to that education and that knowledge to help us to be the best that we can be, God’s version of who created us to be. And for me, again, I think the genesis of my un-learning and re-learning was at the Latino Pastoral Action Center in my early 20s and being under the leadership of Reverend Raymond Rivera, where I was told—again, because this is not a discussion that is had a lot in churches, a lot of churches don’t talk about heritage. But as a matter of fact, they basically tell you to leave it at the door because once we’re “under the blood”, everything goes away. But in reality, once we’re “under the blood,” our heritage should be even richer! We should celebrate even more. But again, you know, westernized theology, and again, not having that curiosity to question, has led most of us to just accept what people say, and help them erase us. And being a part of the Latino Pastoral Action Center, I was exposed to, again, you know, brown and Black people that were doing things for the kingdom that were educated, that understood, you know, where they came from. You know, like you said, the Latino community is not monolithic—we definitely do not think alike, and you know, just being in this political world that we are in, you could definitely tell that. And, you know, I’m Puerto Rican, I’m “New Yorican” if you want to be even more specific. I’m a second generation boriqua. And I was, like I said, born in New York City, by a single parent mom who came from Puerto Rico in her early 20s. And I didn’t really experience even loving myself until very late in my life, I would say I was already in my 30s. So please people, whoever listens to this, don’t wait til your 30s to love yourself!

You know, I really just was kind of existing…I was raised in a single home so there wasn’t much discussion. My mom had a high school education, I had no one around me who had any knowledge of heritage in any of this stuff and Ancestry.com wasn’t around! So I started to just learn history, and I think that’s where we have to all start. What’s our history? We know that America didn’t start where people tell you it started. The things that are happening here didn’t just you know, come out of osmosis. It came from a thinking—from European thinking. And for me, when I found out that my dad was Afro Latino, I wanted to dig a little bit more. You know, thankfully, yes, Ancestry.com was available. I was able to find out that I have a lot of Africa in me! And Puerto Ricans as being a mixed race, the “mestizo” race as they say, you know, a lot of different people make up who we are. And unfortunately because of westernized thinking, a lot of Latinos identify [as] white, and not just because they present themselves as white because they have white skin, but because they actually think that they are! They actually check the “white” box on the census. And it’s unfortunate because they’re basically giving people—the people that have the power and the policies—the power to continue to take things away from them. And it’s unfortunate. 

I was talking to Dr. Robert Chao Romero last week, who actually is the author of a new book that’s coming out called “The Brown Church” (it’s coming out in May), and he was sharing how during the Civil Rights movement, Latinos actually went to court and they wanted not to be discriminated against. And they told the judge that, you know, “we shouldn’t be discriminated against because we’re not Black.” And the judge had to think about it for a little bit and then he sided with them. And they thought that they were doing the right thing by distinguishing themselves as white. But what they forgot is that when they went back into the real world, you know, what, if you’re not white, you’re not white, you know what I mean? And that these Latinos found out that no matter what, even if somebody says you’re white, your experience (depending on what you look like and where you come from) is going to be very different. And we have so much more in common than different. And so as I started to investigate more about myself, and I went to—actually I went with Lisa [Sharon Harper] to Puerto Rico last June, and we went to a town called Loiza, which was the biggest town in Puerto Rico where they had…most of the slaves that came to Puerto Rico, they were housed in Loiza. And so it’s a very Black community, you know, Afro Latino, and they know a lot of the African history. But it’s also a part of Puerto Rico that a lot of people don’t want to have anything to do with, because as there is colorism in various different communities, there’s also colorism in Puerto Rico and in our culture. And they’re [the people of Loiza], you know, kind of not looked upon a lot. But more and more people are realizing that they are Afro Latinos and Latinas and they are going back to Loiza to dig into more history. More people are writing about it. And again, what I pray for is that people will have that wonder again, and that curiosity, to not just accept what people label them as but to do the digging and allow God to be the one to tell you who you are.

Latasha Morrison  15:01  

Yeah, that’s good. I mean, I think that explains so much that we see, you know, through our lenses. We’re looking at this from the outside, you know. Every community, like you said, is dealing with colorism, especially brown and Black communities, which is really a product of white supremacy—and we don’t realize that and how we can perpetuate the problem. And so when we start talking about the basis of racism and disunity we start looking at this anti-Blackness, because no one wants to be on the bottom. No one wants to be seen, to appear to be like the group that is being oppressed, you know? So I think that speaks a lot. But as we’re having this conversation, and we talk about your leadership, you know, one of the things that I think for my heart is not just to see reconciliation and to see this—where all this community, where all are flourishing in this beloved community, you know—that’s the ultimate hope. But when I look around, like what I think that’s grieving me the most is the disunity within groups of brown and Black people. And so, you know, I’m thinking about racial solidarity and I think that “looking back” that you mentioned is so key to people understanding their identity. And like hearing your story, where you didn’t really understand this until you were 30 years old. And I think as an African American young lady, you know, that was a struggle for me growing up also! And so when we start talking about racial solidarity, you know, what does that look like for you? What does that look like? When we start talking about the community of the Latinx community, the Asian community, the African community, you know, I think these conversations have to happen in order for us to have solidarity. What do you—how do you feel about that?

Dr. Elizabeth Rios  17:18  

You know, that’s a great question. Because honestly, you know, we are still not there yet. We’re doing a little bit better in that area, but we still have a long way to go. And I think it’s because in our own communities, we still have so much to work out. And sometimes, you know, that lack of knowledge is what makes all of us perish, right? I think sometimes we try to bring solidarity and we try to go forward in justice without necessarily looking at our souls. And I think we have to pay close attention to that development of our souls if we want to live out God’s justice in the world. Because, you know, there’s a direct correlation between our relationship with God and our acts of kindness, and our acts of mercy, and compassion, and justice. And even this desire even to have this racial solidarity, it comes from a place of having that understanding of what God wants for all of us. And that is nurtured through like spiritual disciplines, you know. And so I think sometimes, too, you know, we need to understand what solidarity means. And we need to understand, you know, why it’s even important as we talk about a just world. But we have to understand that it won’t come just from knowledge—it will come from our spirituality as well. So it’s like a two handed thing that we have to move forward; if we want to see this, it’s going to come from our love. And our love…the only way we could become love in this world is through our time with God and our spirituality, because spirituality is the mechanism by which we understand God’s work in our souls and in the world around us. So I want to—I want to walk in that path of racial solidarity. But we won’t get there if we don’t also, as we’re learning, that we also don’t work on our spirituality. And if we don’t dig in and look at our history, so that we don’t repeat the same things that have been done in the past (like I mentioned with that civil case with Latinos during the Civil Rights movement) or even now, a lot of the things that are going on now that are unjust have happened before, and we keep not learning, and we keep repeating.

Latasha Morrison  17:39  

And I know one of the things you’re involved with, is the church planting movement and church leadership. What is some of your work that you’re doing with some of the churches in your space? What does that work look like? And what type of churches are being planted, and why? I want to hear a little bit about that.

Dr. Elizabeth Rios  19:58  

Okay, great. Well you know, I started this…I was working with another network, but I was a church planter. And I experienced a lot of different things, you know, some not so good. One of the things that we’ve noticed is that, you know, church planting organizations, they’re mostly run by, you know, white Americans. And as much as many of them do want to understand us, they only want to understand us to a point. Because once you start asking questions or saying that something is not right, then that’s when they no longer want to understand sometimes, right? So I went through some church planting organization training, I planted, but I realized that, you know, the same things that you encounter in certain communities is not what you encounter in others. So I felt like the training was missing key components that Black and brown planters needed to know. So that’s why I started Passion2Plant, because from our training, what we do is we expose the planters that are Black and brown that are interested in planting in urban communities—we expose them to the Black and brown voices that have been speaking on, and have lived experiences, in those urban communities. So that when they are reading these books, and they’re hashing out ideas, that they understand that this is probably what they have already seen. Because they probably came from an urban community, probably have experienced some type of urban ill wherever they came from. So it wouldn’t be new to them. It wouldn’t be like just a lab that you wonder—a lot of the times they’ve been through it and they could say, you know what, this definitely will work in my community or this definitely won’t. So we started Passion2Plant for that reason: to expose the Black and brown leaders that have wanted to plant in urban communities to the Black and brown voices. Because when you go to seminary, when you go to these church planting trainings, the people that are doing most of the talking are the white guys. The books that they’re giving you, are mostly, you know, western theology. So we wanted to show them that there’s a whole bunch of voices on the margins that have something to say about that, and that you should be listening to these folks because they actually lived it, and they’re living it. So that’s one of the reasons why we did that. 

But also, I also work with the Send Institute, which is a think tank for North American missiologists who are thinking about, “How is the way forward for the church in America, especially now and this time?” So we did a survey of Latino churches around the country and we realized that the churches were getting less money from church planting organizations, but they were doing more with less, which is not fair. Right? I mean, the great thing is that yes, they were doing more with less, but they don’t necessarily want to do more with less, right? So that’s why we started Passion2Plant so that we can have a pathway for planters who already know that their experience is going to be different, that they may have already lived some of these different experiences. They may have already been through some kind of injustice. I mean, you know, it doesn’t take long in America to experience some kind of injustice if you’re Black or brown. So, you know, we talk about how do you deal with that? How do you educate and begin a church that is just, right from the start? Because it’s much harder to change the ship midway. So it’s better if you’re thinking about, you know, having a just church, we believe that you should begin with that DNA from the beginning. And that starts with you re-educating and unlearning some things too. 

Latasha Morrison  23:46  

I think that’s good. You hit a lot in that. So you really talked about some of the barriers that you faced in this as it relates to your leadership journey and church planting. But then also one of the things that I tend to mention, and I hear you mentioning a lot, where, you know, when you start talking about the current church planting strategies that we have. Even as we look to mission strategies, a lot of those are led by a certain specific group from our society, which are white evangelical men. And so just the perspective—that lens and that perspective is so narrow, and it leaves out so much. And, you know, as you talked about, even your work in seminary is very narrow in the books and the voices that you’re hearing where we’re missing this component of the global church voice, you know, in this work. And it points to some of the issues that we’re having. So I want you just to, to really hone in. Like that barrier when you start talking about some of the disparities that you’re seeing with church planting, as it relates to funds and…I want you to talk about that just a little bit more. 

Dr. Elizabeth Rios  25:02  

Sure. So, you know, I feel the pain that some church planters experience because, you know, when you’re planting a church, you need money. That’s it. You need money, you know what I mean? And you know, no matter—in our Latino tradition, a lot of the churches were started in living rooms, and they were, you know, from the living room, they went into maybe a warehouse and from the warehouse, they went to a, you know, they just kept growing. And they were comfortable doing whatever it took. But now we have a certain kind of thinking that you have to go from school or from training directly to a building sometimes and even though this age of COVID is teaching everybody that is not the case, and it kind of flipped the script on everybody. But a lot of planters, you know, they will align themselves with an organization not looking at what their values are, not looking at what their leadership team looks like, to see if anybody looks like them. Not thinking about what is it that they teach, but just just asking how much money do they give? And sometimes that drives people to, even if they believe in women in ministry, they’ll align themselves with the agency that says you cannot have a woman pastor if we give you money. And they sign on the dotted line because you know what? They need the money. And it’s unfortunate that our people need money, but our people aren’t the ones that give the money out, you know. And if you look at church planting organizations around the country, there’s really not many that have a head brown or Black person, you know what I mean? So, it’s a shame but—and forget about seeing a woman, my organization is the only organization that has a woman in charge, a brown woman in charge, so you know, trust me, it ain’t easy. Right? And you know about that. So I think for me, church planters need to kind of, and they have the time to do that now, to really reflect and think about what kind of church do they want to plant? It does not have to be a cookie cutter of what everybody says is successful. It doesn’t have to be a celebrity church that they have to keep, you know, looking for that platform and the followers and everything. They just have to be faithful with those few and be transparent and be authentic. And in that process, they’ll find their people. And yes, they may never be a megachurch, but maybe God doesn’t want everybody to be a megachurch! And I think we have to stop celebrating and exposing all the megachurches and all the celebrities. We never talk about the small church pastor who’s been faithful doing that for 30 years and has been, you know, celebrating the births and grieving the deaths of their people for so many years. But they’ve been faithful. So to me, church planters need to—if they want to align themselves with a church planting organization because they’re the ones that have the money—I understand, but don’t do it fully. Learn from the people that are like you! Learn from the people that have come from the places that you’ve come from. Learn from the voices on the margins. Have all of those voices in your toolbox, so then you can draw from them when you are in those urban communities. Because it’s not going to be a white evangelical that’s going to help you talk to homeboy on the corner who doesn’t want to hear about your gospel because he needs to, you know, get something else for that moment. So I think learning how to utilize both, and all the things that you have at your disposal and all the voices, and then picking from there when you need it is crucial. And definitely also, and I’ll just say this because I’ve experienced it, when Black and brown people go out and stick their neck out to start organizations and fundraise for their organization, you should support it! Because most Black and brown people still think that white is right, and that’s the only thing that they can look up to. They usually support that more than they support their own. And that’s why we don’t end up having our own institutions where we can have an opportunity to give money, to give influence and authority to people. Because most of our people, sometimes they just decide that they don’t want to. They don’t believe in us enough.

Latasha Morrison  29:30  

I mean, that’s a whole—that line right there, what you just did, what you just said—that’s a whole nother podcast. Like that is, I mean, you’re speaking truth, when we talk about that. Because we would have to peel back the layers on why, you know? And this I mean, this can go back to, you know, people being discriminated against going to the doctor’s office, but would refuse to go to the Black doctor because they thought that it was inferior to the white doctor. But you’re being treated like trash and you’re being charged more, but you still won’t visit the Black doctor. I mean, so there’s a lot to uncover in that. So I see, I’m just relating that to what you’re talking about as it relates to the Latino community. And when people are out there leading and creating organizations, we don’t support them with funds because we feel like—we have to be honest—like you feel like it’s inferior, and that you feel like that, you know, what is created by white people is more superior. So that is the outworking, that is the active work of white supremacy, and that is called, you know, internalized racism. So that’s a big conversation that we got to continue to have! But I think you even talked about some of the hope that you have for just the up and coming Latina leaders that you see as it relates to church planters. But just in general, people who are not in the church planting world, but maybe like my friend who was leading the organization to help military wives…like, what message, you know, when you look at your community, what message of hope and advice would you like to give to up and coming Latino/a leaders?

Dr. Elizabeth Rios  31:21  

Well, I would say that, you know, we’re beautiful! And we’re anointed. And we have power within us! God created us with a purpose in mind. And we don’t have to wait to kiss anybody’s ring to step out and do what God called us to do. We’re always waiting on the sidelines, to see if someone sees us and then gives us the authority to do what God called us to do. But if God is the one that is sovereign and knows all, and has authority in our lives, He already gave us that permission. So why are we waiting around, years are going by, not doing what God wants us to do because we’re waiting for someone else? And again, usually those people, you know, in dominant culture who have power and influence and money to kind of pick us out from the lot and say, okay, you’re worthy. We are already worthy! We are already anointed to do what God has called us to do. But we have to start believing that for ourselves. If we do not believe that for ourselves, then there’s nothing, nothing that can be done for us. We have to believe what God says about us, not what other people say or don’t say about us. And I think that’s the key. And then once you realize that, you have everything you need to go forth and make a difference in this world.

Latasha Morrison  32:45  

That’s a good word. Now, as we get ready to close here, I just want—we talked about some of the barriers and just, you know, some of the things that are happening. But I also want to see, you know, want you to talk about like, where do you see justice? You know, restorative justice and mercy working in the world today? Where do you see that happening?

Dr. Elizabeth Rios  33:08  

I see it happening on the streets. I see it happening where they don’t get the Time cover, or the Outreach Magazine cover, or the social media posts. I see it happening every day with people just stepping out and doing what they want for other people and knowing that they’re the ones that make the difference. You know, I see it when a planter who doesn’t even have enough money to pay the rent now is stepping out every day to help people in his community to get fed, to get medical services, to be driven to different places. I see it every day when a member of our congregation decides that they’re going to step out and even put themselves in a place of harm, just to make sure that the elderly have food in their kitchen. So, you know, I see it every day. And even before this COVID-19 situation happened, it was happening everywhere, where people were dreaming of God’s best idea for the world. They believed in it enough to strive for it. And I believe that’s what God wants us to do. He wants us to continue to strive for it. Even though there are days when we get knocked down, even though there there are days when something doesn’t work out the way we had hoped—every time we step out and act in love and act in kindness and act as an instrument of change in our world, we’re showing mercy and God’s love to people in ways that may never be celebrated, but it is celebrated in heaven.

Latasha Morrison  34:44  

Right? That’s beautiful. I think right now, as we’re recording this podcast, we’re in the midst of a pandemic (COVID-19) that’s really impacting, you know, brown and Black communities. You know, I just wanted you to just add a little bit…just, you know, we know and understand the racial disparities and why we’re seeing higher numbers in our communities. But I just want you to speak to that just a little bit before we close out.

Dr. Elizabeth Rios  35:15  

Sure, you know, there was a book written, I don’t remember when it was, it was written by Veronica Squires, and it was called “How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick.” And so even before COVID-19, you know, there are people living in neighborhoods that were not set up to have wellness, to not have the structures that they needed to be healthy. So now when something like this happens, when this pandemic happens, and of course, you know, it took us by surprise. It didn’t take God by surprise, but still in all the unjust structures were not ready for this. And I believe that as we go forward, I’m hoping anyway, that people will pay attention to the things that we were shouting about before this pandemic happened, and start to do something that will make a difference and make our neighborhoods not sick, but make our neighborhoods well. And be part of the full circle of the health model, you know, and provide not only the scholarship but the volunteerism or the partnerships that they can create in their neighborhoods with churches and nonprofit organizations and others who are interested, to bring that full circle health to their communities. You know, unfortunately, there’s going to be injustice on this side of heaven. But it doesn’t mean that we can’t work together, to have learning, to have better education, and to treat our people better so that they’re living healthy lives. And that we can address whatever social ills are happening in our under resourced neighborhoods, to make a difference.

Latasha Morrison  37:02  

Yeah, that’s good. That’s good. So, as we close, as we talk about all these great things that are happening, and then also some of the barriers and obstacles and just…it’s incredible to have great leaders like yourself that are on the frontlines that are leading, that are using your voice, to uplift not just your community, but all communities. And so I think that’s imperative. And looking at the work that you’ve done thus far, you know, in all of this in so many different spaces with the local church, with community, with leaders, all of that is just incredible. I love to do this myself, but like, if we could just dream for a moment, you know, of things—and I do this a lot. If we can just dream, and if there were no barriers, no money limits, no obstacles, what problem would you solve today? Like if there was just no obstacles or limits or reality in that sense? In your world, your made-up world, what problem would you solve today?

Dr. Elizabeth Rios  38:18  

That’s a loaded one.

Latasha Morrison  38:19  

I know, I know. I know, it is.

Dr. Elizabeth Rios  38:22  

There are so many things that we would want to address! But I guess because I’m coming from the church planter world to be specific with that, I would love to be able to fund every well thought-out justice-oriented church, so that they wouldn’t have to worry about money and selling out their values and their principles just to get it.

Latasha Morrison  38:44  

That’s good. That’s good. That’s what I wanted to get at. It’s just that one thing. I know there’s several things, but that one thing that you’re passionate about if there were no obstacles, and money wasn’t a limit, that you would do because that vision alone is connected to so much. So I feel like sometimes we speak those things into the world…

Unknown Speaker  39:07  

Yes. I would do, I would do a plant tank, you know, like the shark tank. I would do a plant tank!

Latasha Morrison  39:13  

Yeah, a plant tank. I love it. I love it. I love that idea! Church tank! Yeah, yeah. Oh, that would be great. I love this conversation with you. And those of you who heard it, this is Dr. Elizabeth Rios. And she is here live with us, talking about the Latina voice and leadership, talking about church planning and justice and the outworkings of that. So, we want to lean into these voices and as we said, it’s like we have to make sure that we’re not living in these boxes that are exclusive, or not including a variety of voices. We need to learn from all people! And so we want to do that, we want to bring just some brilliant minds and voices to your ears each time that we have this conversation. And so thank you today for joining us! And we are so grateful to have you here today.

Narrator  40:20  

Thank you for listening. For more bridge building resources, visit our website at BeTheBridge.com.