The Door of Hope was wide open and filled with the laughter of children.
The Salvation Army shelter, Casa Puerta de Esperanza or Door of Hope, had a Christmas party Dec. 15 for the migrants living in the shelter and their neighbors. Loud speakers pointed toward the neighborhood poured out Christmas carols and seemed to draw people inside.
The shelter is currently housing 24 women and children. More than 70 children with their parents in tow were enjoying a morning of carefree play.
The small shelter in the middle of a neighborhood was decked out for the season with red and green balloons, star-shape piñatas and tables dressed in green and red tablecloths. The tables overflowed with pizza, fruit-filled gelato, churros, bags of candy and two beautiful Christmas cakes.
A highlight of the games featured balloons tied to one of each child’s shoes. The point of the game was to pop someone else’s balloon without losing your own. Squeals of laughter were punctuated with the loud pops of balloons that left little slivers of colorful tattered rubber tied to shoelaces.
There was no evidence of the hardships some of the children had undergone in their long, perilous journey to Tijuana. One young migrant mother watched as her little girl and boy played with the other children. The small family is from Guatemala and didn’t want to talk about their reason for being at the shelter.
This shelter is much nicer than those thousands of recent migrants are living in. The Methodist Church of Mexico works with the Salvation Army and other organizations to offer love and comfort.
“I find that there is a responsibility on our part to take care of these our brothers in great disadvantage,” he said. “Although we don’t have a ministry, such as shelters or community centers, the Methodist Church of Mexico, Northwest Conference, has a very strong participation in border cities.”
Ruiz Aguilar left the Christmas party to join with more than 200 gathered for La Posada Sin Fronteras (which means “The Inn Without Borders”) at the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
The Las Posadas tradition, popular in Mexico and increasingly in the U.S., commemorates Joseph and Mary’s search for a place to give birth to Jesus.
On the Mexico side, hundreds freely gathered and peered through the iron mesh to catch glimpses of friends and family.
“We are sad only half our family is here. Why? Why won’t they open the gate? Are they afraid of people of faith? Maybe it is because they are praying for a change of heart,” said Pat Murphy, director of Casa del Migrante en Tijuana, a nonprofit civil organization assisting migrants in his welcoming remarks.
“For the first time, those of us who gathered in the United States were separated from those in Mexico by the strip of federal property, a distance of about 90 feet,” he said.
“Those of us who organize the event decided it was necessary to conduct what amounted to two separate events, one in Mexico and one in the United States, and only attempted to bring the gatherings together for the concluding, climactic song in which the two parties sing back and forth to each other,” he added.
Bishop Grant Hagiya, who leads the California-Pacific Conference, took part in the program and spoke at a press conference.
He implored the church not to be afraid to accept and minister with migrants.
The Rev. Joel Hortiales, director of Hispanic/Latino Ministry and Border Concerns with the California-Pacific Conference, said the service was inspiring and hearing the chants from the Mexico side was “very emotional.”
Hortiales said that as the group walked back after the service, there were some people yelling at them, “Shame on you, you’re not Christians because you are supporting immigrants who do not respect the law.”
“But talking to people from Hispanic churches, they said they were blessed to be there celebrating La Posada,” he said.
Fanestil said the larger themes of immigrant rights and the right to seek asylum influenced the event.
More than 300 faith leaders marched to the wall on International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, in a “moral call for migrant justice.”
Dozens of protesters, including two United Methodist pastors, were arrested and charged with civil disobedience when they stepped across the barrier set up by the U.S. Border Patrol.
Fanestil said after the protest, the Border Patrol withdrew permission to hold the La Posada in Friendship Park.
The United Methodist Church and the Methodist Church of Mexico hold a joint communion service on each side on Sundays.
Border Patrol vehicles could be seen driving back and forth in the park during the La Posada service and a border agent walked the area.
The roots of the posada event is the celebration of the culture of hospitality that is indigenous to the borderlands,” Fanestil said. “That culture is being made more and more difficult to celebrate, but locals will make sure that it survives.”
Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for United Methodist News Service. Mike DuBose is a photographer for United Methodist News Service. Contact them at 615-742-5470 or [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.
Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.