By Jacob Mahaffey
It’s back to school time. Which means it’s time to start stocking up on all the necessities that every student will need. The best part, at least for parents, is that most of those necessities can be found at bargain prices.
There are also other shoppers this time of year looking for bargains on the same supplies, but not for their little scholars. Instead, those supplies are for little boys and girls around the world who receive what is known as a shoebox from Operation Christmas Child.
Operation Christmas Child is a mission group under the umbrella of a non-profit known as Samaritan’s Purse. The idea itself is simple. The group relies on volunteers to pack a shoebox with items that will be delivered to children in over 150 countries. The boxes are carefully inspected and then sent on their way, prayerfully being distributed to children.
For some children, it just might be the first Christmas present they have ever received. But it is so much more than a Christmas gift. “Not only is it a special gift because many of the children have never received a gift before,” explained Lynette Mahaffey, Ohio East Area Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child. “But they receive, first and foremost, the message of Jesus Christ and His love for them.”
Each box is hand delivered by a team of volunteers, who then take the opportunity to talk with the children about who Jesus is and how much he loves them.
So, how do you pack a shoebox? First, you start with a “wow” item, something that will capture the children’s attention as soon as they open the box. Examples given on the Operation Christmas Child website are; a doll, a soccer ball with a pump, or an outfit of clothing. Of course, those are just suggestions. From there you can add items like personal care, crafts and activities, school supplies, and even a personal note and picture. Anything that lets the children know that you love them. Also, each box needs to come with a $9 donation. This donation offsets the cost of processing and shipping. It will also go to provide a book called “The Greatest Journey” which is given to each child.
There are, however, things you can’t place in a shoebox. According to the Operation Christmas Child website they are candy, toothpaste, gum, used or damaged items, war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures, chocolate or food, seeds, fruit rolls or other fruit snacks, drink mixes (powdered or liquid), liquids or lotions, medications or vitamins, breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers, aerosol cans.
After the initial distribution, the teams aren’t done with the children. “They are invited to come back and participate in what’s called the Greatest Journey,” Mahaffey stated. “It’s a 12-week discipleship program where they learn about the love of Christ and how to share the love of Christ with others.”
Last year the Ohio East team collected 35,401 boxes. All from participants in a five-county area including Tuscarawas, Holmes, Carroll, Coshocton, and Harrison. This year the team is looking to collect 40,000 boxes. This years box collection week is November 12-19.
Organizers noted that the gift of one shoebox doesn’t just reach one child. “Our main goal is evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication. It’s what we strive for,” Mahaffey shared. “Multiplication is when the children then take that message to their family. Then the family tells others. Eventually, we find that churches are planted, just from one shoebox. We say that one shoebox can reach 7-10 people.”
Interested in learning more? There will be a Full Circle Speaker dinner on September 15 at 6 p.m. at the Carlisle Inn at Walnut Creek. The featured speaker will be Yves Dushime, who received a shoebox when he was 11 years old. To reserve your spot at either event call Nancy Troyer at 330-231-5436 or Loretta Diveley at 330-874-2351.
This story originally appeared in the August 8, 2018 edition of The Budget. For more news, pick up a copy of this week’s edition available Wednesdays at area retailers. Better yet, subscribe and the news will be delivered to you each week. For more information, call us at 330-852-4634.