Operation Christmas Child is a global ministry, but its local impact is strong as volunteers prepare shoebox gifts for poor children around the world.
Collection week is underway for Operation Christmas Child, a program of Samaritan's Purse under the leadership of the Rev. Billy Graham's son, Franklin.
In the Greencastle area, shoeboxes are being collected and packed into shipping cartons bound for Baltimore then beyond at Ebenezer Church, 3661 Williamson Road, and Antrim Brethren in Christ Church, 24 Kauffman Road East.
'One shoebox at a time'
This is the third year Ebenezer Church has been a collection site and the church's slogan is "Saving souls one shoebox at a time," Pastor David Grove explained. "This brings the community and churches together ... there are so many people who help."
About 650 shoeboxes from outside the church were packed up on Monday, the first day of collection, and Operation Christmas Child is a year-round project at Ebenezer, where packing parties are held at least once a month.
"Ebenezer means 'the helping stone,' we take that seriously," Grove said.
Recently, 3- to 9-year-olds had a lesson about why the shoeboxes are packed, saw a video of shoeboxes being received and filled 20 boxes.
This year's Samaritan's Purse goal is 11 million shoeboxes and 4,000 to 5,000 will be collected at Ebenezer Church.
For many of the impoverished youngsters, it is the first gift they have every received. Each shoebox contains a "wow" item like a soccer ball with pump, doll, stuffed, animal, musical instrument or shoes. Also included are other toys, accessories, school supplies and non-liquid hygiene items. Packers can add a photo or personal note and also are asked to contribute $9 toward shipping.
The impact the contents of a box was brought home to church members when Jaki Hernandez, an OCC speaker from Baltimore, visited. She receive a box as an orphan in Guatemala and was thrilled to find her very own toothbrush after having to share a toothbrush with other girls at the orphanage, Michelle Strite explained.
Heather Burkett and her mother, Sherry Bender, got involved after hearing Hernandez speak. Burkett's son, Ty Robinson, who is 16 and autistic, is an enthusiastic shoebox helper.
"Any age can do this," said Grove, noting residents of local nursing homes help put things together or decorate boxes. "This helps give them a purpose to serve the Lord."
"Each box is an opportunity for a boy or girl to experience the love of God in a tangible way and to hear the Gospel," Franklin Graham writes in an OCC flier.
Children who receive a shoebox can enroll in the OCC discipleship program The Greatest Journey. They, in turn, reach out to their parents and others in their villages, Grove said.
"It's not just giving them a box, it's a whole ministry wrapped around prayer," Alvin Strite said. "We lay our hands on the box and pray for the child who will receive it."
"It's amazing to see the excitement grow," Grove said. He explained there are lots of cool stories about shoebox contents fitting the specific needs of an individual or groups of children, even though no one knows where a specific shoebox will go — except God, Grove continued.
"We live in a world where people have forgotten miracles are real," according to Grove, who said the stories give him "glory bumps," rather than goosebumps.
Shoebox collection schedules
There is still time for fill shoeboxes and more information can be found at:
Greencastle area collection schedules:Ebenezer Church, 3661 Williamson Road, Greencastle
Thursday, Nov. 21, 5 to 8 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 22, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 1 to 4 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 25, 8 to 10 a.m.Antrim Brethren in Christ Church, 24 Kauffman Road East
Thursday, Nov. 21, 10 a.m. to noon
Friday, Nov. 22, 4 to 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 1 to 3 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 1 to 3 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 25, 9 to 11 a.m.