A kickoff celebration for the Operation Christmas Child collection season was held last week at First United Methodist Church. The local effort will join a global effort to collect 10 million shoeboxes this year.
The event was organized by United Methodist Women with guest speaker Kate McKinnie, Mid-South regional manager for Operation Christmas Child, who presented a plaque of appreciation for the church’s five years of partnership as a drop-off site in McMinnville.
McKinnie also shared photos and stories of her recent distribution trip to Guyana where she received the opportunity to hand-deliver shoeboxes to children in need.
“Many churches view our ministry as giving Christmas gifts to children all over the world, and it’s so much more than that,” said McKinnie. “I’m grateful to partner with churches in McMinnville who grasp the real reason we do this – sharing the love of God in a tangible way through these simple shoebox gifts. Most of the children who receive the shoeboxes don’t understand what a gift is because they’ve never received one before.
McKinnie added, “I will never forget the little girl who took a while to open her box and when she did, she looked around, chose one item – a small whistle – and then gave the box back to me, thinking she only got to pick one gift. I cried when I experienced this and got to tell her the entire shoebox full of gifts was hers to keep.”
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. Since 1993, OCC has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 113 million children in more than 150 countries.
The kickoff offered insight into what children of different ages need in their shoeboxes, as well as offered inspiration for church members to continue their efforts and pray over each shoebox as it’s donated.
Greer Transportation offers a truck every year to transport the shoeboxes from First United Methodist Church to a collection center in Cookeville.
“I have fallen in love with the idea of a child opening a box and finding the love of Jesus in it,” said Jodi Greer. “People have the opportunity to be a missionary without ever leaving town.”
This year’s collection days are Nov. 17-24. McMinnville residents can drop off shoeboxes packed with toys, school supplies and hygiene items at First United Methodist Church. The shoeboxes will then be taken to the collection center and delivered to underprivileged children overseas using whatever means necessary – boats, airplanes, trains and even elephants.
Using a special tracking technology, participants can follow their boxes online and discover the country to which their gifts will be delivered to children in need. To register a shoebox gift, use the online donation form at samaritanspurse.org
For more information about how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call 615-678-6200 or visit samaritanspurse.org. Participants can also build a shoebox through an online tool offering a personalized and convenient way to send a gift to a child in the hardest-to-reach countries.