The holiday season is here once again. Hopefully, that brings you laughter, an abundance of good food, and precious time spent with family and friends. One of my favorite things about the holidays is the emergence of goodwill, the need to spread our joy to those less fortunate. So many opportunities to give to the needy pop up at Christmastime, but it’s hard to know which ones are the best in which to invest.
A worthy organization that helps bring Christmas joy to poor children across the world is Operation Christmas Child, a project of the international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. Their mission is to provide local partners around the world with shoeboxes filled with small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies as a means of reaching out to children around the world. The simple gifts are shipped outside the United States to children affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine, and disease; and also to children living on Native American reservations in the United States.
From the Operation Christmas Child website, “The program was started in the United Kingdom in 1990 by Dave and Jill Cooke. Three years after this beginning, the Wales-based shoebox gift project merged in a partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, allowing us to share 20 years of expertise in relief and aid work with the project, and expand the reach of the shoebox gifts to more than 28,000 children that year. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to over 135 million children in more than 150 countries and territories.”
Churches all over the United States get involved and serve to collect the shoebox gifts from their communities. Some churches also serve as drop-off locations for shoeboxes the third week of November every year. Several churches in our area support Operation Christmas Child. Debby Stovall, the children’s minister at Mims Baptist church on Porter Road in southeast Conroe says, “Mims has been involved in Operation Christmas Child for over 20 years. Operation Christmas Child gives us an opportunity to share God’s love with children all over the world. Operation Christmas Child takes it a step further by sharing the truth of Jesus’ birth, death, burial and resurrection with each child who receives a gift. For many of these children this is the first gift they have ever received. The gift is an important element to understanding that salvation is ‘the gift of God.’ Ephesians 2:8-9 says, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God not of works, lest anyone should boast.’”
Liz and Bill Rising, long time members of First United Methodist Church on West Davis Street in northwest Conroe, coordinate the Operation Christmas Child shoebox collection at their church. Bill says, “We will start supplying boxes—either cardboard or plastic—from October 23rd and over the next two Sundays. Then on November 13th we ask the congregation to bring filled boxes to church during normal services where they are blessed. The relay station is then open at the church daily until November 21st. The relay station is open to the public and receives boxes from other groups, churches and individuals. We load the boxes onto a trailer and transport them to a collection center. From there they are sent to an Operation Christmas Child processing center where they are readied for shipment abroad.”
I have personally been involved in this ministry in past years by letting each of my children fill a shoebox for Christmas. A shoebox fills up quickly and easily and is a poignant way to let children experience the goodwill and generosity of the season while opening their eyes to the fact that not everyone is surrounded by the abundance we are. Children’s minister Debby says, “Any time we share the love of God, it is a blessing. Operation Christmas Child helps the children of Mims to see beyond themselves to reach the world for Christ. When I ask the children if they would be willing to give up just one Christmas gift so another child could know Christ as their Savior, they always say ‘Yes!’ That is a blessing!”
Debby instructs, “The first step in packing a shoebox is to decide if you are packing for a boy or a girl and what age group. There are three age groups to choose from: 2-4 years old, 5-9 years old, and 10-14 years old. Then you choose items that would delight that specific child. Remember these gifts are given to children who have very little material goods. They delight in almost anything: balls, dolls, school supplies, socks, hygiene items. A picture of the giver and a personal note, have proven to be some of the most important items given. We also like to remind everyone to pray for the child who will receive their shoebox gift. War-like toys and liquids are not allowed to be packed in the gifts. A $7 gift to Samaritan’s Purse is included in every shoebox gift. The $7 covers the shipment of that gift to somewhere in world. That $7 can be paid on line at www.samaritanspurse.org/occ where you are also given the opportunity to track your gift and know the specific country of delivery.”
Bill and Liz says of packing a box, “We normally suggest a ‘WOW’ toy, something special, and then fill around with toys, school supplies, hard candy, and hygiene items. No battery driven items are allowed. At the Operation Christmas Child processing center, they will add a storybook about Jesus in the child’s own language. Jesus taught us to help the children by showing how much love we have for them, and by providing this gift box, we can introduce them to Jesus. This is often the first time they have ever received a gift especially for them. This will probably be all they own.”
Both First United Methodist Church and Mims Baptist Church would love to collect your shoebox gift on behalf of Operation Christmas Child. Bill says, “During my career, I was able to travel throughout the world. I have been privileged to speak to several people who actually received boxes when they were young when they lived in places like Russia, Romania, and China. They said they did not know what to do with soap or toothpaste. They thought you ate it. But they all said the same thing that what they received in the box was theirs and the only things that they owned.”
With all the hustle and bustle, the holiday season is stressful for a lot of people and experiencing the joy of the season, the joy of Christ, can be elusive. Blessing another less fortunate person, especially a child who has no expectations, is a way to bring the love of Christ into your life a little bit and will bless you in return. The Samaritan’s Purse website takes all the guesswork out of providing a shoebox and makes it easy to bring joy to needy child. Please consider being a part of this ministry.
Shoebox Collection Week is November 14-21
Piney Woods Area Drop Locations:
Lake Conroe Area Drop Locations: