It has been said that Sunday is the most segregated day of the week, and it’s true. Many congregations are filled with people who look alike, sound alike, and worship alike. However, the body of Christ is all-inclusive, and we do ourselves a disservice by keeping our perspectives limited. We also miss out on our call as followers of Christ to live in relationship with people from all walks of life.
To answer that call, today’s diverse Church needs leaders of all ages who are culturally competent. However, developing them takes intentional action. It takes individuals who are genuinely willing to listen to, learn from, and relate to people outside their own communities. It takes real connection through diverse experiences. It takes getting out of our comfort zone and into the world. Other + Wise was created to do just that with our cultural immersion programs.
Looking to the future, we envision Other + Wise experiences as just the beginning. Our youth groups and congregations will commit to a lifetime of learning and understanding the views of others. They will continue to grow relationships with people who are different than themselves. They will carry on their journey for cultural competency, inclusion, and justice. They will become “other” wise, and the mission and heart of the Church will be transformed.
Other + Wise offers week-long cultural immersion experiences for youth who are ready to expand their worldview.
It was Jesus’s mission and ministry to be in relationship with all people, regardless of their station in society. As his followers, we are also called to be in relationship, particularly with those who may look or live differently than we do.
Our programs help youth and their adult leaders become “other” wise by immersing with different people, places, and cultures. We call these experiences journeys because our participants are on a quest to make genuine connections outside their own communities. We believe this journey will last a lifetime, as our alumni commit to life-long cultural competency, inclusion, and justice work.
Other + Wise Journeys feature:
Engagement experiences with Other + Wise partner organizations from diverse communities and cultures.
Outside excursions to cultural destinations like festivals, museums, and local-flavor restaurants.
Unique opportunities to give back to the people and places encountered on the journey.
Interactive debriefings for processing new ideas and experiences, both individually and as a group.
Accessible accommodations in the heart of the host area.
Other + Wise: Urban Journeys
Other + Wise: Urban Journeys are hosted in Colorado’s beautiful Denver/Aurora metropolitan area.
Other + Wise: Borderland Journeys
Other + Wise: Borderland Journeys take place in and around the vibrant city of San Antonio, Texas.
Other+Wise: Indigenous Journeys
Other+Wise: Indigenous Journeys is under construction. Stay tuned!
Other+Wise: Serrano is an immersive leadership development program for youth from Native Nations in the United States. If you are a Native youth who might be interested in joining us for Other+Wise: Serrano, please contact Vance, our Director.
An experience with Other + Wise, is not like any other senior high youth group “trip” I have been a part of, both as a leader and as a youth myself. Other + Wise will expand the size of the body of Christ. Other + Wise will show you stories, you wouldn’t have heard otherwise. Other + Wise gave us an experience that allowed us to listen to voices, see places, and encounter Christ in places we were not aware of. We heard hard stories, we debriefed constantly, and grew in our awareness of who God is. Through Other + Wise, we gained an experience that put our faith to action, to listen, to see, and to love better.
Youth Minister (Former) Atonement Lutheran Church + Billings, Montana
Other + Wise Journeys can accommodate groups as few as 15 and groups of up to 30 participants – ages 13 and older. Our programs typically last seven days, with a Saturday arrival and Friday departure.
To ensure a fully immersive experience, each group is required to complete a minimum of five engagement activities with our partner organizations. Other + Wise will coordinate and schedule these events. Groups are also expected to participate in supplemental enrichment that Other + Wise will coordinate as well. This may include visits to festivals, museums, local-flavor restaurants, or other culturally relevant destinations. Click here for a sample itinerary.
We understand that developing cultural competence is a new concept for many people. It can be intimidating for youth and adults alike. To smooth the process, group leaders will receive coaching and reference materials ahead of time to help participants prepare for their journey. Additionally, each group will complete orientation with an Other + Wise team member at the beginning of the week. Someone from the team will also be present throughout the journey to assist with debriefings and discussions as participants process new ideas and experiences.
Other + Wise participants will be hosted by one of several churches in the host area that have graciously agreed to join us on the journey. Accommodations will include restrooms, kitchen facilities, and gathering spaces for group activities. We also work with local organizations to provide showers and larger restrooms for periodic use throughout the week. Participants are responsible for providing their own bedding and other linens. Gender and ability needs are always taken into consideration when coordinating logistics, and we will work closely with group leaders to ensure all needs are met with appropriate care and sensitivity.
Each group is responsible for their own transportation. At times, public transportation may be necessary or recommended. Directions and maps to experiences will be provided to drivers, and an Other + Wise team member may accompany your group to certain destinations. Travel time to and from the experience will be included in the schedule for the day.
Each group is responsible for supplying their own meals throughout the week. Options include going to local restaurants or bringing your own food to prepare and eat at the host church. At times, groups may be required to prepare sack lunches, depending on the itinerary for the day. Other + Wise will coordinate meal times with the group ahead of time. Travel and meal prep will be included in the schedule.
The cost for this invaluable experience is $30 a night per person, with a $500 non-refundable registration deposit for the group.
Groups are also required to give a predetermined monetary gift to each Other + Wise partner organization that provides learning experiences. These gifts serve not only as a token of gratitude, but also as an additional cultural lesson for participants in different ways of giving and receiving. To learn more about monetary gifts for partner organizations, please contact Kinna, our Program Director.
Vance Blackfox (Cherokee)
Founder & Director
Vance Blackfox, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, is the founder and director of Other+Wise, and serves the churchwide organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) as the Director Indigenous Ministries and Tribal Relations. An alumnus of Texas Lutheran University (TLU) and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), Vance has previously served the ELCA in multiple capacities, from being elected and serving as National President of the Lutheran Youth Organization during his TLU days, to later working as a diversity and cultural education professional for the Women of the ELCA, Augsburg Fortress Publishers, California Lutheran University, ELCA Youth Gathering, and LSTC’s Youth in Mission. In addition to serving numerous ELCA and ecumenical teams and committees throughout the years, he is at present the Indigenous Theologian and Coordinating Team Member for the ELCA’s Theological Round Table, as well as creator and producer of the Vine Deloria Jr. Theological Symposium hosted at LSTC.
Vance previously served as the Director of Communications at the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, as the Director of Communications for Native Americans in Philanthropy, and has held executive director positions at the Haskell Foundation, which supports Haskell Indian Nations University, and the Oaks Indian Mission. Vance teaches about many things Indigenous as founder and primary of Blackfox Institute, he has served as the Guest Curator of the Indian Museum at the University of Texas at San Antonio Institute of Texan Cultures, and presently serves as the Indigenous Theologian for the Faith-Based Initiative for the City of San Antonio, where he currently resides.
As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Vance comes from a small, Indian community in Oklahoma. Growing up, he encountered a continuous stream of church groups on “mission trips,” hoping to bring Jesus to his people through service projects and “mission work.” Even though he lived in one of the oldest, Protestant, Christian, Native American communities in the U.S., churches continued to want to bring Jesus there. This kind of paternal “mission work” is still happening today all over the world, and Vance is working to change that with Other + Wise as a new type of leadership and mission experience.
Kinna is a Luther Seminary graduate who serves part-time as the Director of Youth and Family Ministry at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in a suburban-turned-urban neighborhood in Aurora, Colorado. Kinna is compelled through scripture and the Holy Spirit to be an accomplice for her siblings in Christ who are different from her. She gets a great deal of wisdom from the young people and families of color and different backgrounds that she accompanies, as well as her mentors and colleagues of color, with different genders, abilities, and backgrounds.
Other + Wise is a Native nonprofit organization.
Board of Directors
Vance Blackfox (Cherokee)
Pamela Johns (Red Lake Nation of Ojibwe)
Rachelle Renfrow (Cherokee)
Sarah Beams (Choctaw)
Joannie Romero (Pueblo of Cochiti)
Rebecca Allen (Cherokee)
Other+Wise wishes to express its gratitude to the Other+Wise VIPs who have been generous in their support of the development and growth of Other+Wise. We are grateful to these volunteers for their time, resources, and talents over the past years in support of our journey and yours.
If you would like to make a donation by check, you can make your check to Other+Wise and send it to:
215 N Center St #504
San Antonio, TX 78202