Churches come together for annual Operation Christmas Child effort

Published 11:10 am Thursday, November 10, 2016

An annual tradition of giving to those in need at Christmas is gearing up this November, and the time is now to start collecting donations.

Operation Christmas Child kicked off last Wednesday night at First Baptist Church when young members in the church-based mission education organizations called Girls in Action, or GAs, and Royal Ambassadors, or RAs, spent the evening buying gifts for children around the world.

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“We went to the Dollar Tree and picked out toys for the kids for Operation Christmas Child…so we can send them world to different countries for the kids for Christmas,” Ella Kate Boone, 9, said. She spent $5 on Barbie dolls, toothbrushes, toothpaste and a hairbrush for her box. “It was really fun. The grown-ups said maybe it can open a door for the kids so they can learn about Jesus.”

The children then packed those gifts in shoebox size boxes and prepared them to ship out first to the distribution center in Atlanta and then across the world to children less fortunate.

“They go to 108 countries of the world. Once we get (to Atlanta) they decide where these boxes are going,” Warren County area coordinator Hester Pitts said. “Some have to go by camel, some go by boats in the jungle. The goal this year is 12 million shoeboxes. Last year they did 11 million shoeboxes.”

Toys, stuffed animals, hygiene products, school supplies. and other small items in shoeboxes made of either regular cardboard or plastic. Pitts recommends plastic because that way the recipient can reuse the box.

“They say in every box to be sure and include a stuffed animal because that is something they can take to bed with them and hold,” Pitts said. “Also in every box they encourage us to put school supplies because there are areas if the kids do not have their own supplies they cannot go to school.”

She said it is also important not to pack any liquids, soft candy, toy guns or war related items in the boxes.

First Baptist serves as the collection location for all of Warren County. Churches, civic groups, schools and multiple other organizations have already signed on to contribute to the collection of boxes. Last year the county donated over 5,200 boxes and this year the goal is 5,500.

“We are a relay center here. We get all the shoeboxes from all over Warren County,” Pitts said. 

The service project has grown over the years First Baptist has been involved. Pitts said the first year they gathered 125 shoeboxes.

“We hope here at First Baptist to do 1,000 shoeboxes,” Pitts said, adding he church gathered 925 last year.

The boxes will be dedicated and prayed over during Sunday morning service Nov. 20.

“We’re able to share the love of Jesus. This is what it’s all about, letting the kids know in other countries that they are loved, they are special,” Pitts said. “Not only that we love them and are doing a box, but more importantly God loves them.”

Ayla Berzwyvelt, 10, said she purchased socks, puzzles, chalk and paper.

“We got toys for kids so we can spread the gospel to them,” she said. “They put it on a plane because of how far away it is. They put it in one big box and then they ship it to somewhere that doesn’t get a lot of presents…The people who take them there tell them about God. God gave us a lot of love so we’re giving them love.”

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian humanitarian aid organization. Missionaries, teachers and pastors deliver the boxes to the children.

“Within six to 12 weeks they follow up with a study about Jesus and his love. The kids, they enroll them in that, and then once they finish that they give them a Bible with their name on it,” Pitts said. “Over a millions and a half children have come to know Jesus because of that.”

National Collections Week begins Monday and donations will be accepted at First Baptist Church from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 14, 17 and 18; noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 15; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 16; 10 a.m. to noon Nov. 19 and 21; and 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 20.

For more information, call First Baptist 601-636-2493.