Close to Nowhere
Children all over the world this Christmas will get Christmas presents — for some of them it will be the first Christmas present ever.
Operation Christmas Child is the world’s largest Christian project of its kind. Gift-filled shoeboxes are given to children in need around the world. Since the beginning, in 1993, the Samaritan’s Purse project has collected and delivered more than 146 million shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories.
And here in August, it’s time for churches (and just people) to start packing those shoeboxes. They are usually taken to a drop-off point in November — this year, Nov. 13-30. There are more than 5,000 drop-off locations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Churches, big and small, have been collecting for the shoeboxes and are getting ready to pack them.
Free Springs United Methodist Church, out near Sardis Lake (the actual lake, not the town), is one of those really small churches that participates.
Beth Meals, the church lady who spearheads this project at Free Springs, has been buying small amounts of things since last November. She likes the back-to-school sales for the pencils and other school supplies to put in the boxes.
“I’ll spend a little mad money, $5 to $10, and pick up stuff,” Beth said. “Last year, we packed 17 shoeboxes. That isn’t bad for a small church!”
Shoebox gifts are collected in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Spain, New Zealand and Japan.
Nearly 500,000 volunteers worldwide — with more than 150,000 of those in the U.S. — are involved in collecting, shipping and distributing shoebox gifts.
The goal this year is 12 million more children than last year. Last year nearly 11.5 million shoeboxes were collected worldwide — 9.1 million in the U.S.
Anyone can pack a box — school supplies, hygiene items and fun toys. There’s also a long list of what not to pack — food items, used items, etc. For more information on how to pack a shoebox and what to pack, go to their website, samaritanspurse.org/occ.
The children at Free Springs enjoy packing the boxes. They know they’re getting “stuff” for Christmas — and this way, they help children around the world, who have nothing, get something good.