Border Pilgrimage | PLNU Ministry with Mexico

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Border Pilgrimage is a unique, multi-day excursion in which PLNU students are able to explore and better understand their relationship to the San Diego-Tijuana border region.

“It is not wrong, it is just different” was the mindset we were encouraged to have when looking at the differences in culture and examining a society so distinct yet uniquely similar to our own. It is so easy to distance ourselves from people or ideas that seem too foreign for our sometimes limited sensibilities but reality stands true no matter how much we attempt to ignore the truth.

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This trip across the border was my first time leaving the United States and I witnessed an environment that had previously been real to me only through the articles I had read and news stories I had watched. People had warned me of the dangers I would face before going on this trip but once we arrived I realized how similar the vices around us were to the ones we had back in our homeland, a place less than fifty miles away. The busier streets close to the border were advertised for tourists as most of the signs were written in English and imitated our own culture but at discounted prices sure to draw visitors in. Disparity and immorality were more obvious in certain parts of the city here than they were on the average street corner in San Diego but this was also a place where we had forced so many seeking refuge in America to remain, people without any ties to or origins in Mexico to begin with.

During this trip, we met individuals seeking asylum in the United States who were forced to wait out a court date and its’ decision on the other side of the border regardless of their country of origin, even though this in and of itself proved dangerous for many of the migrants at times. This “stay in Mexico” policy ignores the fact that these people escaped corrupt governments from various parts of the world and simply traveled through Mexico in an attempt to reach the U.S. There are also around 500 people being deported to Tijuana in a single day, again forcing our neighbors in the south to cope with the influx of foreigners while we build walls to keep the masses out.

Learn More: Participate in a future Border Pilgrimage.

Scripture says that “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34). We have forgotten the importance of this, have placed ourselves on a higher standing as people who need to purify a land that was never ours to begin with. These migrants, despite their circumstances, continue to work for a better life and refuse to disparage those who have created obstacles for them. The poem below is my reflection on the liminality of the situation we were in on this trip and the understanding I gained at its conclusion. As Dr. Gates told us “we are apart of this but we’re not” in the sense that when our trip reached an end Sunday afternoon it took us half an hour to cross back into the United States and leave behind those struggling to do the same. We gained a greater understanding of those genuine individuals who wanted nothing more than to create a better life or be reunited with family while also learning how to better access our neighbor’s culture when the similarities to our own became evident. 

This is not our space, 
But that does not mean grace is undeserved— 
Duality shadows loud streets, 
But these people do not show any signs of defeat— 
We are all seated under the same sovereign God, 
So why do we feign superiority? 
We too were once strangers here, 
So why is the line so unclear?

Story by Makayla Renner, Class of 2022, Psychology

Video footage courtesy of Jasmine El Bekraoui, Class of 2020, Environmental Science

“Being part of Border Pilgrimage was such an eye-opening experience and really made me realize there [are] a lot of things that go on in our world that we are not informed on. Many of us tend to form these biased opinions when we don’t even know the whole story. Taking the time out of your life and seeking to understand the truth about a particular matter really changes your perspective and is a very humbling experience.”

— Jasmine El Bekraoui, Class of 2020