Feeding Bodies, Souls at the Border: Rev. Saul Montiel
Growing up against what he calls "a background of struggle," Sal Montiel vowed to make social justice an integral part of his life and work. As a United Methodist missionary at the U.S.-Mexico border, he now serves those struggling to survive along the Tijuana River.
(Locator: Tijuana River, U.S.- Mexico border)
The Rev. Sal Montiel: "This is the Tijuana River and this is basically where migrants being deported from the U.S. gather and spend the night."
The Reverend Sal Montiel's mission field lies in the margins of two countries the United States and Mexico. He works to help those who find themselves caught in between.
Some of them survive in the drainage channel of the Tijuana River.
The Rev. Sal Montiel: "These are very much contaminated waters and they are exposed to all kinds of disease. And we have seen, honestly before, that some of them use this water for personal use, like hygiene which is not really hygienic."
(Showing hygiene kit, handing out) "This is what we give to them...like Dove, a toothbrush, band aids."
Some gather in parks, where Montiel hands out hygiene kits and meals.
The Rev. Sal Montiel: "You can count...count up to 800 of them every day. And through the Church of Mexico we provide meals in the morning, in the weekend as well."
"They will try to survive for the next week, trying to get back to the place of or basically, trying to cross back to the U.S. The great majority of them will try to cross back to the U.S. because this is where they have their own life, their families."
"So, the stories that you encounter at that particular location are of suffering because many of them were separated from their family. And, they are nowhere to go. They have no place to go other than dreaming of coming...to come back to the U.S. to be reunited with the family."
Montiel also brings spiritual nourishment to those separated from their families.
(Serving Communion) "And, we hope that one day the world will come into one world."
On Sundays, he helps provide worship and Communion at the one place where relatives on both sides of the border can get close enough to see each other, to talk, to touch through a border wall.
(At wall) "Como esta?"
Montiel was born in Mexico; his father came into the U.S. as a manual laborer. Montiel's experience, on both sides of the border, helped shape his call to help those who still struggle.
The Rev. Sal Montiel: "I come from a background of struggling. You know, growing up in the United States as well, taught me that somehow justice has to be involved in everything that I do. I think we also need a prophetic voice to work and denounce the injustices that all of us face in one way or another. Not only because I may belong to a minority group that struggle, you know, to survive. And we fight for social justice."
Montiel believes the ability to worship and to be near family are basic human rights. His faith drives him to make a difference.
The Rev. Sal Montiel: "Historically, Methodists have been everywhere when it comes to social issues. And, one of the reasons why I became a Methodist was precisely because of that-the Methodist involvement within society. For me, this is magical."
"It is our responsibility to express to the world that we Methodists care for those who suffer, that we Methodists are in solidarity with family who have been deported from the U.S. and they are suffering right now in the separation, the absence of the loved one."
"There's a quote by the Prophet Amos in 5:24 that has given me strength and has propelled me somehow to be involved in issues of social justice. And, this is when he said, 'Let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream.' It is very meaningful to me because I... I found the ingredients that I need to move on in the challenges that I have taken to be a border missionary."
You can contact the Rev. Sal Montiel at 623-866-8607 or by email.
Posted: June 13, 2013