UMTV: Border Separates Families at Christmas
We all want to be "home" for Christmas. For families divided by citizenship, this can pose a challenge. United Methodist missionaries are part of an effort to unite families and raise awareness of their situation. Kim Riemland reports.
(Locator: United States Mexico Border)
On a sunny December day where the U.S.- Mexico border wall rises from the Pacific Ocean, families unite as best they can.
Woman: "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."
This is 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.
2012 is the 19th year of this bi-national, bi-lingual 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: "&ellipsis;and 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.
Nancy Romero: "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.
Nancy Romero: "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.
(Bishop Minerva Carcaño speaking)
United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño says it's important for Christians to stand for justice for these families.
Bishop Minerva Carcaño, California-Pacific Conference: "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, United Methodist Extension Minister: "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."
John 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.
Saul Montiel: "We hope that one day, the world will come into one world, one table and one Lord."
John Fanestil: "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."
Celebrant: "This is one bread, this is one body&ellipsis;"
Saul Montiel, United Methodist Border Missionary: "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."
Nancy Romero: "This gives me hope at least. I'm so close to my kids and that's all I want is just to see my kids one more time."
There is hope that hearts and laws may one day change and walls will no longer divide. Until then, for a few minutes this Christmas, they worship together as one family, under one God.
John Fanestil: "&ellipsis;and someday those families will meet again here at this place and they will not only be able to share expressions of love and words of love, but they will be able to touch, they will be able to hug, they will be able to eat together. And that, my friends, this will be the kingdom of God. May it be that way and may God bless you all."
For information about The United Methodist Church and immigration, visit umc.org/immigration.
For more on the National Plan for Hispanic and Latino Ministries, visit their website or call 1-800-UMC-GBGM or 1-800-862-4246.
Posted: December 19, 2012