Youth Visit US-Mexico Border, Talk About Immigration Issues

223rd Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren
San Diego, California — June 28, 2009

Sunday afternoon June 28 around 100 junior high and high school youth from the Church of the Brethren, along with several adult advisors, loaded buses and traveled to Border Field State Park just south of San Diego on the border with Mexico.

At the park, the group met with United Methodist pastor John Fanestil, who shared information about the work he does with the Foundation for Change, an agency that works towards immigration reform.

At Border State Park, youth saw both the old wall at the national border, erected in the mid-1990s, and the new wall, completed this past February. The old fence, made up of steel panels welded together, provides little resistance to those crossing into the US. The new fence is made up of 15-foot tall concrete posts with razor wire and wire mesh panels stationed on them, coupled with motion sensors and security lights.

The final three miles of the fence, seen at the park, cost more than $100 million to complete and are part of a system of fences and detection devices stretching nearly 700 miles along the US-Mexican border. The overall cost of the project is estimated at more than $10 billion.

Immigration reform is a difficult issue, admitted Fanestil. It is easy to lose sight of the human stories that are involved, and think only about drug smugglers and other unwanted issues in regard to immigration. He shared the story of an undocumented worker he met recently named Martin, who would work six 10-hour days a week in Mexico to earn $115. When his wife became ill Martin needed to make more money to pay for her medications and was faced with a difficult decision about how he could best care for his family, so he crossed the border and was able to make that much and more in a single day’s work.

The 1982 Annual Conference Statement “Addressing the Concern of Undocumented Persons and Refugees in the United States” was discussed by the youth leadership and copies of the statement were made available to youth for further study.

Following the time at Border State Park the youth and adults went to South Mission Beach for an afternoon of fun on the beach. As the sun set, National Youth Conference coordinators Emily Laprade, Audrey Hollenberg, and Matt Witkovsky led a time of worship and introduced the theme for the 2010 NYC, “More than Meets the Eye” (2 Corinthians 4:6-10, 16-18). Through songs, acting, story telling, and sharing together, youth were encouraged in all things to look deeper than what they see on the surface and to see what else is there.

–Rich Troyer serves as youth pastor at Middlebury (Ind) Church of the Brethren. 

The News Team for the 2009 Annual Conference includes writers Karen Garrett, Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend, Melissa Troyer, Rich Troyer; photographers Kay Guyer, Justin Hollenberg, Keith Hollenberg, Glenn Riegel, Ken Wenger; staff Becky Ullom and Amy Heckert. Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, editor. Contact

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