Many people want to know why I spend so much time working with second-generation South Asian-American students. I can’t wait to tell you why!

First off, I am a second-generation South Asian, so it feels natural for me to reach them. My parents are from India, but I was born and raised in the United States. I live in between the hyphen of South Asian – and – American.

Students from a South Asian American leadership gathering called "Culture Shift 2013"

Students from a South Asian American leadership gathering called “Culture Shift 2013”

We get labeled as confused, “ABCD” (i.e. American Born Confused Desi), or even “coconuts” (i.e. white on the inside, brown on the outside). Most of these labels are meant to be funny, but sometimes it can be downright frustrating. Am I supposed to be more American? Less American? More South Asian? Less South Asian? Wow, this is confusing!!

In the midst of this confusion, South Asian-American students often rise to the challenge and create a fusion of cultures. This fusion allows them to play the role of “go-between”. They can go between cultures and quickly translate experiences in their minds. This is an incredible gift. But most do not know that they are incredible.

When I arrived at the University of Texas at Austin, I was a shy, extroverted, talented, engineering student trying to find a place of significance. However, I could not find a place to be truly “me”. Finally, through InterVarsity/USA, a few friends and I created a space on campus for South Asian-Americans to explore the intersection of our talents, education, and faith in Jesus.

I believe there are three major reasons why this space needs to exist on campus:

Reason #1: Next Generation Leadership

The leaders of the South Asian Christian community are getting grey-headed and will eventually die. Sorry to sound grim, but it is reality. Who will step up to lead the next generation? We cannot assume that it will “just happen”. The solution to this problem is the second-generation South Asian-American college student; however, no one has invested into them and they are not ready.

South Asian-American students need a place to explore their leadership potential. They need a place to practice, practice, fail, practice, etc. I believe the university campus is an excellent place to discover, develop, and deploy these gifts. They need a space on campus to do this.

While in college, I grew exponentially in my gifts. I led my peers in planting a new chapter. I led small group Bible studies. I thought strategically. I implemented plans. I casted vision. I made presentations in front of my peers. I was developed. I am a different person today because of my experience on campus.

InterVarsity National South Asian-American Task Force

InterVarsity National South Asian-American Task Force

Reason #2: Contextualized Story of God

Most South Asians have never heard the Story of God (i.e. the Gospel) – especially in their heart language. I don’t mean translated into Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, etc. I mean that it does not sound “South Asian”. The good news of Jesus is not explained in terms that melt our hearts, open our eyes, and move us into action.

Jesus needs to become a South Asian and live among us. The only way that can happen is if South Asian-American students embody the Story of God in their everyday lives!

  • What does it mean to follow Jesus and not obey your parents?
  • What does it mean if you don’t attain a high-paying, reputable job while following Jesus?
  • Why does it seem that certain cultural norms are not Kingdom norms?

Who will answer these questions?! Who will display to our peers the satisfaction, love, and energy that comes from being loved by God through Jesus?

The second generation South Asian-American has the incredible opportunity to become a contextualized version of the Story of God. The lives of these South Asian-American students: the failures, the victories, and the confusion coalesce into a messy, beautiful, compelling version of God’s Story… and it must be shared.

Speaking at InterVarsity National Asian American Staff Conference

Speaking at InterVarsity National Asian American Staff Conference

Reason #3: Renewal of Culture

There is so much beauty in South Asian culture, but along with that beauty there is brokenness. When you mobilize leaders and contextualize Jesus, you will spark renewal and healing of that brokenness. Imagine as South Asian-American students become next-gen leaders and embody the Story of God to every part of campus, to their workplace, and into their families. Lives will be restored for the better. Others will be inspired and sent out to heal broken parts of our culture.

For example, did you know that little space we created at the University of Texas at Austin is still there to this very day? Crazy… thirteen years later! But more incredible than that is how that one little space has birthed 6 more spaces on other universities all over Texas and Oklahoma (i.e. University of North Texas, Texas Woman’s University, Texas A&M, University of Oklahoma, UT-Dallas, UT-Arlington, and University of Central Oklahoma).

What started with 7 student leaders has sparked into a movement that has reached hundreds of students over the past decade. Consider the impact of these leaders! Step-by-step, moment-by-moment, I believe that these students will bring about renewal of our culture. Our families will be different. Our churches will be super-charged with high-caliber leadership. The relationship between children and parents will be refreshed. The sky is the limit on what could happen!

InterVarsity South Asian-American student leaders at University of Oklahoma

InterVarsity South Asian-American student leaders at University of Oklahoma

Sure, we’re confused, but we’re also catalysts. I encourage you to invest into a second-generation South Asian-American student today. You will be surprised (and impressed) how much God has in store for them. Who knows… you may be reaching the next great missionary that will go back to the 1040 window! You are an Everyday World Changer! Start today!

Is there anything else that you would like to add to this list? What are other benefits of reaching second-generation South Asian-American college students?