Religion

Operation Christmas Child: Volunteers pack gifts for children worldwide

Peggy Smith is a long-time Operation Christmas Child volunteer and team leader at Macon-Bibb County’s drop-off location at Pine Forest Baptist Church, 1848 Tucker Road.
Peggy Smith is a long-time Operation Christmas Child volunteer and team leader at Macon-Bibb County’s drop-off location at Pine Forest Baptist Church, 1848 Tucker Road. Special to The Telegraph

Matt Riggins spent his first Saturday morning in November packing Christmas presents and writing cards to children he’ll likely never meet.

Riggins was among 70-plus people at Pine Forest Baptist Church on Tucker Road having what they called a “packing party.” Church members bought and donated small gift items throughout the year to fill shoeboxes they packed to send to children across the globe as part of Samaritan Purse’s annual Operation Christmas Child program.

Riggins, who works for Homestead Hospice, said a personal note isn’t required but he and many others like making their gifts all the more personal.

“I just want to be sure the child that gets it knows someone really is thinking about them,” he said. “I write sort of a universal message and let them know we care and that God loves them very much.”

2-OpChrChild crds
Matt Riggins writes a personal note to a child to be placed in an Operation Christmas Child gift box. Michael W. Pannell Special to The Telegraph

The Pine Forest group spent more than four hours writing cards, making boxes and filling them from the amassed supply of small toys, hygiene items, clothing items, school supplies and other treats. They stacked them against the wall to await being sent wherever in the world they may end up.

Peggy Smith, Operation Christmas Child coordinator at the church, said 842 gift boxes were filled.

In addition to Pine Forest’s work in preparing and sending Christmas gifts to children, the church also serves as the drop-off point for boxes prepared by other churches and individuals in the Macon-Bibb County area. Smith is team leader for the drop-off point as well. She said based on last year’s number and “hoping for more,” she anticipates 11,000-plus gift boxes will be collected and sent to children this year.

“Drop-off week is coming up next week, Nov. 13-20,” Smith said. “Churches and individuals will gather their boxes and bring them to us during our collection hours and then we’ll take them to the area’s central collection point at Shirley Hills Baptist Church in Warner Robins. From there they go to a sorting facility in Atlanta and are shipped throughout the world.”

7-OpChrChild box wall
Operation Christmas Child gift boxes begin to stack up along a wall at Pine Forest Baptist Church. Michael W. Pannell Special to The Telegraph

Smith said Pine Forest has been involved with Operation Christmas Child for at least 15 years and a drop-off point for four. She said it first served alongside another Macon church and this year is the only drop-off location.

“I guess my husband Randy and I and our family have been packing Operation Christmas Child boxes for 20 years,” she said. “It’s a ministry the Lord laid on my heart. I don’t see myself called to the mission field but this way I can be a missionary to children all over. I’ve heard so many stories of what a difference something simple that we take for granted, like a bath cloth or a pencil and school supplies, can mean to a child. And we always pack what we call a ‘wow’ item like a stuffed animal or doll or little car. Every kid deserves a stuffed animal, right? We pray it’s something that will meet a need and bring joy to their lives.”

3-OpChrChild box
A box packed during a “packing party” at Pine Forest Baptist Church contains a variety of items, including school supplies and a “wow” gift: a small stuffed bunny. Michael W. Pannell Special to The Telegraph

And Smith said she’s glad the project works to meet deeper needs.

“I know through Samaritan’s Purse each child will have the opportunity to hear the gospel and learn about Jesus and God’s love for them,” she said. “There’s a gospel message in each box and the boxes are given out by churches and ministries near them. There’s an opportunity for them to attend a discipleship course called ‘The Greatest Journey.’ You can go to Samaritan’s Purse’s website and watch wonderful videos of the children and what God is doing. My prayer is always that through what we do a seed can be planted in a child’s heart to know Jesus just like it was planted in my heart when I was a child by my parents.”

Smith said the Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child website at www.samaritanspurse.org has a wealth of information about the ministry as well as how to prepare a box, what to pack and not pack and even how boxes can be tracked to their country destination.

She said boxes can even be put together, paid for and then prepared by Operation Christmas Child to send to a child.

According to Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization, since 1993 Operation Christmas Child volunteers have packed more than 135 million gift boxes that have been delivered to children in more than 150 countries and territories.

“I just wish I could express what a blessing it is to personally do this each year and know a child is receiving a box from us,” Smith said. “The overall effort here takes a lot of work but it’s worth it. I have an understanding husband who loves it as much as I do. In fact, instead of gifts to ourselves at Christmas this is what we do. The Lord has done so much for us it’s just nice to be able to give back to others in his name.”

Smith said there’s still time to prepare a box and get it to one of Middle Georgia’s many drop-off points. She said real shoeboxes may be used or Operation Christmas Child boxes may still be available at some drop-off locations.

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

Middle Georgia Operation Christmas Child dropoff locations:

Macon — Pine Forest Baptist Church

1848 Tucker Road

Mon, Nov. 13: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Tue, Nov. 14: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Wed, Nov. 15: 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

Thu, Nov. 16: 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 17: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 18: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Sun, Nov. 19: 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 20: 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

Warner Robins — Shirley Hills Baptist Church

615 Corder Road

Mon, Nov. 13: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Tue, Nov. 14: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Wed, Nov. 15: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Thu, Nov. 16: 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

Thu, Nov. 16: 4f p.m.-7 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 17: 4 p.m.-7 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 18: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Sun, Nov. 19: 1:30 p.m. 3:30 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 20: 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Gray — Greenwood Baptist Church

3400 Gray Highway

Mon, Nov. 13: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Tue, Nov. 14: 4 p.m.-7 p.m.

Wed, Nov. 15: 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Thu, Nov. 16: 2 p.m.-6 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 17: 2 p.m.-6 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 18: 12 p.m.-6 p.m.

Sun, Nov. 19: 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 20: 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

Rochelle — First Baptist Church

701 Gordon Street

Rochelle, GA 31079-2315

Mon, Nov. 13: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Tue, Nov. 14: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Wed, Nov. 15: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Thu, Nov. 16: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 17: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 18: 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

Sun, Nov. 19: 2 p.m.-5 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 20: 9 a.m.-11 a.m.

Forsyth — Dayspring Presbyterian Church

1045 Hwy. 41 S

Mon, Nov. 13: 9 a.m.-11 a.m.

Tue, Nov. 14: 4 p.m.-6 p.m.

Wed, Nov. 15: 4 p.m.-6 p.m.

Thu, Nov. 16: 4 p.m.-6 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 17: 4 p.m.-6 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 18: 9 a.m.-11 a.m.

Sun, Nov. 19: 4 p.m.-6 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 20: 9 a.m.-11 a.m.

Cochran — Lakeview Baptist Church

203 Lakeview Church Road

Mon, Nov. 13: 6 p.m.-8 p.m.

Tue, Nov. 14: 6 p.m.-8 p.m.

Wed, Nov. 15: 5 p.m.-7 p.m.

Thu, Nov. 16: 6 p.m.-8 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 17: 4 p.m.-6 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 18: 2 p.m.-5 p.m.

Sun, Nov. 19: 3 p.m.-5 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 20: 8 a,m.-10 a.m.

Eastman — First Baptist Church

5107 Oak Street

Mon, Nov. 13: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Tue, Nov. 14: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Wed, Nov. 15: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Thu, Nov. 16: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 17: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 18: 12 p.m.-4 p.m.

Sun, Nov. 19: 2 p.m.-8 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 20: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Milledgeville — Washington Baptist Association

615 Ga. Hwy. 24 E

Mon, Nov. 13: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Tue, Nov. 14: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Wed, Nov. 15: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Thu, Nov. 16: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 17: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 18: 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

Sun, Nov. 19: 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 20: 8 a.m.-10 a.m.

Sandersville — White Oak Church at Jet Food Stores

1106 S Harris Street

Mon, Nov. 13: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Tue, Nov. 14: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Wed, Nov. 15: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Thu, Nov. 16: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 17: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 18: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Sun, Nov. 19: 12 p.m.-3 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 20: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

  Comments