By Cindy Jo Ayers
Good people came from far and wide to help with the third annual Operation Christmas Child Kickoff event and Community Wide Packin’ Party that was held on Saturday, October 13.
One of the highlights of the annual Packin’ Party is a guest speaker who talks about their experience receiving a shoebox. This year’s guest speaker was Elizabeth Henry who told about her experience receiving a shoebox in an orphanage in Ukraine. Elizabeth told about receiving the first gift of her lifetime, a shoebox containing a coloring book, crayons, small Bible in her own language and a yo-yo. She recalls not knowing what the yo-yo was but she knew when she received the shoebox that someone cared about her. That was the first time in her life that she thought someone cared about her. She said that the yo-yo was for her a sign of God’s unfailing hope for His children.
Several years later at age 13, she was adopted by an American family. Then she started an Operation Christmas Child shoebox drive in the home church of her new family. Elizabeth went on to attend and graduate from Virginia Tech. During her years at VT she started another Operation Christmas Child shoebox drive. During her senior year she got the VT football team involved in the shoebox drive. Now the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at VT sponsors the Operation Christmas Child shoebox program there.
Elizabeth Henry urged people to get involved with Operation Christmas Child by saying, “Get involved if you are not already involved, this is a ministry that changes lives. Every child that gets a shoebox has an opportunity to know Him and have a relationship with Him.”
Christy Jones told the volunteers that this year about 7,000 of the boxes were 25% bigger than they expected when they arrived. At the last minute she had to come up with additional gifts to fill the larger boxes. She had 7,000 Muk Luk boots donated and the church family at Union Baptist Church agreed to cover the shipping and a reduced price of the boots.
The Tri-County packers were able to pack some 7,100 shoeboxes at this year’s event. Christy Jones, one of the organizers of the event, said that most of the items that were packed at the event were donated by the membership of Union Baptist Church along with items donated by friends. The packers came from as far away as the Jacksonville area and as close to home as Trenton. The volunteers make this event happen each and every year. Groups of church youth, Riverside 4-H Club, as well as kind hearted citizens lent a hand on Saturday.
The Samaritan’s Purse project Operation Christmas Child collects shoebox gifts filled with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items and delivers them to children in need around the world to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way. For many of these children, the gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child, the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, has collected and delivered more than 157 million shoebox gifts to children in more than 160 countries and territories.
In 2018, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach another 11 million children in countries like Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda and Ukraine. More than 11 million shoebox gifts were collected worldwide in 2017, with more than 8.8 million collected in the U.S.
It is not too late to help out with this important mission, you can send a donation of any amount to Union Baptist Church at 6259 SE 75th Avenue, Newberry, Florida 32669. Write checks to Union Baptist Church but note on bottom of check OCC donation/Muk Luk.
If you would like to pack a shoebox you can contact Joe and Kay Roberts at (352) 463-1404 or (904) 377-1645.
It’s Shoebox Time! Annual Packin’ Party a big success
By Cindy Jo Ayers