During a local Operation Christmas Child event Saturday, Sept. 14, Janet Howard, who has delivered shoe boxes of gifts to hundreds of children in Zambia, said her group in Zambia decided, “this is the closest to heaven we are going to get.”
Operation Christmas Child, aka Samaritan’s Purse, is a nondenominational worldwide campaign that provides shoe boxes of toys, clothes and other needed items to underprivileged children each Christmas season. Each box includes a Gospal tract.
As church relations team coordinator for the OCC St. Louis and Mid-Eastern Missouri Area, Howard shared her experiences with a large group attending the “2013 OCC countdown event” Saturday at Calvary Baptist Church in Hannibal.
Despite their shoe boxes being filled with gifts, the children are most eager to read their Gospel message in the booklets that are included in each box, Howard said. “They are excited to get presents but hungry for the message that Jesus is the main gift of all.”
When the shoe boxes are distributed, “they all wait until all get their box before they open them,” she said. “They all get a Gospel tract. These kids show how hungry they are for the Gospel. This means the world to them.”
The school supplies also are appreciated, she said. One boy was happy to receive a package of 12 pencils, and “said that will last him a year. Now I cannot put less than 12 pencils in a box,” Howard said “And a girl had tears of joy” because she got socks to wear to school. She had been punished for not wearing socks.
After receiving the shoe boxes, the children may attend a 12-week discipleship program, Greatest Journey, teaching how to receive Jesus and share Jesus with others, Howard explained. “Then they receive a Bible.”
Seeing how happy the children were, and how learning about Jesus changed their lives, Howard said, she knew “much fruit is coming from that box. When the children started chanting ‘we love you’ it was like God opened heaven and dumped buckets of joy. We were crying with joy.”
Howard challenged everyone present to pack shoeboxes and involve their churches in packing shoe boxes.
Area 2013 goal is
46,000 shoe boxes
The 2013 goal for filling shoe boxes in the area was announced Saturday during the OCC countdown event.
Linda Logsdon, area coordinator, led the meeting and reported a recent celebration marked a milestone, because “100 million shoe boxes have been delivered in the past 20 years.”
Cheryl McGowan, OCC church relations specialist for Marion, Monroe and Ralls counties, reported that in 2012, a total of 41,642 shoe boxes were filled in the St. Louis and Mid-Eastern Missouri Area. This area reaches from Hannibal south to Crystal City, including St. Louis.
Page 2 of 2 - This area’s goal for 2013 is 46,000 shoe boxes, Logsdon said. The five-state regional goal is 500,739 shoe boxes.
Everyone attending, which included OCC volunteers from throughout the area, was challenged to return to their churches and inspire others to become involved.
During the meeting, Marilyn Hammock was honored for packing shoeboxes for the most years of anyone present, with 18 years.
The filled shoe boxes in this area are to be turned in at the area relay center, which will be Immanuel Baptist Church, U.S. 61 and Pleasant Street.
Collection dates for delivering the shoe boxes are Monday, Nov. 18, to Monday, Nov. 25, which also is the national collection week.
The daily hours to deliver the shoe boxes to Immanuel Baptist may be learned by calling Joyce Davis, coordinator of the relay center, at (573) 231-0033.
For more details about how to become involved in Operation Christmas Child, call McGowan at (573) 221-4116.