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Joining Families at the Border: Rev. John Fanestil



Friendship Park, along the U.S.Mexico border, is a place where families come to share time together through a fence. United Methodist John Fanestil serves loved ones separated by immigration issues by joining them in prayer and Communion.

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(Locator: Friendship Park, U.S. - Mexico border)

The Rev. John Fanestil: "I've seen grandparents meet their grandchildren at...through the fence at Friendship Park. I've seen families say goodbye to their dying loved ones at Friendship Park. I've seen lovers make out through the fence at Friendship Park because there was no other place that they could be physically in contact with each other."

As an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and the executive director of a social justice foundation, The Reverend John Fanestil (fan-uh-still) often finds himself at a place called Friendship Park at the U.S. Mexico border near San Diego and Tijuana, where loved ones separated by immigration issues and a firm fence can meet and connect.

The Rev. John Fanestil: "So, that park has a magical hold on many people because it's been a place where this drama of family separation and family reunion has taken place."

The people affected by border issues have a magical hold on Fanestil, too. It's the result of a call that began decades ago.

The Rev. John Fanestil: "I really felt a call to ministry when I was on a mission trip to Central America. So, I often say that the people of Central America converted me and kind of called me to ministry."

That call continues as Fanestil serves those suffering from separation. Sunday Communion at the border wall, shared between those on each side, is one way he fosters connection.

(Offering Communion) "And whether or not you're going to share in Communion..." "Ya sea que participe o no en la comunin..." "I invite you to come forward and place your hands on this wall."

Nearly twenty years of his career have been spent on immigration and border ministry as he works to remove barriers physical, political and social.

(Speaking at fence) "So, we're trying to negotiate with them terms under which they wouldn't put the mesh on the fence down by the garden, which would allow families who come here to have a choice. They could either be right up against each other with the strong mesh or they could be at a certain distance but with clear lines of sight." "They could see each other, yes."

The Rev. John Fanestil: "The church should be in the world and engaged with the world and reaching out to the world - and that our ultimate ministry is in the world, and that the world is our parish. That fundamental commitment of the Methodist church is why I'm a Methodist."

The Rev. John Fanestil: "The things that I care about, the things that I believe the church cares about - that people should lead happy, healthy, whole lives filled with good things, good things of the spirit, good things materially, that there should be a sense of justice and a sense of dignity to this life - in our part of the world those things can only be accomplished by thinking bi-nationally and working bi-nationally."

"I do feel the call to witness to the larger truth of God's love and to the larger truth that God doesn't want us to be separated."


The Friends of Friendship Park website offers news and information about the park. You can contact the Rev. John Fanestil at 619-823-6223 or via email.

Posted: June 13, 2013