PLAIN CITY, Ohio — Children at CMC’s Multiply 2019 conference July 26-28 filled 120 backpacks with socks, underwear, toiletries and other supplies to give to families seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.
First they watched a presentation with maps of Mexico and Central America, talked about their own families’ connections with other cultures, and learned to sing part of a song in Spanish.
Then, checklists and backpacks in hand, they lined up to pull items from a long row of plastic bins, filling the packs with clothing, water bottles, toothbrushes, snacks, and some things they weren’t sure about (“What’s deodorant?”).
Deborah Showalter, Outreach Central coordinator for children’s programs at the conference, said she knew the children would be learning about the Apostle Paul’s journeys and the stories of mission workers going to other countries today.
“I wanted the children to hear that we also have the opportunity to meet people from other cultures right here,” she said.
In early June she heard about Preemptive Love Coalition’s initiative to assemble backpacks to distribute through a local organization in El Paso, Texas.
“When I found out that one of our pastors in El Paso was able to help with communication and delivery, the pieces started coming together,” Showalter said.
She sent out a call to CMC — an Anabaptist conference based in Irwin, Ohio — churches for donations, hoping to fill 100 backpacks.
David and Mayela Diller, the pastor couple at Ministerio Manantiales de Vida (Springs of Life Ministry) in El Paso, attended Multiply and talked to the children, showing them pictures of the families in their church.
Most are from Mexico and speak Spanish in their homes. David Diller asked the kids what they ate for breakfast and said most of his church members eat beans in the morning.
He got the kids on their feet and taught them the motions and words to “Jesús es mi superhéroe,” a song from the church’s vacation Bible school program this summer. Mayela Diller prayed in Spanish over the backpacks and the families that would receive them, asking that God would bless and comfort those who received these gifts.
When Multiply ended, the Dillers drove home with 60 backpacks in their little car.
They delivered the backpacks to Ciudad Nueva, a group that is working with Preemptive Love in El Paso and will take them across the border to Juárez.
Showalter loved the way the Dillers interacted with the kids. She got in touch with David just after the Aug. 3 shootings in an El Paso Walmart.
“The shootings had a huge impact. We have been in that Walmart many times, and it is fairly close to where we live,” David Diller said. “Choice Books has a rack in that store.”
Just knowing more about the Dillers and their church and feeling that connection “has really added to the heaviness I’ve felt with this recent tragedy,” Showalter added.
Showalter hopes the backpacks will encourage the families who receive them.
“I hope they realize they are not forgotten,” she said, with hopes they will be reminded of God’s love.
Speaking of the children who participated in the project, she asked, “Who knows all of the ways that God will lead these children to respond to the needs in our broken world?”
She wants them to be listening and ready when the opportunities come.
“Sometimes the invitation is as simple as filling a backpack with socks and underwear and toothbrushes,” she said.