Blessed to be a blessing: Mission endeavors keep snowbirds busyELLSWORTH — Like many folks of a certain age, Edward and Faye De Boer of Ellsworth travel south for the winter months. They go, of course, to escape Minnesota’s cold and snow, but in recent years, their journey has taken on new purpose.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
ELLSWORTH — Like many folks of a certain age, Edward and Faye De Boer of Ellsworth travel south for the winter months. They go, of course, to escape Minnesota’s cold and snow, but in recent years, their journey has taken on new purpose.
When the De Boers head to Texas in a month or so, their RV will be laden with 60 quilts that will eventually be delivered south of the border in Mexico, to people who literally don’t have a blanket to sleep upon.
An idea is born
The De Boers have been married for 10 years, a second marriage for both. Ed’s first wife died of multiple sclerosis; Faye’s husband from cancer. Between the two, they can boast of eight children, 19 grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. After spending the holidays with their families, they will head to Alamo, Texas, where they’ve spent the last nine winters at the appropriately named Winter Ranch RV Park.
But it wasn’t in Texas where they first heard about the ministry that inspired them to make and transport quilts. Faye is a member of Zion Presbyterian Church in Ellsworth, and Ed of Bethel Reformed Church. Together, they attended a special mission night at Bethel Reformed, where a couple from Brookings, S.D., talked about Sharing Jesus Ministries, based in Harlingen, Texas. SJM is an effort by winter Texans to preach the Gospel and bring hope and comfort to the poor people living along the Texas-Mexico border.
“It’s the worst along the border,” Faye explained. “They crowd along the border, so that’s where you see the worst poverty.”
“Their only shelter a lot of times is a cardboard box,” described Ed. “They’ll take boxes to make a shack, put tin on top with a tire to hold it down.”
The De Boers decided to check out SJM, so they made contact upon arrival in Texas. With the ministry, they traveled by bus over the border into Mexico, to a squatters’ camp in a garbage dump near Reynosa, Mexico. They were appalled by the conditions they witnessed there and realized the abundance of their own blessings.
“That night, we were cozy in our little vacation house,” recalled Faye. “It was raining, and all I could think of was those kids out there in the darkness, with the rain, the rats. We can’t do anything about the illegal immigrants, the border fence, but we can do something to help out. We’re just trying to keep some kids warm.”
Making it personal
When the SJM volunteers venture into Mexico, they bring a meal, water, supplies, clothes and toys — all donated items. Since Faye had done quilting as a hobby, the De Boers decided to add to those efforts about five years ago by making mission quilts. Consequently, they completed 33 quilts two years ago, and last year they had 47 to take south. Most of the time, the De Boers have no idea where their quilts end up, but last year they learned the destination.
“The pastor who serves our park in Texas, Pastor Gordon Johnson, he takes a lot of them,” Faye explained. “He works with the Rio Grande Bible Institute. … He was telling us that the day he transferred our quilts, took them to the Rio Grande Bible Institute, they got a request from an orphanage. So that’s where they went, to an orphanage in the mountains. … Those are the lucky kids, because they have somebody taking care of them.”
In addition to the distribution of the donated goods, the SJM forays into Mexico also include a time of worship. Miguel, a Mexican missionary speaker, teaches the volunteers a song as they make their way to the destination so they can participate in the service.
“When they see the bus coming, the people usually come,” Ed explained. “They are very attentive, and the children are well-behaved. You see them playing along the drainage ditch. … You see them living along the railroad tracks, any place they can find land that doesn’t belong to anybody. If they don’t get run off, they’ll settle there.”
The De Boers also collect toys to give to the children.
“At one place, a young boy, probably about 9 years old, latched on to Ed, followed him around,” Faye recalled about a lad who had some sort of mental disability. “His name was Edgar, and we think he was reading Ed’s nametag and recognized the name was similar to his. We bring a lot of girl toys along, because of our granddaughter, so we had a My Little Pony, which was the least girlish thing we had, and gave it to him.”
All of the De Boers’ quilts are made from recycled and donated materials. Just about any kind of fabric will work, as long as it is washable, Faye noted.
“The only thing that doesn’t work is silky or satin fabric,” she said
As word of their project has spread, donations have come from Ellsworth and the surrounding community.
“Sometimes we come home and find a bag of cloth left inside the garage,” Ed said with a laugh. “We don’t even know who left it there.”
This latest batch of quilts includes 40 twin-sized ones and 20 child-sized blankets. Faye points out a whole stack that was fashioned from discarded curtains from the local nursing home .
“A girl in our church works in the laundry there, and she didn’t know if I could use them or not,” Faye said, adding that there were some unusable patches she had to work around. “Where they are going, they don’t care what they look like.”
In other quilts, patches of a green suede-like material are evidence of another donation.
“We received 19 strips of that green suede, which we found out were used as table runners at somebody’s wedding,” Faye shared.
Old blankets and mattress pads are generally filler for the quilts. If Faye has batting left over from her own projects, she’ll piece it together, too, to be used inside. Embroidery floss is tied to hold the quilts together, a task that Ed usually completes.
“We were both raised not to throw anything away,” said Faye. “We don’t buy anything but the thread.”
Due to the onset of arthritis, Faye isn’t sure how much longer she can continue to sew the quilts, although she is determined to forge on as long as she is able. The De Boers also hope that they can continue to travel south each winter and play some small role in bettering the lives of the people there through God’s word and their efforts.
“Our donation is a drop in the bucket compare to what other people do,” emphasized Faye.
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