St. John’s collects more than 700 boxes for Operation Christmas Child
BY TINA L. SCOTT
St. John Lutheran Church and School on E. Third St. was a designated drop-off point for anyone who wanted to pack a box for Operation Christmas Child this past holiday season. Shoeboxes, packed with small gifts, toys, school supplies, and hygiene items for children were collected during the third week of November. Those shoeboxes then get shipped to a Samaritan’s Purse processing center where they are inspected and prepared for international shipment to their final destinations by more than 105,000 volunteers.
Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. “The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world. Through this project, Samaritan’s Purse partners with the local church worldwide to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and make disciples of the nations,” their website reads.
The project originated in summer 1993 when Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham got a call from a man in England asking if he’d be willing to fill shoeboxes with gifts for children in Eastern Europe. Though he agreed, he forgot about it until late November of that year when he got a call back and then contacted a friend, the late Pastor Ross Rhoads of Calvary Church of Charlotte, N. Carolina, to see if he could help. He agreed and enlistd the help of his congregation and within weeks the church’s hallways were lined with 11,000 shoeboxes packed with gifts and letters for the children. Additional support also came in from Canada, and that Christmas, 28,000 shoebox gifts were delivered to children in the Balkans.
In the years that followed, the program has grown to include the support of churches and individuals nationwide in the United States. Christmas Child shoebox gifts are also collected and received from around the world including countries like Australia, Austria, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, Samaritan’s Purse said.
Since its inception in 1993, 220+ million children in more than 170 countries and territories have received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift, delivering joy and a tangible expression of God’s love, all made possible by caring individuals who pack those shoeboxes from all around the world. Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes are distributed in Africa, South America, Europe, Asia, and beyond – in countries from Ukraine and Uganda to Haiti and Guatemala, Boliva and Botswana to Panama and Papua New Guinea. As a fun sidenote, individuals can use the “Follow Your Box” feature on the website to see what country their shoebox gift ultimately goes to.
In addition to 10,000+ year-round volunteers who help share information about the project in the U.S. year-round, more than 82,000 volunteers in 4,500+ drop-off locations across the U.S. work to collect and ship Operation Christmas Child boxes each year during National Collection Week, the third week in November.
Some of those volunteers are from right here in Merrill and were working at St. John Lutheran Church and School to collect and then ship Operation Christmas Child gift boxespacked and donated locally.
During the November 2023 collection week, St. John’s was a hub of activity and the kids got in on the action helping, too, along with volunteers headed up by a committee organized for this purpose.
After just one day of collecting, “so far we have received over 458 boxes to be shipped to improvised nations,” said St. John Lutheran Church Pastor David Szeto back in November.
All told, by the time collection week was over, 721 Operation Christmas Child boxes had been collected and were shipped out according to Cathy Mueller, one of the volunteers.
Kathy Sheridan headed up the Committee at St. John that organized the collection and the volunteers.
Many people also made donations to help pay for the shipping.
For more information about the international program, go to: samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/.