Dec. 16, 2006
By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
Big cardboard boxes can make wonderful playthings for small children.
An imagination and a few crayons can transform them into cowboy forts or adventuresome hideaways. If a pair of scissors enters the equation, an empty TV box can turn into a whole-day affair for a 3-year-old.
But the youngsters in Saltillo, Mexico, see no such potential in their cardboard boxes. For them, they are lifeless and mundane. Pale brown cardboard is all they see everyday, no matter where they travel within their village.
Dubbed Cardboard Village, Saltillo is one of the poorest villages in Mexico.
'Everyone there lives in a cardboard house,' said Wanita Rylander, missions affiliate with Christian Life Church in Temple. 'They worship in a cardboard church. It's an amazing, sad sight to see.'
To add some Christmas festivity to the lack-luster environment, Ms. Rylander and a mission team of 12 from CLC Temple set out Thursday to deliver more than 450 cheerily wrapped Christmas packages.
'The first year we did this, we had 60 gift packages,' said the grinning Marcellus Atkins, associate worship pastor at CLC Temple. (The first gift delivery to Saltillo took place in December 2002.) 'And now it's more than 400. It's great.'
CLC Temple thanks the eight other Central Texas churches and the Boy Scout Pack that contributed to the overall total of gifts collected for Saltillo.
The CLC Temple mission team left Thursday (Dec. 14) evening and plans to return tomorrow night (Dec. 18). Ms. Rylander said barring car trouble and similar unforeseen obstacles, the drive from Temple to Saltillo takes 9 1/2 hours.
'It's all part of sharing God's love in a practical way,' Kathy Gillis said about the Mexico mission trips.
Mrs. Gillis is the wife of CLC's senior pastor, Rick Gillis. 'We are always looking for needs that we can fill.'
Galeana, a neighboring village to Saltillo, will also receive some of the gifts.
Ms. Rylander first introduced the mission team from CLC Temple to Galeana and Saltillo in 2002.
As the director and cofounder of Disciples of the Rock Ministries, Ms. Rylander had already been to Saltillo and Galeana several times. She has two sons there who work as full-time missionaries as well.
Staffed with eight full-time volunteers, Ms. Rylander's nonprofit organization works with area churches to coordinate mission trips.
During that initial CLC mission trip to Mexico, Ms. Rylander said she led a small group of children, ages 10-13, in the task of holding Bible classes for the native youth. They performed the drama of Christ's crucifixion, played Bible school games and held praise rallies.
'It got the (Temple) kids out of their daily routine. And it really changed the kids' perspectives,' Ms. Rylander said. 'When they got home, they knew how much they were blessed.'
The Mexico mission trip became popular at CLC Temple. Mrs. Gillis said that more and more people wanted to show God's love in that very practical way.
'Our summer mission trip grew from 11 to 40 to 50,' Ms. Rylander said, listing the CLC Temple attendance numbers for the first three July mission trips.
The church has also traveled to Mexico in March and December each year since 2002. Those participation numbers have also grown, just not as dramatically, seeing as how those times lie mid-term on school calendars.
'We feel connected to those villages,' Ms. Rylander said. 'We've been ministering to the same town, the same children.'
Their friends at CLC Temple wish the two villages a Merry Christmas.