In the Spring of 1986, Jack and Carol Smith of Fredericksburg, Texas, invited Dr. Ottis Layne and Sara Allerkamp, RN to hold medical clinics in the villages of Boquillas, just across the Rio Grande, and in Las Norias approximately ten miles from the border.
The rugged beauty of the desert and the warm reception of the Mexican people drew Dr. Layne back year after year. He added a third village, Jaboncillos, on the second year.
The Mexican villages across from Big Bend National Park are located in the Chihuahuan Desert in the states of Coahuila and Chihuahua. Like the hardy, thorny plants that have adapted to the hot, dry, sunny climate in the rugged desert, so have a few Mexican people managed to adapt to life in this harsh terrain. The villagers make their living harvesting the candelilla plant which must be boiled in hot water in huge pits dug in the ground. They sell the wax that comes from the plant to the government who make candles and soaps. The candelilla plant was the inspiration for the name of the mission. Like a candle, we are called by Christ to be lights in the world.
Because the closest clinic is a four-to-five hour drive from these villages, Dr. Layne saw the need to continue providing medical care twice a year. He invited people to come help do the clinics. The groups along with all of their medicine, medical supplies, sleeping gear, and food crossed from Big Bend National Park into Boquillas, Mexico in rowboats There they were met by a pastor and his helpers, waiting with trucks to move the group to the villages.
In 1995 Curtis Allerkamp, an elder at New Wine Church joined Dr. Layne. Curtis became very involved, and he increasingly took on more responsibilities and became the chief coordinator of the trips. Sara continued to go on the trips once or twice a year.
In 2001, when the Big Bend River crossing into Mexico was closed, the groups began to cross at Eagle Pass, Texas into Piedras Negras on the Mexican side of the border. This trip to Boquillas and the other villages can take anywhere from 12 to 20 hours, depending on the delays at the border and the condition of the dirt roads to the villages.
In January 2006, Curtis and Sara Allerkamp began to devote all of their time to formally establish Misión de Candelilla as a charitable nonprofit and expand its work. Currently the mission serves 10 villages (ejidos) 3 times a year. This entails 9 trips to facilitate 30 clinics per year. Misión de Candelilla has also facilitated several adult and youth construction trips in recent years. These groups have built clinics, replaced roofs on clinics and churches, put sreens on homes and built restroom facilities near the clinics and churches. Families often recieve hygiene packs, school supplies, and bibles.
Twenty plus years later, this ministry is still going. The reason? To glorify Christ through service motivated by love.
If you have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me. Matthew 25:40.