Operation Christmas Child, the global Christmas exchange project, has ministered to millions of children in impoverished countries throughout the world. In fact, this year marks the 100 millionth box that will be delivered.
The project wrapped up its collection in the U.S. and 6,389 boxes were collected from Floyd County alone.
The project is led by the Samaritan’s Purse, a non-denominational evangelical Christian humanitarian organization, and Lauren Brewster, the Floyd County relay center coordinator for the project, said the county was just short of the goal of 6,400 shoeboxes.
Locals were dropping off shoeboxes all last week and during the weekend. Brewster said about 700 last-minute boxes were delivered to the collection headquarters at First Presbyterian Church.
Once all the boxes are collected from participating regions, they are sent to Atlanta for inspection and repackaging. Then, all the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes are shipped off to different, impoverished countries.
This year the boxes from Atlanta will be delivered to missionaries in Belize, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Gabon, Georgia, Ghana, India, Latvia, Lithuania, Madagascar, the Ukraine and Zimbabwe.
The boxes typically contain items that children really need, such as school supplies, clothes and hygiene products, along with small toys. However, they are so much more than mere gifts.
“This ministry is different from any other Christmas ministry, because they reach children who have never heard the Gospel before,” Brewster said. “For those children, it’s not just a present; along with it comes the message of Jesus.”
Each box, she said, contains “The Greatest Journey,” a booklet that’s not only engaging for kids, but that tells the story of Jesus Christ. The books are in the languages native to each country, and if the child is interested in learning more, they can participate in a 12-week disciple course.
“No child ever gets an Operation Christmas Child shoebox twice,” she said, adding that the missionaries with Samaritan’s purse specifically reach out to those truly in need.
Weyman Storey, the Northwest Georgia area team community relations team member, said more than 1,600 shoeboxes came from Pleasant Valley North Baptist Church. It was a new record for the church and it took five pickup trucks to deliver all the boxes. Additionally, he said they had more donations and volunteers than ever before.
“It’s just a blessing to us,” Storey said. “To me it’s the closest thing to getting on a plane and going on a mission trip. I can pack boxes and send the message of Jesus’ love. It excited me to think about it.”