Belkis Lehmann (nee Garcia) has been a leader in Chi Alpha since she was a student at Florida International University in Miami. In her second semester at FIU, she started a Chi Alpha group on campus. After graduating in 1991 with a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education, she married her husband and ministry partner Steve, and together they served as Chi Alpha leaders at Eastern Michigan University. They now live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with their two children, Sofia and Gabriel. Recently, Belkis became Chi Alpha’s National Diversity Specialist, a role she is well-positioned for with her Cuban-American heritage, her student experiences on campus, and her efforts to create a multi-ethnic fellowship at EMU.
She shares her vision for greater diversity in the Chi Alpha student body and leadership:
What are some of the initiatives Chi Alpha has been taking to increase diversity among student groups and leaders?
Among students mostly that, encouragement. Talking about it nationally and making it a value and a part of our program has brought attention to it. I think most leaders want diverse groups, they just maybe don’t know how to achieve it. I think now they are taking time to figure it out, either by talking to me, inviting me to train their students, or using other resources.
What are some of the challenges you’ve found along the way that need to be overcome?
Wow, so many! First of all, it is our own cultural bubble. We need to separate the Kingdom from our own culture. This does not mean becoming a cultural, that is impossible. The church is meant to be the body of Christ in this world, to be, in some senses, a modern incarnation of Jesus. We need to empty ourselves of our own biases, issues, and thoughts, fill ourselves with God’s perspective, truth, and Spirit empowered ways, and then through who we are and through cross-cultural skills, embody Jesus to the world. Fear is another challenge. This is scary work, so we would rather someone else do it. Also, feeling ill-equipped. The truth is that we are all ill-equipped. We need to walk forth in faith.
How did your experiences as a student prepare you for your current role as National Diversity Specialist?
University was the first time in my life I made close friends of African descent, mostly people from the Caribbean. It was also the time when I learned to trust and depend on the Lord. I feel that much of my job is just that, trusting and depending on Jesus. It’s also the time I learned to pray and began to learn about intercession. This is probably another large part of my job, to pray and intercede.
How can Alumni help support Chi Alpha’s vision for greater diversity among students and leaders?
Here are a few ways you can help:
- Get to know God’s perspective on diversity. We may use the same word found on most of our campuses, but we don’t mean the same thing.
- Live a life of Kingdom diversity. This means making sure that your friend circle is diverse and that you are getting to know people beyond the surface level. Really focusing on deep relationships and being a learner.
- Become active in caring about others that are different than you, not just in relationship, but also caring about what they care about. Caring about justice issues is both loving for those in need of justice and part of God’s Kingdom. It is a Kingdom of righteousness and justice.
- Pray for our missionaries. Navigating what happens on campus and representing Jesus well is not easy. We need God’s power.
- Give to the Minority Mobilization Fund. This is a fund that helps supplement new missionaries of color during their training.
- If you are a person of color, consider volunteering with a local Chi Alpha group. Most groups would really benefit from having volunteers who could be a mentor to students and help the staff team.
To give a gift to the Minority Mobilization Fund, visit chialpha.com/mmf.