Crossing the border for Christmas

By Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer

As families rise with the sun to open their gifts Christmas morning, a group of Clovis young adults will be far from their families. And they won’t be opening presents — they’ll be giving them.

The College and Careers Group at Sandia Baptist Church has started a missionary group to aid an orphanage in Juarez, Mexico. The group, called Borders not Boundaries, will spend its Christmas at the orphanage, Casa De Libertad Bethel, home of about 100 children ages 4 to 18.

Josefina Valencia Cisneros, the grandmother of a Sandia church member, runs the orphanage named for the city, Bethel, where the Biblical Jacob received a new name from God and a new hope.

“This home offers (the children) a second chance … through Christ’s love — emotionally and physically — and even with a chance for an education,” said Kymburly Odell, who chairs the College and Careers Group with her husband Travis. She has visited the orphanage twice.

Some children who grew up in the orphanage have become pastors, others teachers, Odell said. One child hopes to try out for the Olympic boxing team soon, Odell said.

When Borders not Boundaries decided to help the orphanage in the fall, Odell said members weren’t sure what they were going to do for the children. The orphanage is run entirely on donations.

Since Cisneros has family in New Mexico, there are many organizations making donations to help fill those needs — a church from Carlsbad will bring food, toiletries, new clothes and new toys for the children the week before Christmas, and Odell said during a Borders not Boundaries visit a shipment of unsold shoes came in from a national shoe store chain.

Donations that come in are distributed to the children: If a pair of shoes fits a child, he or she can keep them. Clothes are communal. A child wears an outfit for three days, the outfit is washed, and the clothes are redistributed. Again, children get what fits.

The members involved in Borders not Boundaries wanted to give the children something for Christmas that was picked especially for them, Odell said.

Odell said the children don’t have anything of their own. “They’ll be excited to have their own pair of shoes,” she said.
Volunteers visited the orphanage the first weekend of November and compiled a notebook in which each child had a page with a picture and personal information, including their shoe size.

Then, they solicited the help of the Clovis community. Clovis answered by inviting the group to speak in churches, sending donations and sponsoring individual children. The volunteers have raised enough money for every child to have their own pair of shoes and a Bible. The gifts will be received on Christmas morning.

“We just wanted to go down there and see where we could help out,” said Kierston Graham, one of the group’s members. “…God just set it on our hearts to provide for them physically with the shoes and spiritually with the Bibles.”

Graham said she isn’t “much of a kid person,” but during a November visit to the orphanage she decided she wanted to help the children. “I saw these kids the way God saw them,” she said.

Jesse Gleaton, 22, told about her experience during a visit to the
orphanage that made her willing to give up Christmas with her family.

Gleaton said she wears a necklace that references three Bible verses.

They had just finished a game of basketball when a young girl took her by the hand and began leading her around the orphanage.

She didn’t know where the girl was taking her, and couldn’t speak Spanish to ask. Finally, they reached the child’s bed, and the girl stopped; she pulled out her Bible and turned to one of the verses on Gleaton’s necklace.

“That just blessed me all over,” said Gleaton. “I knew that’s why I was there.”

How to help
Travis or Kymburly Odell: 791-6630 or 693-4605
Jesse Gleaton: 693-6023
Kierston Graham: 693-5643

Mail donations to: Borders not Boundaries Ministry; 921 SR 77; Clovis, N.M. 88101

Drop off cash donations: Any Access Bank to be deposited in the “Borders not Boundaries” account.