Givers—and recipients—testify to the impact of Operation Christmas Child

Photo submitted by Samartian's Purse

The Gift of the Gospel

In every church that Paul Beam has served, he has seen people rally around packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes with gifts for children to be distributed around the world. 

“Our people enjoy simply filling a shoebox and letting the gospel go and do its work,” said Beam, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Pampa. The 2022 National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child is November 14-21.

OCC is a project of the Christian international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, reaching more than 198 million children in over 170 countries and territories since 1993.

The Pampa church also serves as a drop-off point for boxes packed by churches in half of West Texas. “This gives us some new opportunities in being able to provide joy to the hearts of boys and girls all over the world,” Beam said.

Across the state at Calvary Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, Wanda Hightower is helping members gather hygiene items, toys, and school supplies to pack in boxes this fall. 

“Besides helping a child with physical items, it enables them to hear the gospel,” she said. Some of their folks have crocheted small purses or pillowcase dresses for the boxes designated for girls.

Sunday school classes of all sizes, individuals, as well as families continue gathering supplies for the boxes that will be prepared at packing parties in churches. Samaritan’s Purse offers online resources explaining how to pack a box, as well as giving the option to assemble a box online.

After being transported from local churches to regional drop-off stations, the boxes will go to Colleyville—one of eight national processing centers where volunteers inspect and prepare the shoeboxes for international shipping, stopping work every hour to pray for the children who will receive the gifts.

In addition to hearing the gospel shared by local church leaders who have been trained by OCC, kids are given The Greatest Gift, a storybook about Jesus that features the apostle John as narrator. This resource makes its way into the homes of the children to share with family and friends, as they read 11 Bible stories and are invited to follow Christ.

Later, those children are invited back to participate in a 12-lesson discipleship course called “The Greatest Journey.” It features Bible stories and Scripture memorization to help them follow Christ in their daily lives. Over 30.9 million children have enrolled in the program since 2009.

Andy Castillo serves as the regional manager for the north and central areas of Latin America where he sees the impact of the boxes on the local level.

“Normally, we focus on the blessing of the child to hear the gospel message and receive that tangible demonstration of the love of God through the box where they will find items that will make a huge difference in their lives,” Castillo said. “Additional elements that bring passion to why we are involved include the impact the ministry has on our volunteers and local churches,” he added, sharing stories from local participants in the distribution of OCC boxes.

Castillo translated for Rosa Mills, who coordinates mobilization for La Paz, Honduras, describing the first OCC distribution event sponsored by her church in 2016. Traveling for more than six hours to reach families up in the mountains, the volunteers rode on horses and donkeys to areas that are difficult to access.

“The first person that gave his life to the Lord was a man of 83 years of age,” Mills shared. “And from that moment we came back again to the same community and more than 100 people showed up. Our meeting for the distribution event took place beneath a tree, but one of the attendees donated a piece of property so that we could build a church in that community.”

“What a privilege and responsibility we share in advancing the gospel.”

The church has seen children “grow in their knowledge of the Lord” from that first encounter, now serving as musicians, Bible school teachers, and leaders implementing projects in other areas.

Mayer Murillo, a strategic regional coordinator for Intibucá, Honduras, has seen children live out their new-found faith in the community. “These kids are growing and sharing,” he said by way of Castillo’s translation, adding that several youth who gave their lives to the Lord eventually attended seminary in Mexico and returned to serve in a local congregation.

Castillo is grateful for the way pastors who come together to train as volunteers with OCC “strengthen one another and push forward with the gospel message.”

“This is a big reminder to me of how truly big God’s arms are,” added Ross Robinson, senior ministry strategist for church partnerships at Operational Christmas Child. “What a privilege and responsibility we share in advancing the gospel.”

For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, contact Ross Robinson at rdrobinson@samaritan.org

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