By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
PINEVILLE, La. (LBM) – Louisiana Baptists will have the opportunity to join thousands across the world to share the ultimate gift to children in other countries during the 30th anniversary of Operation Christmas Child.
Formed in 1993 by Samaritan’s Purse, OCC allows churches and individuals to bring gift-filled shoeboxes to relay stations across the country that are then processed and shipped to local partners around the world with a means of reaching out to children in their communities with the good news of Jesus Christ.
National Collection Week is Nov. 13-20.
Though the gifts are simple [small toys, hygiene items and school supplies] they still bring a smile to children who may be affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine, and disease.
Mary Deen, an OCC regional spokesperson in Louisiana and a member of Journey Church, Pineville, told the Baptist Message the effort provides an opportunity for Christ followers to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children who may not receive any other gift.
“Operation Christmas Child is one of the most effective evangelistic ministries,” she said. “According to our statistics released last month, because of our giving shoeboxes in the 2022 collection season, four children every 60 seconds accepts Jesus as their Savior. That’s 240 children per hour. With all the events going on in the world, we can’t waste any time reaching people with the Gospel. People need hope and that hope is only found in Jesus.”
According to OCC’s website, shoeboxes have reached 209 million children in more than 170 different countries and territories. The nationwide goal this year is to reach 11 million children.
Children who receive the shoebox gifts also can enroll in OCC’s 12-lesson discipleship program, The Greatest Journey. Introduced in 2009, this program has taught 35.4 million children about God’s amazing love and what it means to faithfully follow Jesus Christ. Of those who have participated, 17.4 million have indicated they have decided to trust Christ as Savior.
Vital items like a toothbrush (no toothpaste), a bar of soap and washcloth, coloring book, crayons, and other school supplies, as well as combs, brushes, and hair accessories should be included. A stuffed animal and small toys may be added to each gender-specific box.
For those who are unable to shop for items to fill a box, the Samaritan’s Purse website offers a “Build a Box” option where participants can submit a $25 donation and the organization will build it for you.
Enter your zip-code to find a drop-off location, see the “Build a Box” option, and discover many other helpful resources at www.samaritanspurse.org.