SHOEBOX MIRACLES: First Baptist Vicksburg a central drop location for Operation Christmas Child

Published 4:00 am Sunday, November 12, 2023

First Baptist Church will take on a special mission to help bring Christ to children in other countries beginning Monday.

First Baptist serves as a central drop-off center to receive cartons of shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, a faith-based, nonprofit, nondenominational organization founded in 1970 by journalist and evangelist Bob Pierce to provide physical and spiritual aid to people across the world. Franklin Graham, the son of Dr. Billy Graham, now directs the organization.

“National Collection Week begins Monday and we’ll be receiving shoeboxes from the local churches, schools and organizations beginning Monday,” said Kathie Sills, Operation Christmas Child director. She said boxes will be received between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. daily.

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“We’re classified as a central drop-off for churches in West Central Mississippi,” she said. “In the local area, we usually have 40 to 45 groups; churches, schools, even some of the clubs. We get them from Utica, Terry and other areas, and then we put them on the trailers to send to Samaritan’s Purse.”

Sills said members of First Baptist Church work on their shoeboxes year-round.

“We purchase things throughout the year and we have work days to get some of those items ready, like packing pencil boxes or making sewing kits; we have activities during the year but we only pack the boxes one time,” she said.

Since Operation Christmas Child began in 1993, according to the program’s website, more than 209 million children in more than 170 countries and territories have received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox.

“The project delivers not only the joy of what, for many kids, is their first gift ever but also gives them a tangible expression of God’s love,” according to the site. First Baptist has participated in the program since it began.

Each shoebox is packed by an individual or family with toys, school supplies and hygiene items and sent with a prayer that the child who receives it will experience God’s love through the gifts.

“The boxes are used as an opportunity to reach unchurched people and tell the story of Jesus Christ and the love of God and in many cases, this is the first gift the child has ever received,” Sills said.

After the children receive their boxes, they are invited to attend a 12-week study where they learn Bible stories and learn about the love of Jesus Christ.

Once the boxes arrive at the distribution center in Atlanta, Ga., volunteers check every shoebox to make sure there are no items that are prohibited, such as liquids or any form of war-related toys like guns or soldiers because some of the shoeboxes go into war-torn areas.

After the shoeboxes are checked, they are repackaged and sent across the globe.

When the boxes reach their destination, church members in those countries distribute the shoeboxes to the children.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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