Charity sends gifts and the story of Christmas to kids around the globe
November 18, 2016 Share

Charity sends gifts and the story of Christmas to kids around the globe

By C. Campbell, Staff Writer

cody@southerntorch.com

RAINSVILLE, Ala. — Early November has become the time of year when a number of stores and other places begin to roll out their Christmas items. Wintery drinks start to appear in coffee shops and fast food restaurants, the taste of peppermint replacing that of pumpkin spices.

At the same time, there are other projects that are coming to fruition in the weeks before Thanksgiving. Among these is Operation Christmas Child, part of Samaritan’s Purse, a ministry run by Billy Graham’s son Franklin. Participants fill shoeboxes with items appropriate for children ages 2-14, which are then sent overseas to kids, who open the boxes on Christmas Day, and also receive the story of Jesus Christ along with their box.

One church in DeKalb County which goes above and beyond when preparing shoeboxes is Rainsville Community Church. According to Gary Hartline, a church relations coordinator within the ministry, most churches in the area fill between approximately 10 and 50 boxes, but, “We did around 2,100 last year, and we’d like to do about that much again this year.”

Rainsville Community Church is also planning to take a group of volunteers to Atlanta on December 3rd, where they’ll work at one of the main processing facilities where shoeboxes are checked and sorted before beginning their journey overseas. In addition to the role he plays with Operation Christmas Child at Rainsville Community Church, he also travels around to other churches in the area to explain the ministry, as a way to try and recruit others to take part.

Hartline also discussed more about the ministry in general. He expressed the belief that, in the years since Operation Christmas Child had begun, the volume of shoeboxes delivered had grown from several thousand a year, to several million. According to Hartline, boxes can be dropped off at a handful of locations across DeKalb County, but that the primary collection point this year is Pine Ridge Baptist Church. After National Collection Week, between November 14th and 21st, all of DeKalb County’s boxes will be taken to Pine Ridge Baptist, loaded onto trucks, and taken to the processing center in Atlanta.

Debbie Andrews, the area coordinator for northeast Alabama, had plenty of information regarding the number of shoeboxes sent out last year, and some of the goals for this year. “In the Northeast Alabama region (comprised of DeKalb, Marshall, Jackson, Etowah, Cherokee, Calhoun, and Cleburne counties) last year, we collected 35,078 boxes, and our goal this year is 40,000.”

In addition, she explained that globally, 11,213,010 shoeboxes were prepared last year, 8,765,637 in the United States, of which 966,848 came from the Southeast region. This year’s goals were 1,050,000 boxes from the Southeast, 9,500,000 in the United States, and 12,000,000 worldwide. She also went into detail about a ministry that sprang up as a result of Operation Christmas Child. Called “The Greatest Journey,” the 12 week program goes deeper into the gospel, building upon the little book given away with the shoeboxes. According to Andrews, this has led, for example, to a number of churches being started in Ecuador by people who had taken part in The Greatest Journey.

To some, Operation Christmas Child might just seem like another charity looking for assistance during the Christmas season, but it is much more than that. Every shoebox packed is more than just a package filled with small gifts to a child elsewhere in the world. It is something special for a child that might never have received a Christmas present before, and is also an easy way to spread the gospel story to those who might never have heard it before.

To learn more about the Operation Christmas Child ministry, visit their website at http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child. There, you’ll find information about how to prepare a box, including what items to include or exclude, shoebox drop-off locations, and how this ministry has impacted those who have received boxes, among other information.

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