Friday, January 19, 2018
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20171219 Trade Winds ChristmasGifts JB 1105A group of about 40 Winter Texans from Trade Winds and Mission Bell RV Resorts gather to assemble gift bags of toys and candies for the children who live in some of the poorest areas of Reynosa, Mexico. Seated at front left are Scot and Cynthia Swafford, park managers. Scot is also a pastor for park.

The recreation hall at Trade Winds RV Resort in Mission was filled with tables covered with small toys, such as toy cars for boys and little dolls for girls, along with puzzles, booklets of Bible stories in Spanish, and bowls of candy on Dec. 19. Approximately 40 volunteers – mostly from Trade Winds and Mission Bell RV Resorts – were manning the tables, filling plastic bags with simple dollar store toys and trinkets destined for more than one hundred children living in shacks in the poorest parts of Reynosa, Mexico.

The bags were then delivered by Whitewater Ministries pastor Scot Swafford, his wife Cynthia and some of the Winter Texan volunteers to colonias in Reynosa on Dec. 20. Scot Swafford said the people living in these areas are “the poorest of the poor” and have very little of their own.

Swafford founded Whitewater Ministries about 10 years ago when he and his wife and moved to the Rio Grande Valley from Kansas. Back in Kansas Swafford was a farmer and a banker. After visiting Mexico and seeing the poverty, he felt the need to help.

20171219 Trade Winds ChristmasGifts JB 1110Winter Texans Ron Norbie, Floyd DeBruin, Marilyn Dishman and Tom Dishman help assemble bags of toys and goodies at Trade Winds RV Resort to bring a little Christmas cheer to children in Reynosa, Mexico.

Scot has also been pastor for the church services referred to as Whitewater Ministries, held at Trade Winds on Sundays for the past 10 years. The Swaffords are also the new activity directors for Mission Bell and Tradewinds this year.

Swafford said 100 percent of the donations at the services go to the ministry in Reynosa where he holds Bible studies at five locations in the colonias. They do not have a church building there, and they typically hold their church meetings in Reynosa in someone’s front yard.

In the beginning, Swafford, and others who accompanied him, would fill backpacks with bags of beans. They would walk along through the colonias asking people if they believed in Jesus Christ and pass out the bags of beans. After a while, they were invited to hold Bible studies at people’s homes.

20171219 Trade Winds ChristmasGifts JB 1114Trade Winds park managers Cynthia and Scot Swafford are pictured with stacks of coloring books and crayons that were included in the gift bags they delivered on Dec. 20 to children in Reynosa, Mexico. These children might not have received any Christmas gifts at all if it were not for the small gift bags prepared and delivered by Winter Texans.

Over the years the ministry, which provides bags of beans and animal crackers to those who attend services weekly, has grown. Swafford estimates there are over 700 children in the colonias being served.

He said they buy the beans and animal crackers in bulk and divide them into smaller portions in zip lock bags with the help of volunteer members of the project. He estimates 300 to 400 pounds of beans are distributed weekly. At Christmas, a bag of rice is added as a special treat.

But, noting that the only way out of the impoverished conditions for these children is education, Swafford said they also try to help as many of these children as they can with their secondary school education costs. In Mexico, he explained, the parents have to pay many of the school’s expenses if they want their children to go to school. The families have to pay for items such as school supplies, school uniforms, teacher supplies and even toilet paper. The cost is about $300 per child per year – an amount these families cannot afford to pay, according to Swafford. So, Whitewater Ministries funds school costs for about 30 children each year to give them an opportunity for a better life.

The ministry has also helped these people in a variety of other ways, including providing medicine, medical care, and even paying for funerals, when they are able to assist.

When the Swaffords decided to sell everything they had and come to the Valley and start a ministry, they had considered constructing a building in Reynosa to house their Mexican ministry, but became concerned that the cartels would take it over. So, they decided the need to buy food to feed the hungry people they met was more important.

And at Christmastime, with the help of many Winter Texan friends, they are able to provide just a little bit of Christmas cheer for many children whom they fear would not have any Christmas gifts at all without their donations.

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