Many of my most deeply treasured experiences serving in Tijuana, Mexico have come from my work with El Faro Border Church—a weekly binational worship service held at the border fence that divides the United States and Mexico.
This service occurs at a place called Friendship Park, a half an acre area overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the southwest corner of the continental United States/ northwest corner of Mexico. Friendship Park was originally dedicated in 1971 by then First-Lady Pat Nixon as a symbol of bi-national friendship.
Since then, the face of the border has changed significantly, becoming evermore closed off, leading to the wall that is currently in place—which cuts off any and all communication between the two sides, except for a few designated hours each weekend.
In Tijuana, we can approach the border fence at any time. But on the States side, Border Patrol only allows physical access to the fence in this small area from 10:00am – 2:00pm on weekends only. And even when people are allowed to approach the wall on the US side, communication happens through a fence covered in a wire mesh that is so thick and so tightly woven you can barely even stick your pinky finger through it.
It is here where families and loved-ones that have been split apart due to deportation are able to reunite—albeit with quite an unfriendly barrier in between. As long as deportations occur, family separation will continue to exist. The goal of El Faro Border Church is to bring together on both sides of the border families that have been split apart.
It is here we meet every Sunday morning to break bread and divide juice in the face of injustice…and to be the church that recognizes and proclaims the boundless nature of the love of God.
It is this love—that knows no borders—that is present every Sunday in this sacred space. Even though each week more tears sink into the dusty ground as they fall from exhausted faces…it is here that I see the kingdom of God breaking in.
Every week, on both sides of the US/Mexico border people gather to sing, to pray, and to share communion. Spanish and English speakers alike, families who are currently split in half, and advocates for reconciliation in this world that continues to be divided come together in hope of a day where this is no longer the reality.
This, in my opinion, is one of the best images I have seen of what church can be.
Because it is here where I am reminded that we are more than one race, nationality, or language. We are simply citizens of the kingdom of God; brought together by faith, united in purpose, and stitched together by love.
This little corner of Creation has my heart.
It is not the wall that brings me hope—
but the people who meet in this space.
It’s the voices that continue to sing,
the strangers who have become friends,
the resilience of a mother living separated from her children.
It’s the prophetic voices crying out for mercy,
lifted up on behalf of justice.
It is witnessing the church getting its hands messy in all the right junk, for the glory of God and the people’s good.
Upon first sight, this place is intimidating, unfriendly, and heartbreaking.
But it is also the table of Holy Communion.
It is the meeting place of friends and family.
It is where lives are honored and celebrated.
It is a platform for peaceful protesting.
It has been a wedding altar, a stage, a symphony, a canvas.
Here your heart will be burdened for this world,
but here, too, exists reconciliation, here too is light casting out darkness.
Here, too, you will find hope.
All around it nature claims the truth. The wind still passes through the wall, and the birds still soar above it.
And yet God’s love is bigger still.
I do believe it is one of the most sacred broken spaces.
For here, Heaven is breaking in.
Iglesia Metodista de Mexico, Tijuana, Mexico
GMF International, Class 2014