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By Nancy Bacon

Christmas posada in Bakersfield and Mexico

From the Pastor's Desk


December 21, 2019

Photo provided

A few nights ago, I was able to join in a posada procession with "Mary" and "Joseph" and a delightful band of musicians, Toledo Mariachi, in downtown Bakersfield. The event was initiated by Rev. Luis Rodriguez of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, hosted by Mill Creek Christian Church, and supported by Faith in Kern. The Spanish word posada means "inn" in English. Our group walked to many business places in the downtown area, with Joseph knocking on doors asking each establishment to allow him and his wife, heavy with child, to have a place to stay for the night. The mariachis played the same lovely, haunting melody all evening. It was a song about seeking shelter, but continually being denied. Each place turned Mary and Joseph away for various reasons, but primarily because they were strangers who couldn't be trusted.

One of the places on the route was a restaurant that could not bear to simply turn us all away. It was dinner time and I was hungry. The restaurant Panchitos brought out delicious fresh made Mexican breads and distributed to our entire crowd while the mariachis sang their song. This was a moment of Christmas, when generosity and sharing overcame all other concerns.

Along our way, we stopped at Mesa Verde Detention Center, where undocumented immigrants are held, often for many months. We prayed there and I believe the people inside could hear the mariachis sing. I hope that it touched their hearts and they knew that someone was outside aware of their confinement and praying for them.

A month earlier, I had visited Tijuana with some other pastors and church members. We spent the day at the border guided by Rev. Chuck Shawver, a missionary who has spent much of his life working in Mexico.

First thing that morning, we met at the El Chaparral border crossing bridge, where migrants wait daily for their number to be called to eventually be taken to a holding site for their initial entry interviews. People return daily until their names are called, or risk missing their turn and going to end of the list.

We next visited a migrant shelter for about 100 family refugees waiting for their US interviews for asylum. We met with three residents. One mother from Honduras was a victim of gang death threats and another mother from Honduras had come with her young teenage son, as gangs had been trying to claim him. This woman cried bitterly describing the pain of leaving her two young daughters behind with her husband, and not knowing when they will ever see one another. The third woman from Guatemala had left with her spouse to escape a death threat made against him. They too, had no choice but to leave quickly and leave their young daughter behind.

Our next stop was a visit to "Atencion Integral" managed by a Methodist pastor, Rev. Guillermo Navarette. This site provides a warm meal, clothing, and personal care items for migrants living in the nearby streets. Their program includes spiritual counseling and referrals to medical, legal aid and residential shelters serving migrants waiting in Tijuana. Rev. Navarette found it curious that Christians sometimes choose to withhold care and support for others, much like the numerous innkeepers who turned away Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus.

Then we visited "Al Otro Lado," a legal services facility helping migrants with their asylum applications. The center is staffed by US / Mexican attorneys, law school students and Spanish speaking volunteers. Most staff and volunteers cross the border daily to aid refugees. It has become common knowledge that current policy directives are to make the entry process into the USA as hostile and discouraging as possible. The legal center helps prepare refugees on what to expect and on how to handle the hostile process. Many staff at this site have been targeted for interrogations and screenings by US and Mexican government officials when entering Mexico. Some staff are involved in class action lawsuits against current US asylum practices. These lawsuits maintain that current practices at the border do not follow current US law.

Our final stop was to a shelter location that specializes in services to the trans community of asylum seekers in Tijuana. The trans population is at high risk living in the border area as they are frequently targeted by gangs and sex traffickers. The facility provides meals, lodging, drug rehab counseling and legal/medical/job referrals to residents. Tragically, two residents had recently died. One from illness while at a US asylum facility and the other was murdered upon arrival the day she was deported back to her home country.

I thought of the people caught on either side of the border while walking in the Christmas posada, wondering what Joseph, Mary, and Jesus would have to say about it all today. It was a great relief when our final stop in Bakersfield invited us to come in to feed us. This was a moment of Christmas, too. May moments of Christmas find others who are in great need. The flag of Mexico just happens to be Christmas colors of red and white and green. Can Christmas be merry without letting Jesus in to our hearts?


Pastor Nancy

About Tehachapi Community Church, UCC:

No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here!

The Tehachapi Community Church, UCC is an open and welcoming community of faith that believes that each person, created in the image of God, holds a piece of the truth. Therefore we respect each person's unique spiritual journey. We invite you to experience the difference that religious freedom in a caring community can make in that journey.

We are located at 100 East E St., in Tehachapi. Worship and Sunday School are at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. Please join us for coffee and fellowship at our Friendship Hall after worship (approximately 11:30 a.m.). All are welcome.


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