Some of the children shriek with joy when they open their gift from Operation Christmas Child. Others laugh as if they’ve just uncovered a candy
And First Christian Church member Brock Pickett is still amazed that a simple and inexpensive gesture can make a poverty-stricken child feel so loved.
That’s the effect of this Christian ministry that allows church groups and others to share seasonal love with youngsters through age 15 in poor countries worldwide. Shoeboxes are filled with a handful of small items and tiny toys, from jacks to small dolls, cars and balls, plus a children’s version of the New Testament, then shipped to Samaritan’s Purse in Charlotte, N.C., where they are sent around the globe.
Deadline for boxes to be mailed is Monday, so families still have time for a practical expression of caring and compassion.
“You can do this whether you’re a 3-year-old or an 83-year-old,” said Pickett, Operation Christmas Child’s relay center coordinator at First Christian for the past four years.
Last year, more than 50 Bartholomew County-area churches collected 3,081 shoeboxes, 10 percent more than in 2010. This year’s goal is to add yet another 10 percent more boxes for a total of 3,389.
The gifts do more than make a world of difference to the recipients. They also impact families here, said the Rev. Wes Jones, pastor of Columbus’ Flintwood Wesleyan Church.
“Many of our members pack them as a family,” Jones said.
They also shop for the items together, often with youngsters in charge of the final selection. More than 100 boxes recently were dedicated during a Flintwood service.
Two came from a family with little extra income and mounting medical bills linked to a sick family member.
“They just felt really passionate about doing something to help at least two kids somewhere in the world,” Jones said.
At Westside Community Church, Lisa Reuter, director of children’s ministry, got the children involved in packing shoeboxes.
“They get pretty excited doing them,” Reuter said.
Last year, church members collected 50 boxes.
“Once most churches learn about it, they seem to continue to keep growing it,” Pickett said.