Cottonwood Church, Group Partner to Deliver Boxes of Toys and Items to Orphanages in Mexico
By Patrick Dunn For the Journal Wide-eyed children gasping with excitement as they peer into a box filled with new treasures is a sight synonymous with Christmas morning— but not for everybody. Earlier this year, Mike and Darla Scarborough met children who would not experience the joy of a Christmas gift. With the help of Cottonwood Church, a local missions organization and a handful of other area church members, they delivered an early Christmas to more than 100 orphans in Mexico. "We didn't know Spanish, they didn't know English, but it didn't matter— they were so grateful," Darla Scarborough said. Scarborough said two trips covered two orphanages, with each child receiving a plastic box for either a girl or a boy, filled with an assortment of small toys and personal items. "There were cars, lip gloss, crayons, coloring books, hats, gloves, necklaces, pens and pencils, candy— anything that would fit," Scarborough said. "And bubbles— that was a big hit." According to Scarborough, all of the boxes were donated and filled by members of Cottonwood Church. Along with the gift, members were asked to include a small cash donation, which allowed Scarborough to purchase one pair of shoes per box. "Our church really jumped on board with this— we even had eight bicycles donated," she said.
A vision Scarborough said the vision for helping the orphans came this fall. She and Mike had participated in previous Cottonwood mission trips, plus had recently become involved in a local organization called Better Together Mexico, which organizes relief and evangelism trips to Mexico. "We had already done two home building trips with Better Together Mexico, and then in September we did a medical missions trip to Madera, Mexico, where doctors were brought along and offered free medical and dental clinics," Scarborough said. During this trip, the couple met the children at the Casa de Hogares de Los Niños orphanage. "One thing we noticed was that they didn't have any personal items," Scarborough said. "They had little shelves in their living areas and they were virtually bare. Maybe there would be a bottle of lotion or something." She said the idea of giving Christmas gifts came to Mike during the 11-hour drive back to Albuquerque. "My husband got this wild idea that we could give each of these kids a gift— he wanted to give them something that was just theirs," she said. The couple added children from another orphanage that Better Together Mexico had connected with, and they figured they would need 110 gifts. After working out a schedule to deliver the gifts, they realized they had to move fast. "We presented the idea to the church in early October and left on our first trip in early November— we only had three weeks to pull it off," Scarborough said. They also presented their idea to Ellis McMath, founder of Better Together Mexico, and he was on board. "(Ellis) made our first trip into a mission trip, too, and brought a plumber to work on the orphanage, plus other orphanages in the area," Scarborough said. "It's amazing when you're doing God's work, it all comes together."
Christmas thrill Scarborough said 60 gifts were delivered in November to the Casa de Hogares de Los Niños orphanage in Madera. The gifts were presented to the workers at the orphanage, so they could be the ones who gave them to the children. "You could see on their faces they were so happy to be handing them out," Scarborough said. Children waited their turn to receive a gift— and experience the thrill of a Christmas morning. "Some kids tore into their gifts. Some were nervous and sat there— everyone reacted differently," Scarborough said. "They played with toys, and whatever there was to put on, they put on. The place was trashed— there was paper everywhere." Scarborough said she was touched by the way the children reacted to their gifts— even hours later. "(Their box) was like a treasure to them— they would take everything out, look at it, then put it back in the box— and do it all over again," she said. "Even in their bunks when it was bedtime, they would be taking their gifts out, look and put everything back in." The remainder of Cottonwood's gifts were delivered to the Casa Hogar De Niños orphanage in Juárez on Dec 1. Scarborough and her son Brandon joined members of Sagebrush Community Church and Better Together Mexico members to deliver 45 boxes. "Our main purpose there was to deliver the gifts, but Better Together Mexico was there to learn more about the orphanage and how they could help them in the future," Scarborough said. According to Scarborough, the gifts were a total surprise, and this time she and others on the trip handed them out. The team walked into a room where the children were practicing for a Christmas performance. "The children were so cute. They wanted to show you everything in their box, they wanted to share it with you and wanted you to be a part of it," she said. Besides giving gifts, Scarborough said the team spent hours playing with the children, plus also brought food and prepared dinner for a group of children at a home for teenagers. She said the experience helped her to see how valuable their trip was, but not because of the items checked off of a to-do list. "We don't have to go down there and work. A big part is just spending time with the children— giving them attention and affection— they are starving for it," she said. According to Scarborough, she and Mike have become the contacts at Cottonwood for mission trips to Mexico and are also increasing their involvement with Better Together Mexico. "Mike is training to be a pilot so he can fly into remote areas," she said. In addition, the couple hopes to make their Christmas delivery more than a one-time event. "We're hoping (Cottonwood) will be on board to do this each year," she said. "It is totally awesome to do this."