Christmas presents poured into Shirley Hills Baptist Church in Warner Robins by the thousands the past week — only to be sent off again to children around the world.
Shirley Hills is this year’s Middle Georgia-wide central drop-off location for Operation Christmas Child, the annual Christmas drive of Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization.
According to Tina DaSilva, a member at Shirley Hills and volunteer team leader for the central drop off, that means individual boxes filled by participants with small gift items for girls and boys have been collected at churches and official Heart of Georgia team drop-off sites and brought to the church for transport to Atlanta for worldwide distribution.
“Shirley Hills has been involved with Operation Christmas Child and filling shoe boxes for over a dozen years,” DaSilva said. “We’ve served as a drop-off point for six years and this year we’re also the central drop-off point that ships boxes from other drop-offs to Atlanta.”
When interviewed, DaSilva didn’t have a final count of gift boxes but said the Heart of Georgia team’s goal was 25,000.
She said Shirley Hills members had contributed almost 400 gift boxes themselves. She also said volunteers from the church and the wider community manned the central drop off point in four-person shifts but several dozen helped load cartons filled with the small boxes onto Atlanta-bound trucks.
She said such help came from many directions including youth groups and a team of Perry High School honor society students.
DaSilva said other team drop-off locations bringing Operation Christmas Child boxes to Shirley Hills were Americus, Forsyth, Gray, Milledgeville, Irwington and Macon.
“The reason behind all this is the hope we can help brighten a child’s life,” DaSilva said. “We pray over every box that comes in that it gets to just the right child without a problem. There are so many stories of what the box or a particular gift has meant to a child, many miraculous stories. And of course each box carries a gospel message and each child is invited to take part in a 12-week course about Jesus called “The Greatest Journey.” God has blessed us so here in the U.S. and in Middle Georgia, it really is a gift to us to be able to share with others.”
Though collections are over for 2017, DaSilva said more information is available at www.samaritanspurse.organd a box can still be contributed “virtually” online at www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/buildonline.
Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.