Seminarians’ Podcast Shares Stories and Reclaims Space for Interracial Identities
September 30, 2021
It is hard to imagine seminarians finding time to produce, edit, and promote a podcast in between classes, jobs, studying, and field education, but that’s just what Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary Master of Divinity students Jordan Aspiras and Sarah DeHaan have been doing since July 2020 with their podcast, Mixed Kids Ministry.
The idea for Mixed Kids Ministry began in their first semester of seminary when Aspiras, an interracial Filipina, and DeHaan, a biracial Latiné, were looking for a space where they could be their whole selves and struggled to find it. This missing space led to them founding Mixed Kids Ministry – a place for reclaiming the grey space in theology and the church for those with interracial identities through open conversation and storytelling.
Over the past year, Aspiras and DeHaan have launched a website, completed two seasons of the Mixed Kids Ministry podcast, created merch, and more – all while still being full-time students. We were thrilled to get the chance to interview Aspiras and DeHaan and let them share more about themselves and their work with Mixed Kids Ministry.
Before we dive into Mixed Kids Ministry, tell us a little about yourselves:
Jordan: I am Jordan, and I am interracial, raised in what is known as San José, California. I’m in my third year of my MDiv, and I graduated from Baylor University in 2019. It has been fun to see my vocation and calling shift and grow, and even seeing the similarities to SD’s. Our interest in Death and Culture being one of these interests. I am interested in Hospital Chaplaincy, particularly with Intensive Care Units and abrupt/traumatic end of life care. I am also interested in exploring what it looks like to have chaplains as a part of medical schools, specifically working with residents, fellows, and medical students when they rotate off and onto the ICU.
Sarah/SD: I’m Sarah, I also go by SD, and I am a biracial Latiné. I’m a 3rd year Master of Divinity (MDiv) student here at Garrett. I graduated from Western Michigan University with my bachelor of science in family studies. Following my studies at Garrett, I hope to pursue a call to Palliative/End of Life Chaplaincy and Death Doula Certification while continuing to study the intersection of Death and Culture.
Mixed Kids Ministry is more than just a podcast, so can you tell us about what Mixed Kids Ministry is and how it got started?
Jordan: We met in our first year here at Garrett, and pretty early on started having conversations about how theological approaches didn’t quite fit right for our lives. I am an interracial woman, my dad is Filipino, and my mom is white. But I was raised in a community heavily influenced by Chicano/Mexican American life and identity. Because of this upbringing, my relationship to my ethnic/racial identity has always been somewhat confusing. A lot of people assumed I was adopted when they saw me with my mom—even teachers and other parents. Teachers would say, “Oh it all makes sense now,” upon seeing my dad. I spent a chunk of my childhood confused on what my ethnicity was, since most people told me I “looked Mexican and Samoan,” so I believed them. I’m not sure when I stopped believing them, but I guess one day I did. But this is all important to the formation of Mixed Kids Ministry because we weren’t reading or seeing stories like ours reflected in theology and theological discourse.
SD: Mixed Kids Ministry was born in the first semester of our time here at Garrett. We quickly realized that there were stories missing from theological education and the church; stories containing those who live and exist in the grey space of the binary, in this space in between. At the heart of it, Mixed Kids Ministry blossomed through our mutual experiences of being multi-racial and has been nourished and sustained through the continual building of this community.
You use storytelling as a way to “reclaim the grey space in theology and the church.” Can you talk a bit about why storytelling is a pivotal part of Mixed Kids Ministry and why it is an effective tool for reclaiming that space?
Jordan: Storytelling is at the heart of literally all I do. Illuminating stories through the podcast and art—it’s all immensely theological for me. I love the care that comes with being in community. And being in community is critical for understanding our own story, and how our story lives with the stories of others.
SD: Storytelling is important for us and the work that we do with Mixed Kids Ministry because it gives us the opportunity to highlight and emphasize voices that are not our own. We recognize that our stories are only two of so many different stories. We recognize that our voices only cover our own experiences and there’s so much more to the Mixed identity than just our own individual experiences.
You’re both seminarians – how has your theological education played a role in your work with Mixed Kids Ministry?
Jordan: It felt like I was having frequent conversations with people in having to explain why my relationship with and to my identity looks different and isn’t one size fits all, and honestly, I had enough. And I’m glad that I found someone who was willing to explore this work with me.
SD: As unfortunate as it is, our theological education was seemingly the straw that broke that camel’s back. We went our entire lives struggling to live in this in between, searching for space to exist fully ourselves, and when that still wasn’t present in our theological education, we had to make it for ourselves.
In Season 1, you interviewed Garrett New Testament professor, Rev. Dr. Dong Hyeon Jeong. What was it like getting to talk in-depth with a professor “outside of the classroom” so to speak?
Jordan: This was one of my favorite moments of our interviewing. Getting to talk with a professor about his experience was incredible. It is one thing to hear about experiences through reading a textbook or article, but it is something completely different to get to sit down and hear it firsthand.
SD: It was an experience that I know Jordan and I are both very grateful for. Being able to take classes with some of these top theology and Bible scholars in and of itself is such a privilege. So, being able to talk with Dr. Jeong outside of the classroom, pick his brain about a subject(s) that he truly has so much passion for, and also getting to know him outside of that role of educator truly was such a gift. I’m speaking for the both of us when I say that we are so grateful Dr. Jeong was willing to be part of this new ministry project, and that he continues to be one of our biggest supporters.
On the podcast you’ve interviewed fellow Garrett students and professors, friends, and faith leaders. How do you go about finding guests, especially those outside of Garrett? Do you have a guest wish list of people you’d love to have on the podcast in the future?
Jordan: We’ve had a lot of support from people that are willing to connect us with others. So, from Colton Bernasol, we met Nathan Samayo. And through Rev Debbie Weatherspoon, we met Rev. Kim Montenegro. In terms of a “wish list,” I think someone on the top of the list for us would be Dr. Chao Romero, who wrote Brown Church. But it would also be cool to branch out of religious and religious adjacent people.
SD: I know in passing we’ve made comments about having people like Phillipa Soo, but after listening to an episode of “On Being with Krista Tippett,” we’ve added Mexican-American poet Luis Alberto Urrea to that wish list. Obviously, our focus tends to be religious and religious adjacent people, and there’s ministry happening outside of the Church and outside of religion that would be fun to start to tackle.
What has been the most challenging part(s) of doing the Mixed Kids Ministry podcast?
Jordan: Doing school and trying to keep up with Mixed Kids Ministry and our own mental health. Because honestly, it’s hard. At the end of the day, we both would rather be taking care of ourselves and this ministry to the fullest possible extent. To do that alongside a full-time course load and internships/work? It’s a lot. And this work? Like living alongside the grieving and actively grieving? It’s heavy. It’s good work, and I love it. But dang, I need time to care for me.
SD: Like Jordan said, trying to keep up with Mixed Kids Ministry while being full-time students, while also trying to take care of ourselves, has easily been the most challenging part of running the podcast. Our generation has been socialized to rise and grind and to keep pushing even when we feel like we’re about to break. So being intentional about rest and sabbath, especially when it feels like we can’t afford to make time for it, has been especially difficult.
What has been the most rewarding part(s) of doing the Mixed Kids Ministry podcast?
Jordan: It’s restorative. It feels like I’m healing wounds related to my lack of understanding of my own identity. It has made me more confident in where I stand with who I am. Identity is so fluid and flocculating, and this work has helped affirm me in who I am and how I show up as a seminary student, as a chaplain, as an artist, and as a human.
SD: I think for me, a lot of what’s rewarding about doing this podcast is similar to how Jordan feels. But, on top of that. I think, for me, it’s been rewarding to just get to work with Jordan. Some of these conversations can be hard, especially when it comes to the reclamation of identity, but being able to do this with someone so intentional in their work, so talented in their craft, and someone just so devoted to this work is such a gift. Truly couldn’t imagine doing this work with anyone else.
I won’t make you choose a favorite guest, but can you each share a favorite moment or two from an interview?
Jordan: During Nathan Samayo’s interview we dreamt up what it would look like to have a coffee shop/art space that welcomes all and is Church. I think that moment, I was like, “Wow. These are the people that feel me.” I’d love for this dream to become a reality to be honest.
SD: Like Jordan, that moment of sharing this dream of having a coffee shop/art space that’s Church with Nathan and having him affirm that and be down to be part of that journey, was really special. With that, I think A LOT of my favorite moments come almost immediately after we stop recording. We usually spend a bit of time after we stop recording to just shoot the breeze with our interviewees where we get to talk off the record, off script, and just laugh together. It’s those little moments of joy that come after trust has been built through conversation that’s really special.
What are your hopes for Mixed Kids Ministry (both the podcast and the overall ministry) in the future?
Jordan: I think about this often. Sustaining this work post-grad through other forms is my biggest hope. So maybe the podcast slows, but the dream of opening a coffee shop art church kind of space is another dream for Mixed Kids Ministry.
SD: This is such a hard question. Naturally my hope is that it’s something we can sustain and grow even after we’ve graduated and are working full time. But, being realistic, even if the podcast and the work of Mixed Kids Ministry stops, I just hope that Mixed Kids Ministry can continue to live on through the ministry of the work that Jordan and I will be doing. Whether that’s in chaplaincy, death work, or fingers crossed a little coffeeshop/art space/church vibe.
What can listeners look forward to in Season 3 of the podcast?
Jordan: We are planning to interview some more folks, so if anyone is interested in sharing their story, they can email us at email@example.com. In addition, we are hoping to get more episodes of just the two of us. We’ve talked about a “foodcast” where we cook and talk about the importance of food. We also both celebrate Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), and we are talking about doing an episode around that and Death.
SD: Yes to everything Jordan said! Seriously looking forward to the “foodcast,” to an episode on Día de Muertos in our lives/our practice, and definitely some great new interviews coming up. We’re also hoping to bring back some of our previously interviewed people to continue conversations.
If people want to learn more about Mixed Kids Ministry and how they can support your work, where can the find you on the internet?
Jordan: We are on Instagram @mixedkidsministry and Twitter @MixedKidsMin and online at www.mixedkidsministry.com. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and we have a link to our PayPal on our website. We also have merch! On Redbubble our store is MixedKidsMin, and we have links to everything in the bio on our Instagram and on our website.
SD: Ditto to all of that. (:
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a graduate school of theology related to The United Methodist Church, was founded in 1853. Located on the campus of Northwestern University, the seminary serves more than 450 students from various denominations and cultural backgrounds, fostering an atmosphere of ecumenical interaction. Garrett-Evangelical creates bold leaders through master of divinity, master of arts, master of theological studies, doctor of philosophy, and doctor of ministry degrees. Its 4,500 living alumni serve church and society around the world.