On a sunny December day where the U.S.- Mexico border wall rises from the Pacific Ocean, families united as best they could. They found a place called Friendship Park, a unique place where those on each side of the border can get close enough to speak, even touch through the metal mesh.
One woman spoke up and said, “I have not been able to see my sister for the last two years. And it’s been just a few minutes ago that I was able to see my sister, through this fence, through these little holes.”
The 2012 holidays were the 19th year of this bi-national, bilingual Christmas celebration called Las Posadas. Posada means lodging and it represents Mary and Joseph’s attempt to find a place where they are welcome, where there is room for those from another land. It’s a chance for separated families to celebrate Christmas together, yet the unmoving wall is a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s experience of rejection.
Nancy Romero, deported to Mexico, comments, “All I want is to go home, just to go home to my kids. I’m not a bad mother, I’m not a bad person.” Nancy Romero’s mother brought her into the U.S. when she was six-years-old. It’s the only country she’s known. “And no matter what they say, it’s still my home and my family is there and I want to go back.” But as an adult and mother of four, Nancy was discovered and deported. “I grew up there and I got raised there and it’s not fair, it’s not fair. That is my home.”
The stories and the tears are plenty. United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño says it’s important for Christians to stand for justice for these families. Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the California-Pacific Conference says, “This is an event that brings light to the issue of broken immigration laws and the suffering of immigrant men, women and children. It is a powerful reminder that we have walls between our nations.”
John Fanestil, a United Methodist extension minister, adds, “I think the border is an offense to God. I think it is an offense to the spirit. I’ve seen so many people at Friendship Park cry with their loved ones through the fence, and I do believe God is crying with them.”
Fanestil is a United Methodist border missionary. He and fellow missionary Saul Montiel minister to those who live along the border. They help meet physical needs, and spiritual ones. Every Sunday they offer communion for families on each side of the wall.
Montiel, a United Methodist border missionary, states, “We hope that one day, the world will come into one world, one table and one Lord. It is our responsibility to express to the world that we Methodists care for those who suffer. That we Methodists are in solidarity with families who have been deported from the U.S. and they are suffering right now the separation, the absences of their loved ones.”
Fanestil adds, “Saul and I, every Sunday morning we meet up here in San Diego and we break the bread and we split a single bottle of juice into two containers. One of us travels to the Mexican side and one of us travels to the U.S. side of Friendship Park and that way when we consecrate the elements we are still breaking one bread and breaking one cup, which is very meaningful to me. Because we are one family.”
There is hope that hearts and laws may one day change – and walls will no longer divide. Until then, for a few minutes this past Christmas, they worshiped together as one family, under one God.