Those of us who profess to be Christians are called to spread not only the Word, but also the love of Christ throughout the world. And while telling others of His love is a wonderful thing, showing others is even better. This serves as the main idea behind Operation Christmas Child, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Operation Christmas Child is a division of the Samaritan’s Purse organization which distributes shoeboxes filled with presents and the Word of God to needy children all over the world during the Christmas season. Sixteen different churches in Thomaston have participated in the event this year as well as several from Woodland, Butler and Molena, bringing the areas total donation to 1,109 boxes, which is nearly 300 more than last year’s total.
“Every child that gets a shoebox hears about the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ,” said Reverend Joey Smith, pastor of East Thomaston Baptist Church, when asked why this is something he participates in. “The boxes bring joy and spread the gospel of Jesus around the world.”
This year East Thomaston Baptist served as the collection center for Upson County, which means that all of the participating churches in the area brought their shoeboxes to the church to be counted before being shipped to a larger collection center in Byron. Throughout the week of November 18-25, which was known as National Collection Week, many volunteers from children to senior adults pitched in to count and pack all of the boxes to be shipped. Several high school students were onsite to lend a hand one evening, stating that they wanted to participate in the Operation Christmas Child because it makes them feel as if they have made an impact in someone’s life.
“We want everyone to feel like there are generous people in the world who do care, even if they are far away,” said Hollie Stubbs as she took a break from bringing in the donations. She continued, stating the things we take for granted are often treasured by someone else in a poverty stricken country. Items such as a toothbrush or a pair of socks are encouraged to be included in the package, as well as toys such as balls, dolls and jump ropes. Something as simple as a writing tablet and a pen can bring a smile to a child’s face.
Since its inception in 1993, over 100 million children in 130 different countries have been shown love through Operation Christmas Child. While the countries the shoeboxes are sent to vary from year to year, the one thing that remains the same is the joy on each child’s face upon being handed a box of gifts just for them, which many volunteers stated makes their participation in the event worthwhile.
Although last week served as National Collection Week, shoeboxes may be shipped to the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in Boone, North Carolina all throughout the year. For more information on what to pack and different ways to work with the cause, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.