Desert Foothills United Methodist youth are getting a unique opportunity to spread Christmas cheer abroad by delivering donated gifts to needy families in Mexico.
Desert Foothills United Methodist Church first came into partnership with a small church in Agua Prieta, Mexico, in 2001 called Fuente de Vida.
“I asked the pastors Diego and Gela Lopez what project we could adopt for their church,” said Jane Peterson, coordinator of the project. “They told me that the members of their church are very poor and have no way to celebrate Christmas---no money for gifts or treats---and the church had no money for a party.”
Desert Foothills decided to take on a project to provide Christmas for 90 children at the church. In 2002 each child was given a shoebox full of gifts.
“The next Christmas we decided to try to give each child a new sweatshirt in a bag with more gifts,” Peterson said. “We took a leap of faith (we are a small church) and decided to include another Mexican Methodist Church in Agua Prieta named El Buen Pastor of which the Fuente de Vida church was an outreach planted church. In 2003, we sent a large gift bag with a new sweatshirt of the right size plus more gifts that were age and gender appropriate to 143 children. Each bag was labeled for and given to a particular child.”
Over the years, the churches in Mexico have grown along with the project. Desert Foothills began to reach out to other Methodist churches for help. Tempe First United Methodist Church, Paradise Valley UMC, Central UMC, Red Mountain UMC and St. James UMC in Tucson all help with the project.
This year, 374 bags from Trader Joe’s filled with clothes, toys and treats will be delivered to four churches in Mexico on Dec. 23 for newborns and children up to 16 years old.
A youth group from Desert Foothills UMC will arrive in Agua Prieta on Dec. 22 and decorate for the party with the youth from Fuente de Vida. They’ll stay over night in the Douglas, AZ Methodist church, and then return to Fuente de Vida on Dec. 23 for worship service and then to help put on the party as a bi-cultural group.
“This is the only Christmas gift these children will receive,” Peterson said. “It’s very exciting to have seen this project grow so much and know it’s a blessing to our churches and a blessing on the other end to their children.”
Peterson said this project is not limited to United Methodist churches. They’d love to have community members sponsor a child. For more information on the project call Desert Foothills United Methodist at (480) 460-1025 and ask for Jane.
“This project is person to person,” Peterson said. “I know many of these children after doing this for years. It’s very personal. It gives an American family, who for most of us have an abundance, a chance to pass that across the border to people in another country. I know there are a lot of people with a bias against Mexico but these people are in Mexico. They are not here. They embrace the difficulties. We’re able to take it from a family with an abundance to someone who has basically nothing.”
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