​Some of the people whose lives have been touched by Peaceful Borders. Photo provided.

By Melody Pannell
Wednesday, October 7, 2020

DAYTON, Virginia (Mennonite Mission Network) — Behind hundreds of people lined up behind a van waiting for food, makeshift tents stretched for miles. This sight on her first visit to Camp de la Lande in the summer of 2015 left Juliet Kilpin in a state of shock.

The migrant and refugee camp, located on a former dump near Calais, France, housed about 3,000 people at the time. They waited for an opportunity to cross the English Channel at its narrowest point (21 miles) into the United Kingdom.

"I couldn't believe that this was happening on our border," Kilpin said. "People were visibly sick with sores all over their faces and on their hands. There were countless children sitting by themselves in the dirt with nothing to eat."

How does the gospel of Jesus Christ relate in such a situation? Kilpin wondered. After she returned home to London, United Kingdom, she knew she had to become involved.

"There was something about witnessing it," she said. "We are not called to turn away from those who are suffering. Jesus calls us to journey with people, to love our neighbors as ourselves."

The more time Kilpin spent at the Calais camp, the more she saw a need for peacemaking. Before the French government demolished the camp in October 2016, an estimated 10,000 people lived there.  

"Asylum seekers and refugees from all different corners of the world with different languages, different cultures, and different religions were all thrown together in this space," Kilpin said.  

She began thinking about different ways of doing church that were more diverse and inclusive. It was in that moment that Kilpin sensed the call of God to move out in faith and establish Peaceful Borders.

The organization started out as a grassroots ministry grounded in the values of Anabaptist and practical theology. It supports new arrivals to the United Kingdom through helping refugee and migrant community leaders build their capacity to create peaceful communities.

"I see Jesus as a real peacemaker and that has definitely shaped what I do and how I view missions," Kilpin said.

Kilpin's Anabaptist values of peace, justice, and service eventually connected her to Mennonite Mission Network. The partnership has been rewarding, she said.

"Mission Network understands our mission and the agency has been flexible concerning the fluidity of the needs of the community," Kilpin said.

Through the support of Mission Network, Peaceful Borders has provided mentoring, training, and support programs. They include Hopetowns and the Solidarity and Support Network, both led by migrant community leaders.

Previously, Kilpin worked at Urban Expression with Anabaptist leader, Stuart Murray Williams. She was drawn to places where many others were afraid to witness, places where the violence of poverty threatened to crush the human spirit and drain all hope out of the human heart.

"My philosophy of missions has always been that we go to meet the God who's already there, rather than to take God with us," Kilpin said. "I believe that our responsibility is to go find out what God is doing, join in with it, and try to enhance the work of God."

Doing the work of God in Camp de la Lande has not been an easy mission for Kilpin. She experienced vicarious trauma, secondary trauma, and direct trauma. She remembers when the police attacked with tear gas and guns pointed at the crowd. She listens to those who tell about an uncle's beheading, or the moment a bomb hit their house, or the capsizing of a boat that sank in the Mediterranean. With some 1,000 people onboard, only 200 survived.

"The asylum seekers and refugees that I work with are people with joys, sorrows, hopes and fears, just like anybody else," Kilpin said. "They have welcomed me into their lives."

She has learned from them to have a community-orientation, rather than to focus on individuals.

"Everything has been taken away from them," she said. "They've learned to be patient and to take joy in the small things. They value life and they value humanity. They've seen the fragility of life. This has given them strength and resilience. Serving them gives me strength and resilience, as well."

Kilpin finds joy in welcoming those who have been granted entry into the United Kingdom and, later, visiting them in their homes as they build a new life for themselves.

"I have always wanted to be someone who made a difference," Kilpin said. "I focus on bringing people together, rather than focusing on our differences. The more we talk with each other, the closer we get to understanding who God is. Then, we can open ourselves up to what God is doing, bear witness to God already at work."






Mission Network family to join ministry of hospitality for refugees in FranceRefugee ministryhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4707/Mission-Network-family-to-join-ministry-of-hospitality-for-refugees-in-FranceMission Network family to join ministry of hospitality for refugees in FranceGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Calais
Russian and Ukrainian students in Lithuania support refugeesUkrainehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4708/Russian-and-Ukrainian-students-in-Lithuania-support-refugeesRussian and Ukrainian students in Lithuania support refugeesGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Klaipėda
Youth Venture trip provides mentorship, plants seeds for future serviceYouth Venture/SOOP hybridhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4706/Youth-Venture-trip-provides-mentorship-plants-seeds-for-future-serviceYouth Venture trip provides mentorship, plants seeds for future serviceGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Kykotsmovi, Arizona
Bokgoni Sporting Club offers a better future through recreational sportsBokgoni Sporting Clubhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4705/Bokgoni-Sporting-Club-offers-a-better-future-through-recreational-sportsBokgoni Sporting Club offers a better future through recreational sportsGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Francistown
New legal office to offer immigration justiceLa Posadahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4702/New-legal-office-to-offer-immigration-justiceNew legal office to offer immigration justiceGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Elkhart, Indiana
Mission Network welcomes new directorsNews Releasehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4703/Mission-Network-welcomes-new-directorsMission Network welcomes new directorsGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
MVS gathering in San Francisco is a time of connection, comradery and cable carsMVShttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4697/MVS-gathering-in-San-Francisco-is-a-time-of-connection-comradery-and-cable-carsMVS gathering in San Francisco is a time of connection, comradery and cable carsGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476San Francisco, California
Mission worker practiced hospitality on three continentsRemembering Wilma Shankhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4694/Mission-worker-practiced-hospitality-on-three-continentsMission worker practiced hospitality on three continentsGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
EMS students participate in Youth Venture Civil Rights Learning TourEMS and Youth Venturehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4692/EMS-students-participate-in-Youth-Venture-Civil-Rights-Learning-TourEMS students participate in Youth Venture Civil Rights Learning TourGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Climate change concerns should not keep Anabaptists from experiencing PentecostClimate change and MWChttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4689/Climate-change-concerns-should-not-keep-Anabaptists-from-experiencing-PentecostClimate change concerns should not keep Anabaptists from experiencing PentecostGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
French-language Anabaptist justice and peace curriculum takes shapeFrench-language curriculumhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4687/French-language-Anabaptist-justice-and-peace-curriculum-takes-shapeFrench-language Anabaptist justice and peace curriculum takes shapeGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Mission worker embodied gospel of peaceRemembering John Driverhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4686/Mission-worker-embodied-gospel-of-peace-Mission worker embodied gospel of peaceGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Ukrainian students in Lithuania join relief effortsLithuaniahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4684/Ukrainian-students-in-Lithuania-join-relief-effortsUkrainian students in Lithuania join relief effortsGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Klaipéda
Mission Network sends aid for Ukrainian studentsNews Releasehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4682/Mission-Network-sends-aid-for-Ukrainian-studentsMission Network sends aid for Ukrainian studentsGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
How can I be a peace witness in time of war?Ukrainehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4681/How-can-I-be-a-peace-witness-in-time-of-warHow can I be a peace witness in time of war?GP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476



Melody M. Pannell, of Dayton, Virginia, is a freelance writer for Mennonite Mission Network. She works for  diversity and inclusion in a variety of settings. She founded Embodied Equity Leadership Institute, LLC, and a nonprofit organization, Destiny's Daughters Inc, which works to celebrate and empower African American girls. She is a member of Immanuel Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, Virginia.



Mission Network family to join ministry of hospitality for refugees in Francehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4707/Mission-Network-family-to-join-ministry-of-hospitality-for-refugees-in-FranceMission Network family to join ministry of hospitality for refugees in FranceRefugee ministry
Russian and Ukrainian students in Lithuania support refugeeshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4708/Russian-and-Ukrainian-students-in-Lithuania-support-refugeesRussian and Ukrainian students in Lithuania support refugeesUkraine
Reflections on the Sent Conferencehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4709/Reflections-on-the-Sent-ConferenceReflections on the Sent ConferenceSent Conference
A joining of Pentecost and creation carehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/extending-beyond/4710/A-joining-of-Pentecost-and-creation-careA joining of Pentecost and creation careExtending Beyond
MissionWary live podcasthttps://www.mennonitemission.net/podcasts/missionwary/4698/MissionWary-live-podcastMissionWary live podcastLive webinar
Youth Venture trip provides mentorship, plants seeds for future servicehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4706/Youth-Venture-trip-provides-mentorship-plants-seeds-for-future-serviceYouth Venture trip provides mentorship, plants seeds for future serviceYouth Venture/SOOP hybrid