The laughter and happy chatter could be heard along the bank of the beautiful Suwannee River early Saturday morning as hundreds of young people gathered. This gathering of young people is quickly becoming an annual event the entire area looks forward to each year. Christy Jones said, “We had a great time packing 11,661 shoebox gifts.” After months of planning, Christy and her team of volunteers were happy to see a great turn out for the Operation Christmas Child packing party.
The event kicked off with Guest speaker Alex Nsengimana, who was a shoebox recipient that survived the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda. Receiving a Christmas Child shoebox helped lead him to Christ and led him to plant a church in Rwanda to minister to the people who killed his family. The youth group members and volunteers were very interested in Alex’s story and how God worked many miracles in his life, bringing him to an orphanage in Rwanda and from there to the United States where he was adopted by a family in Minnesota.
Alex told of his excitement when he received his first Christmas Child shoebox while in the orphanage in Rwanda. He said he can still remember the three favorite things he found in his box, the first was a yellow hair comb which he said he carried for three months. He said much like American kids walk around with a cell phone, he carried his hair comb everywhere he went. Alex said, “I was so proud of that little comb.” The second item was a pack of Smartie candy. To the children in the orphanage the Smarties looked like pills and they thought it was medicine, so no one wanted to try them. Finally a small child started eating the Smarties and liked them. Then all the children who thought it was medicine started eating them and loved them. His last item from the shoebox was a red and white candy cane. He remembered not knowing what it was so he smelled it, then tried licking it, but it had no flavor. He had never seen a candy cane so he did not know it had to be unwrapped. The crowd laughed when he told them he ate his very first candy cane wrapper and all.
Youth groups and adult volunteers from throughout the Tri-County area and some as far away as First Baptist Church of Baldwin and Brandy Branch Baptist Church in Bryceville traveled hours to participate in the event.
Kevin Hornsby, is the Camp Pastor at Camp Anderson where the event was held. He gave those attending the packing party a motivating speech and the work began with the unloading of boxes of items from the truck. With stacks of shoeboxes to be folded and ready to be filled, long tables of crayons, cups, stuffed animals, toys, balls, and a huge selection of other items to fill the boxes, the packing got underway. This event kicks off the Nature Coast Area Operation Christmas Child which will conclude in Gilchrist County November 13 through November 20, when all the shoeboxes packed in county will be dropped off at Bethel Baptist Church, located at 7070 SW CR 334-A, Trenton. For more information about Gilchrist County’s Central Drop-Off contact Joe or Kay Roberts at (352) 463-1404.
In 2016 some 11.5 million Christmas Child shoeboxes were sent to over 100 countries around the world. There were 9,122,910 boxes packed and shipped from the United States.
Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, organized this Christian movement so millions of suffering children in over 100 countries can experience the joy of Christmas, the love of the Savior, and learn about the hope of the Gospel.
If you think you would like to help with next year’s packing party, contact Christy Jones, Nature Coast Area Team, Operation Christmas Child-Samaritan’s Purse, (352) 472-3101 or email Flatwoods75@gmail.com.
“It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish”