Imago Dei Week – Grace Community School
Blog by Ijeoma “EJ” Unegbu, EdD
Imago Dei is Latin for “image of God.” Simply put, we are all image-bearers of the Creator, and by His grace and mercy, we have inherited a beautiful family history and lineage. Like anything God sees as good, the enemy co-opts and corrupts. Biblical diversity refers to what God intends for humanity: believers of every tribe, tongue, and nation come together as one body. Psalm 133 and Ephesians 4:1 are excellent passages on unity in the body.
With these tenants in mind, Imago Dei Week was a time to remind us of God’s desired hope for humanity, especially His longing for our redemption and the hope we become a reflection of His story in us. We invited Grace students to explore the varied stories of God’s humanity during Imago Dei Week. We received encouraging feedback from students and staff who found an understanding and appreciation for the creative, God-ordained dispensation in all of us.
February 13th commenced Grace Community’s Imago Dei Week event. The headline chapel speaker was Indira Karimova of Kyrgyzstan. Born into a strict Muslim community, Indira became a young bride at eighteen at the behest of her family. Ms. Karimova detailed the physical and emotional abuse she received in childhood and during her marriage. Mercifully, she was introduced to Jesus after relocating to the United States with her then-husband. When she finally escaped her abusive marriage, Indira was granted a special visa, given to few, under the trafficking umbrella, as she was subjected to marriage against her will at a young age. With her two young daughters, Indira found help through a local shelter, where they could connect with a local non-profit to get on their feet. Ms. Karimova discussed the importance and impact of the shepherding she received from her beloved Green Acres church family. Through time spent with her newly acquired Christian friends, she realized how desperately she “wanted to know the God they were serving,” In finding Christ, Indira found forgiveness in her heart toward her family and the individuals who had abused her. She concluded her message to Grace students by reiterating the importance of forgiveness and love for others, for only then do we successfully mimic the love of Christ in a broken world.
On Valentines Day, February 14th, students were given a variety of breakout options and speakers from which to choose. Creatively titled GRACE sessions, this acronym stood for Gender, Race/Religion, Age/Ability, Cultural/Community, and Ethnic/Economic. We were so pleased to invite the following guest speakers:
- Dr. Manouchehr Khosrowshahi (Dr. K) is a native of Turkey, a political science professor at Tyler Junior College (TJC), and a Fulbright scholar. He discussed with students how Iranian women are stirring a revolution with a protest against hijab-wearing.
- Ruchi Rachmale, MD, MPH, a first-generation Indian American raised in Detroit, provided a session on her medical journey and relocating to East Texas as a general preventative medicine resident.
- A zoom session in the Logos Lab featuring Drs. Earl and Uzo Osuagwu, first-generation Nigerian American black males in medicine. They discussed their journey to medicine with students and working with diverse people in their profession. Earl and Uzo are graduates of Grace Community High School. Earl is an internist hospitalist at Hermann Memorial Hospital, and Uzo is an anesthesiologist pain specialist with MD Anderson. Both reside in Houston.
- Ryanne Carr, a TJC student and amputee, provided a session on misconceptions by the public about the disability community, along with her lived experience as part of the disability community.
- Stanley Cofer, a co-founder of the Texas African American Museum, presented students with museum history and information.
- Spanish teacher Josue Sabillion’s mom, Sophia, gave a session on growing up Honduran and provided an in-class demonstration of tortilla making.
- Dr. Arthur Smith, a TJC professor of political science and a native of Trinidad, discussed his country’s culture and people.
- Pam Jacobson of the East Texas Human Needs Network provided a session on the socio-economic landscape of Smith County.
- Amber Payne, Creative Director for SHINE, a local non-profit that serves single moms, discussed art as a universal language.
- Cicely and Marcelo Landeros provided students with a cultural information table on the country of Chile during lunch.
- November Roberts, GCS Student Activities Director, presented a session on generational quotient on how generations understand and work with each.
On Wednesday, during our students’ lunch period, students discussed the connection between food and community. Grace Community parent Bella Diaz Palacios brought Abuelitas, a Mexican hot chocolate and sweet bread for students to try.
On Thursday was guest worship with members from CrossPointe Church in Flint. Siretha Ajayi led vocals, and Scott Smith, worship pastor for CrossPointe, played the keyboard, along with Orlando Williams providing drum accompaniment.
On Friday, Grace Community School hosted Miami, Florida’s Hispanic Flamenco Ballet to cap off a great week of culture and diversity. Schools across Texas visited Grace to watch the stunning performances showcasing a rich and cultural time of dance and art in motion.
We at GCS recognize that many of our students will one day attend postsecondary education and work in environments with people different from themselves. Some of those diverse encounters may involve people who have never known God. As believers, our God-ordained charge is to live the Gospel and impact the world for Christ. As humans, we naturally gravitate to people and cultures like our own, but as Christians, we are called to step beyond the limits of what we find comfortable. The overarching goal of Imago Dei Week was for our students to experience and better understand that all people are made in the image of God. We were welcomed into an eternal family by surrendering our hearts and lives to Christ. We are so pleased that our Imago Dei Week provided students the opportunity to witness the beauty of biblical diversity and the importance of our kingdom community.