VINTON–Lynn Haven Baptist Church in Vinton has been named as a Relay Center for the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox program, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. Serving as a Relay Center is quite an honor. This is Lynn Haven’s first year to be designated as a collection point.
Samaritan’s Purse was founded by Reverend Franklin Graham in 1970 as a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization which helps meet the needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine.
The Shoebox program began in 1993. It is also non-denominational.
Last year Operation Christmas Child delivered more than 10.4 million gift-filled shoeboxes to 118 countries. Since 1993 they have collected and delivered more than 124 million boxes to children in over 150 countries and territories. Their goal this year is to distribute 11 million gift boxes.
The Samaritan’s Purse website (www.samaritanspurse.org) says that “In the hands of local churches, every gift-filled shoebox is a powerful tool for evangelism and discipleship—transforming the lives of children and their families around the world through the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
The procedure to participate in Operation Christmas Child is to find an average size shoebox. Decide whether to pack the box with gifts for a boy or girl and the age category—ages 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. Fill it with gifts. The suggestion is to include a “Wow” gift which will catch the child’s attention immediately upon opening, and then to add some accessories, hygiene items, and school supplies.
Suggestions for gifts include stuffed animals, toys, musical instruments (like harmonicas), jump ropes and yoyos, dolls, clothing, hair barrettes, yarn, pencils and notebooks, crayons and markers, calculators, coloring and picture books, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, combs and hairbrushes, washcloths, hats, watches or jewelry, sunglasses, flashlights, or flipflops. Older boys might enjoy small tools, fishing supplies, binoculars, or a magnifying glass.
Participants are encouraged to enclose a note to the child and a photo of themselves or their families. If they include their addresses, they may get a letter from the child who receives the shoebox. Packing labels may be purchased online and will allow tracking of the package to its destination.
There are some restrictions—no liquids, no vitamins or medications, no war-related items, nothing breakable, no chocolates or perishable foods, no aerosols. Camouflage is not a good idea—nothing to make a child resemble a soldier.
Samaritan’s Purse says the most important thing which can be added to the gift is “prayer for the one who will receive it.”
Operation Christmas Child is known as the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind. Shoebox gifts are collected in the United States, Australia, Finland, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Spain, and Great Britain.
More than 500,000 volunteers worldwide, with more than 100,000 of those in the United States, are involved in collecting, shipping, and distribution. Many boxes go to orphanages.
Lynn Haven will be collecting the shoeboxes from November 16-23 which is National Collection Week. Collection hours are Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 16 and 17, from 9 to 12 noon; Wednesday Nov. 18 from 12-2 p.m.; Thursday Nov. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m.; Friday November 20 from 2-5 p.m.; Saturday November 21 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Sunday Nov. 22 from 2 to 4 p.m.; and Monday Nov. 23 from 9 to 11 a.m.
Boxes may also be dropped off at other times by calling the church office at 342-6102.
Boxes will be transported from the Relay Center at Lynn Haven to Salem on November 23 where Virginia State troopers will pack them in a tractor trailer for delivering to the Operation Christmas Child headquarters in North Carolina.
Nancy Bowser, who is coordinating the program at Lynn Haven with Shirley Hall, said that delivery of the gift boxes is “completed by truck, boats, bicycles, camels—whatever means necessary” once they reach the country of destination.
The Samaritan’s Purse website posts letters from children who have received the Operation Christmas Child gifts. One said “The toothbrush meant a lot because before I had to share my toothbrush with 25 other girls.”
Another commented, “You got one pencil a semester in the orphanage. If you used it up or someone stole it or you lost it, you were without a pencil. When I saw the pencils in my box, I thought—I’ll have leftovers for college!”
A common response from recipients is that “even though these people didn’t know me or my story, they took their time to pack a shoebox especially for me.”
Lynn Haven Baptist is located at 1501 East Washington Avenue. For more information call 342-6102.