It’s the time of the year for giving — which is what Bethel Baptist Church in Knowles did by filling 841 shoe boxes with toys, hygiene items and school supplies for needy children around the globe.
Operation Christmas Child, a ministry founded by Samaritan’s Purse, has sent more than 198 million boxes to children in more than 170 countries since 1993.
“We give these kids hope,” said Bethel Baptist member Joyce Hatley. “We even put letters inside the boxes, and once I got a letter back from a little girl in South America. With the assistance of a missionary, she wrote and thanked me for the comb I sent her. She said she’d never had her own comb.”
Hatley recalled her church starting their participation in Operation Christmas Child in 2009.
“We started with 60 boxes that year. Then we made it a point to start doubling the number from the year prior,” said Hatley.
Hatley said there are women in the church who work all year on sewing projects and crocheted items for the boxes.
“Not only are we able to provide these kids with clothes and toys, but the best part is we get to share the gospel of Jesus,” said Hatley.
Each box given to a child somewhere in the world, who will potentially go home and share the message of Jesus Christ with friends and family — and will potentially reach a total of 10 people, said Hatley.
Therefore, 841 boxes has the potential to spread the word of Christ to around 8,410 people.
Local churches sign up to be drop off centers where individuals and other churches can take filled boxes.
Once those boxes are picked up, they are sent to a distribution center — for Lea County, the distribution center is in Dallas, Texas.
Another member of Bethel Baptist Church, Susan Parker, went and volunteered at the distribution center in Dallas.
“In the four days I was there, we processed 370,000 boxes,” said Parker.
Parker said they inspected each box to make sure items inside fell within the parameters set by Operation Christmas Child.
“People can’t send anything war related, liquid, toothpaste, food or used items,” said Parker. “Any toys, or things we have to remove, get donated to orphanages or homeless shelters.”
Parker joined Bethel in 2010 and fell in love with the Operation Christmas Child mission. She enjoyed working with her husband in the distribution center.
Hatley also volunteered at the distribution center in Dallas about four years ago. She said she and her daughter-in-law both enjoyed the experience.
In 1993, Samaritan’s Purse president Franklin Graham was contacted by a man in England, wanting to know if he could use his organization to fill Christmas boxes for the children in war-torn Bosnia.
Samartin’s Purse answered the call and partnered with people in Canada to send 28,000 boxes, and Operation Christmas Child was born.
The mission is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world.
Boxes are delivered in many ways. By plane, boat and even camel.
Operation Christmas Child delivers to some of the hardest to reach places deep in jungles, city slums, steep mountains and thousands of remote Pacific islands.
Inside each box is a box called the Greatest Journey — a follow-up discipleship course book to learn how to follow Jesus.
Samaritan’s Purse also does outreach in international crisis response, U. S. disaster relief, world medical mission, Greta Home and Academy, Children’s Heart Project and Operation Heal our Patriots.
Those interested in volunteering at distributions centers for Operation Christmas Child may do so at the following locations:
- Atlanta, Ga.
- Chicago, Ill.
- Baltimore, Md.
- Boone, N.C.
- Charlotte, N.C.
- Dallas, Texas
- Denver, Colo.
- Fullerton, Calif.