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Christmas cheers around the world

Grace Baptist Church volunteers organize and package 3,000 gifts in shoeboxes for children in need

Posted: December 14, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 14, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Many of the volunteers at Grace Baptist held packing parties and gathered boxes as a group, using donated materials and packing items.

 

“Do you mind if I call you mother?” read the letter to Sandy Dierckman. The writer’s mother had passed away. After receiving Sandy’s package for his daughter last year through Operation Christmas Child, he looked to her as a surrogate.

Dierckman participates in Operation Christmas Child at Grace Baptist Church every year. Each year she packs two boxes, one for a boy and a girl. Last year, a package was sent to a family in Nepal.

The father wrote back thanking her for the gift and explained how his daughter “treasures” the items she sent.

Simple items, like crayons and pencils.

“It shows what an impact we can have across the world by packing shoe boxes with items that we take for granted in the U.S.,” Dierckman said.

Over the past six years Grace Baptist Church has participated in the Operation Christmas Child program. The program was started by Samaritan’s Purse organization to offer Christmas gifts to impoverished children around the world.

The idea is to have local churches around the country participate at the community level by packing repurposed shoe boxes for young children. Packed at the local level, the boxes are sent to a regional distribution center which then ships them to children in need.

Typical destinations include poor countries like, Mongolia, Nepal, Uganda and this year, the Philippines.

Participants personalize the boxes by picking out items to include, like crayons, a toothbrush, socks, hair clips, and small toys. Volunteers are encouraged to write a letter, draw a picture or send a picture of their family with the box.

“This is a way to love on people for Jesus,” said Misty King who helps collect hundreds of empty shoe boxes each year from Payless Shoes. “In our country its easy to take what we have without stopping to think about how many people don’t have simple necessities.”

April Larsen is the Relay Center Coordinator for Grace Baptist Church. The behind the scenes effort is conducted by her and a team of volunteers from the church. She got involved with the program before it became an official outreach of the church.

“A lot of people are in need,” she said. “This is an opportunity to do something about it and help them.”

Christmas trees are set up around the church with hundreds of empty, beautifully decorated shoe boxes underneath. Participants are encouraged to take boxes to pack and bring back during collection week. Some volunteers wrap and use their own boxes.

Dan Sachoff and his family deduced to hold an Operation Christmas Child packing party at their home this year.

Attendees were asked to bring items they wanted to include in the boxes. Many had never heard of the program and were not church goers.

“We had good discussions with people about the program and the idea to show God’s love in a practical way,” said Sachoff. “Everyone was excited to be involved in something that would help others.”

This year volunteers from Grace collectively packed more than 3,000 boxes. Some years participation is low and at other times high. In 2007, volunteers packed more than 5,500 boxes for children in need.

“Each shoe box represents the most precious gift anyone could receive, eternal life through Jesus Christ,” said Larsen.

 

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