By Norm Miller, Message correspondent
PINEVILLE, La. (LBM) – In 1993, Samaritan’s Purse launched Operation Christmas Child, and since 1993, Mary Deen has filled shoeboxes with gifts and grooming items to be sent to children around the world.
“I can’t look at any box without thinking of the children,” she said. “I packed boxes with my own children to teach them to give, because some children never receive a gift of any kind. Now, some of my grandchildren are packing boxes. We can’t take the boxes to the children in faraway places, other people do that for us. I like to call it ‘missionary in a box.’”
For the last five years, Deen has been the regional media spokesperson for OCC. She attends Journey Church in Pineville, where she is the shoebox project leader.
In 2009, OCC began including a 12-week discipleship course option called “The Greatest Journey.” Trained event leaders share the Gospel when children receive a gift box. Children who choose to follow Jesus are offered the opportunity to complete the study. The course equips them to become faithful followers of Christ and teaches them how to share their faith. More than 26.5 million children have enrolled in this course.
Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes have reached 188 million children in 170 different countries and territories. The nationwide goal this year is to reach 9.7 million children. On average, nine people hear the Gospel because of each box that is sent.
Deen said that the mission of OCC is to “demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
“This blesses me and motivates me like a fire to keep filling boxes and telling others about Operation Christmas Child,” Deen said. “I think of the children and the joy this brings them. What a lasting impression to see the love of God in action.”
Deen and other OCC leaders catch their breath after the collection is over “and we start praying about goals and thinking of new ideas for the next year,” she said. “It’s a ministry we feel very passionate about.”
In these days of pandemic concerns and supply chain issues, the Samaritan’s Purse website offers contactless options. You can choose items and build a box online or submit a $25 donation and Samaritan’s Purse will build it for you.
“These particular boxes will go specifically to children in the least accessible regions of the world,” Deen said. “So, it’s a very needed option to have.”
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. Nationwide, November 15-22 is collection week.
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.