Religion

Still time to prepare an Operation Christmas Child gift

Operation Christmas Child is a worldwide ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization headed by Franklin Graham.
Operation Christmas Child is a worldwide ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization headed by Franklin Graham. Special to The Telegraph

With only three days left, volunteers say there’s still time to pack an Operation Christmas Child shoebox with small toys and send it on its way to a needy child somewhere in the world.

“It’s not too late to take part in the blessing of giving an Operation Christmas Child shoebox to a child in need,” said Joyce Balding, Operation Christmas Child’s coordinator for the Heart of Georgia Area.

“These children only get one box in a lifetime from Operation Christmas Child, so a person’s gift this year could be the only such present a child gets in their entire life.”

Balding said drop-off points spread across Middle Georgia and the charity’s informative website help make it possible to prepare and deliver a box by the Nov. 14 deadline.

The ministry’s website can be found at samaritanspurse.org/occ and Balding said there are instructions for preparing a box, what to put in it, how to find a close-by drop-off spot and even how to track the package to its destination country.

She said there even are options to simply pay and have a box prepared by others — making last-minute participation even more possible.

But for those who want to shop and fill a box, then get them to a local collection point, there’s enough time.

Balding said the Operation Christmas Child project is a worldwide ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization that provides spiritual and physical aid around the world. It is headed by Franklin Graham.

She said the venture is the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind with individuals, families and groups packing shoeboxes to tangibly demonstrate God’s love to children.

Samaritan’s Purse reports that since the project began in 1993, more than 135 million gift boxes have been collected and presented to children in more than 150 countries and territories.

Nationally, the group hopes to distribute 12 million Christmas shoeboxes this year.

Elaine Barfield oversees a shoebox drop-off site at Byron United Methodist Church.

She said her location also serves as the area’s collection point where other drop-off locations bring boxes.

She said after they come to Byron, boxes are sent to the regional preparation site in Atlanta, and from there are shipped worldwide.

This year, Barfield anticipates they’ll send six or seven 28-foot trailers with about 5,500 shoeboxes in each one.

Those wishing to pack shoeboxes only need as many shoeboxes as they want to prepare, Operation Christmas Child labels that can be picked up at drop-off points or gotten online and a little time for shopping after learning what should and shouldn’t be included from the website.

Then the boxes can be dropped off. Barfield said those who wish to track their packages have to download a special label from the ministry website.

“We have a good many materials for people to use and probably some shoeboxes still left at some of our sites, but not that many boxes,” she said. “You can print out regular labels from the website or a tracking label that you pay $7 postage for and get tracking. If you do, you’ll get an email as it goes on its way telling you what country it ends up in. It’s neat to follow it. Either way, there’s plenty of really good information online telling you just what to do to get your box ready, suggestions what to put in it and then where to take it. And I can assure you, somewhere a child and a family will be touched by what you’ve done.”

Balding said each child given an Operation Christmas Child gift box also gets a booklet called “The Greatest Gift” and an invitation to take part in a 12-week discipleship program called “The Greatest Journey.”

She said 7.4 million children worldwide have participate in the discipleship classes.

Though shoeboxes are collected during the holiday season, Balding said the boxes are delivered year round and that Operation Christmas Child volunteers work all year internationally and locally to make putting a gift box in a child’s hands possible.

Balding said individuals and churches wanting to be involved as volunteers can contact her at 478-250-1158.

Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

Operation Christmas Child drop-off locations and hours

▪ Byron United Methodist Church, 103 W. Heritage Blvd., Byron.: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 19, 12:30-4:30 p.m. Nov. 20 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 21

▪ Ingleside Baptist Church, 3036 Riverside Drive, Macon: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 19, 1-4 p.m. Nov. 20 and 9 a.m.-noon Nov. 21

▪ Pine Forest Baptist Church, 1848 Tucker Road, Macon: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 19, 2-5 p.m. Nov. 20 and 9-11 a.m. Nov. 21

▪ Shirley Hills Baptist Church, 615 Corder Road, Warner Robins: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 19, 1:30-3:30 p.m. Nov. 20 and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 21

▪ Dayspring Presbyterian, 1045 U.S. 41, Forsyth: 4-6 p.m. Nov. 19, 4-6 p.m. Nov. 20 and 9-11 a.m. Nov. 21

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