The Land of In-Between

19 Feb

Many people think of San Diego as “America’s Finest City” with its great beaches, the zoo, the Gaslamp Quarter, and Balboa Park. But there’s another side to this city that we sometimes miss. San Diego is a border city. Its economy, its social structure, and its politics are inextricably linked with its sister city—Tijuana—just to the south. These two diverse mega cities straddling the most trafficked border in the world create a very complex, and unique metropolis.

The city’s majority population is non-white, non-middle class. They often work 2 to 3 jobs a day to survive, and rarely visit the places that tourists enjoy every day. San Diego is also one of the United States’ designated sanctuary cities. There are significant refugee populations from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia sprinkled throughout the city’s downtown neighborhoods, and these groups all face significant challenges.

San Diego is also one of our country’s major sex trafficking gateway cities. Thousands of young women, many of them underage, are smuggled into San Diego every year from Mexico City via Tijuana. They come from places like Russia, Eastern Europe, Asia, and South America.  They are drugged, sold, enslaved, and often housed in buildings many of us may have walked past but have never noticed.

There is also a young, vibrant, artistic culture in both San Diego and Tijuana that is challenging the air-brushed image the city planners wish to cultivate, and is exposing people to both truth and beauty.

Our missional context in San Diego

The legal border between the United States and Mexico lies 15 miles south of the city center, but the real border lies about 1500 yards south of downtown where cultures from around the world collide. These are the neighborhoods we believe God is calling us to move into, to serve, and from within to develop young missional leaders to send out across town or across the world.

In the fall of 2008 three families moved into the Golden Hill neighborhood of San Diego to start NieuCommunities. Today the community is over 20 people from diverse backgrounds, with diverse abilities, and all at different stages of submerging into the city.  Although we are still very much getting to know our city and our neighbors, these are some of the areas we have begun to engage and are pursuing as a community:

  • Mentoring refugee families
  • Coaching inner-city youth in soccer and basketball
  • Shaping a missional training pathway for leaders throughout the city
  • Serving with a like-minded missional community in Mexico
  • Creating and coordinating a cross-border art project
  • Granting micro-loans for refugees to start businesses
  • Created a new art/craft collective for our neighborhood




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