Brooksville’s First Baptist Church hosted a “Packing Party” for Operation Christmas Child on 11/19/16. What is a packing party? And what exactly is Operation Christmas Child? I’m glad you asked! Operation Christmas Child is a project by international charity Samaritan’s Purse- a Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. This project is intended to spread God’s love and hope by delivering shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items to children in need overseas. During a packing party, volunteers pack the various donated items into shoeboxes, attach tracking labels, and then pack them into larger crates to be sent out to a main donation hub and then shipped off all around the world.
Operation Christmas Child was started in 1993 and since then has delivered shoeboxes to more than 135 million children in more than 150 countries and territories. The majority of the children reached have experienced poverty, war or natural disaster. I spoke with First Baptist Church members Linda Jonas, David Stanley, and Barbara Stanley who have been volunteering for years. Barbara says that last year Operation Christmas child collected 11.2 million shoeboxes and they are hoping for 12 million this year. Barbara also explained that First Baptist Church has been getting ready for this project for months. Every month the church has been collecting different items- one month it was school supplies, another month was toothbrushes, etc.
Hobby Lobby has partnered with Operation Christmas Child for the past 2 years and they let volunteers from the church set up a table where they can spread the word about the project. Hobby Lobby even sells a plastic “shoebox” that patrons can purchase to pack items in or donate. Other local sponsors include the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, Kohl’s, and Walmart, just to name a few. There were a total of 22 sponsors on the list.
How does a shoebox full of toys and household items help kids? Linda says “Most of these kids have never had a gift in their life. They’ve lost their family members in war. This gift changes their life. They feel loved by somebody and then they feel God’s Love. The message of the cross is on top of every box. They get a chance to accept Jesus Christ and go through a 12 week discipleship program, and they get a new testament in their own language.”
She suggests going to Sptv.org and watching some of the stories about the children they have helped. Alex’s story is her favorite. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s a good one.
Even though the packing party is over, it’s not too late to help out. Per the Samaritain’s Purse press Release, “Area residents who are unable to attend the packing party can still contribute. With a computer or mobile device, anyone can conveniently pack a personalized Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift, or donate $7 to ship a box, using the Samaritan’s Purse website. Go to www.samaritanspurse.org/occ for recommended toys and gift items, write a note of encouragement, and “pack” them in a shoebox. Local collection center locations can be found at http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locati...”