For roughly 15 years, PLNU students, faculty, and staff have traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to join hundreds of others — mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, the young and the old — for a Saturday in December for “La Posada Sin Fronteras.” La Posada Sin Fronteras means “The Inn Without Borders,” and so it is a remembrance of the night Joseph and Mary searched for an inn to have their child, Jesus.

While PLNU participates in the event specifically at the border, “La Posada” and this commemoration of Mary and Joseph’s search for a welcoming inn is something that is traditionally done all over Mexico, be that inside churches or on the streets.

Liliana Reza, PLNU campus pastor and associate director of International Ministries, helps coordinate the school’s participation in the event every year. She views it as an incredible opportunity to prayerfully come together with our neighbors — those living across the border in Mexico — to unite in our anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ. 

“People gather from both sides of the border in anticipation of the birth of Jesus,” Reza shared. “It captures our longing on both sides to find a place together for Christ to abide amongst us.”

Liliana Reza helps in coordinating PLNU’s involvement with this event each year.

In a Sojourners video detailing the event, PLNU sociology professor Jamie Gates, Ph.D., explains that it’s “taking a liturgy that is typically within the bounds of a congregation or sometimes maybe even in a sanctuary and it’s putting it in a space that makes the incarnation real in a public sense.” 

People from both sides of the border gather in two areas separated by the border to sing, pray, listen to testimonies of a migrant worker, and, ultimately, mark a visible sign of our shared humanity in Christ. On the U.S. side, participants must make a 45-minute trek in order to reach Friendship Park, which is located right at the border. On average, PLNU will have anywhere from 30 to 60 students, faculty, and staff participating each year (the school provides transportation to those who want to join).

“The experience begins with a 45-minute walk, and so it is a kind of small pilgrimage. With students from PLNU, during this walk I encourage them to slow down and take in what they are seeing because this is just a small snippet of what a migrant journey might look like, be that journeying across many countries or just one,” Reza said.

The walk acts as a time of reflection and worship for those who participate.

The event is nearly three hours. Since people from both sides of the border are present, everything said is done so in both English and Spanish. It begins with a welcome and explanation of what “La Posada Sin Fronteras” is, and then includes a small homily (usually from a pastor on the Mexican side), the singing of hymns and songs, a testimony from a current migrant worker, and a reading of all who have died during their migration journey across the border.

“Every time I attend, I experience hope for humanity and hope for the church. And that is really what I hope PLNU students come away with, that they really do experience God’s presence,” Reza said. “It really is so powerful, especially when we say out loud the names of all of the migrants who have died since it gives them their dignity. We hear in the news a lot about the border, but I think we forget that there is humanity present in all of this. And so by reading off these names we recognize that we have a responsibility for our neighbor.”

People are brought together here through a desire for peace, love, and community.

And the space for lamenting isn’t only for those who have died, but also because this coming together will ultimately be one that remains divided. “Hospitality in Christ is never supposed to be divided. And so it’s an incomplete posada. It’s a mournful posada, a posada where we read the names of those who have died at the border,” Gates explained.

Attending, though, is also about being a good neighbor. And for those of us living in San Diego, that includes the many people only a few miles south. When it comes to having students understand the importance of attending, Reza points to what Jesus said about it in the Gospels.

“I invite students to think and wonder how they participate in being good neighbors the way that Christ has called us to love our neighbor as ourselves.”

“I invite students to think and wonder how they participate in being good neighbors the way that Christ has called us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Seeing that our [PLNU] very close neighbor is Mexico, how do we respond as good neighbors? We open ourselves up with a willingness to listen, lean in, learn, and even lament with our neighbors. And we can’t do that unless we are in close proximity. I believe that as followers of Jesus that is what He is calling us to do,” Reza said.

Reza also sees it as an invitation for those at PLNU who have never been to the border to get a better understanding of a beautiful community and gain a renewed perspective.

La Posada participants are able to use this experience as a way of expanding their worldview and gaining new insight.

“If you have never experienced the border, or if you are curious about what is happening at the border, I would strongly encourage people to participate since it is something that provides a really beautiful experience physically, spiritually, and mentally,” Reza shared. “It is an experience that engages you holistically and also provides an opportunity for you to engage with your Mexican brothers and sisters to see the border from a new perspective.”

It’s this “new perspective” that Gates also understands can be one of the many fruits of participating in “La Posada Sin Fronteras.”

Gates shared, “It’s fundamentally about nurturing the prophetic imagination, about seeing the world differently, seeing the world through the lens of a God who cares most deeply about the widow and the orphan and the stranger.”

Related Story: How the U.S. – Mexico border invites us to slow down and deeply listen and learn with an open mind, heart, hands, and feet.

Christopher Hazell is a writer and editor. He is the author of Ends in Mind, a newsletter about culture, technology, Christian spirituality, the arts, and more.