I wanted to see the border wall end in the ocean. It's how Darci and I ended up at Border Field State Park today, as we spent an extra day in San Diego to do laundry, rest a bit, and spend some time with my dear friends the Tewells who have graciously hosted us these past few days.
We didn't even know Border Field State Park existed until after lunch. We spent the morning shopping at outlets that were a mere parking lot away from the first border fence. It was when we were waiting for drinks in a long line at starbucks that I map quested a nearby beach I hoped would get us close. On the map the park came up. Following the link led me find that we could indeed walk up to the most Southwestern point in the United States.....and so we took off with frappucinos in hand.
Border Field State Park is only open to cars on the weekend for a $5 fee per vehicle. As we paid at the gate, the attendant told us that if we wanted to see the Monument Mesa (the actual stone marking the border), Friendship Park was only open until 2pm, but that the other part of the park was open for the day. It was 1:45. With no idea where Friendship Park actually was, we drove the couple of miles down a paved road and up a hill to park on a bluff overlooking the border fences and the pacific ocean.
As we got out of the car, we could see an opening in the first fence and people moving beyond. We realized Friendship Park existed between the fences and we had only a few minutes to get close to the border wall. As we jogged over, a border patrol officer stopped us to tell us we were not to "go through the fence in any way; either over, under, or around." We smiled, replied, "yes, sir" and entered the restricted area.
There were a dozen people within the gap between fences. A few children ran around as a man spoke into a microphone; first in English, followed by Spanish. Most of what he said wasn't registering with me as I took in the sights and sounds of a place I didn't know existed. On the other side of the thick, tightly wound fence, a couple of dozen Mexicans stood and listened. Most of what the man said wasn't registering with me as I took in the sights and sounds of place I didn't know existed. Dars and I were a bit in awe that instead of the usual hundreds of yards, we were only inches from Mexican soil. We were as close to the border as one can physically get on the United States side. I snapped a couple of photos even as I heard the familiar words, "This table is an open table. Christ invites all....." I froze, then quickly turned to Darci and said, "Dars.....we get to take communion at the wall. RIGHT NOW." Her reply was just as quick, "I KNOW!"
I cannot sum up the emotions held in that moment. The trust I have that God is leading and yet all the doubts I still carry. How confusing and heavy all these conversations of immigration and cultural divisions are....and how easy, yet hard it is to explain that almost three months ago, God told me to go to the border between San Diego and Tijuana. And what felt like an "accidental" stumbling into the border was a divine appointment to stand at the fence, with all my questions, doubts, and hopeful prayers.....and be offered the grace that Christ extends to us through Communion.
The worship team was on the Mexican side of the border. With a ukulele, guitar, and vocalist, they led us in Spanish with How Great is Our God and Trading My Sorrows...As we had only caught the end of the service, we stood at the fence, placed our hands on its metal bars, and prayed; for our countries, our families, and for those who are separated by this wall. There wasn't much space to see through the fence, but I noted that three generations of men stood on just the other side of the fence from me. I wonder at their stories, what brings them to the border fence, what keeps them hoping for change.
We spent a few moments after the service speaking with John Fanestil, a United Methodist Pastor, the "man with the microphone". The group, El Faro: The Border Church, works to keep Friendship Park open, as a way to allow families separated by the border to see one another, to stand face to face with only a fence between them.
After everyone had left, Darci and I spent some time walking along the coast...mainly in silence, enjoying the beauty of the ocean and the feel of the cool waves washing over our feet. Even after we made it back to our host home, it was a couple of hours before we mentioned what had happened at the Border. A holy moment in the midst of security and metal bars and empty land.
I will taste and see....the Lord is good.
Read More in the Arizona Series