BY DAVID FISHER
WEAKLEY COUNTY (November 4) — This is the 27th year the congregation of Bible Union Missionary Baptist Church in Martin has joined together to help make the Christmas season a bit brighter for less fortunate children around the world. They do so by supporting the Samaritan’s Purse, “Operation Christmas Child,” headed by Franklin Graham, which is the world’s largest Christmas project.
Shoeboxes filled with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items are delivered to children in need around the world to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way. For many of these children, the gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received.
This holiday season, the people of Weakley County and the surrounding area are called upon to demonstrate their generosity and concern for those less fortunate by donating to Operation Christmas Child, which benefits children around the world.
Jo Ann Wireman, who serves as Drop-off Team Leader for Operation Christmas Child at the Weakley County Collection Center located at Bible Union Missionary Baptist Church, states every shoebox is packed with a ‘WOW’ toy, like a soccer ball with pump or stuffed animal. The shoeboxes also contain other fun toys such as: dolls, cars, yo-yos, jump ropes, colors and coloring books; school supplies such as notebooks, pens and pencils, erasers and pencil trimmers; clothing including T-shirts, shorts, socks, flip-flops and hats; and personal hygiene items like toothbrushes, bars of soap and washcloths.
Wireman states each shoebox is packed with a Bible, accompanied by a booklet titled, “The Greatest Journey,” which tells the story of Jesus Christ. Both items are written in the child’s own language. She states the children also have the option of taking a 12-week discipleship training class taught by trained, local volunteers who teach them what it means to follow Jesus and share their faith with friends and family.
“There have been 23,296,955 children from 124 different countries enrolled in the training program since its inception,” Wireman said. “Additionally, 11,257,343 individuals have made decisions for Christ.
“If a child gets saved, sometimes the whole family and friends get saved,” Wireman added. “So we’re reaching the world through a shoebox.”
To learn how to pack a shoebox, go to samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/pack-a-shoe-box/ and follow the menu at the bottom of the page; or to learn what items are suggested for various age groups, go directly to the gift suggestions page at samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/what-goes-in-my-shoebox-suggestions/. This page also tells what items are prohibited.
Do not include candy; toothpaste; used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; seeds; chocolate or food; liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items, such as snow globes or glass containers; or aerosol cans.
Participants have the option of donating $9 per shoebox gift online through Follow Your Box and receive a tracking label to discover its destination. Those who prefer the convenience of online shopping can browse samaritanspurse.org/buildonline to select gifts matched to a child’s specific age and gender, then finish packing the virtual shoebox by adding a photo and personal note of encouragement.
In Weakley County, shoeboxes filled with Christmas gift items for the children are donated not only by the congregation at Bible Union, but also other churches, schools, organizations and individuals in the area, according to Wireman.
These gifts are brought to Bible Union Missionary Baptist Church, located at 2852 Bible Union Rd., Martin, which is the local collection point for boxes being transported to regional centers before they are shipped to children overseas. The gift items, which are already boxed, are counted and prayed over, before being shipped.
Wireman states she anticipates approximately 30 volunteers at her church will participate in receiving and boxing up the shoeboxes this Christmas season.
She notes, during National Collection Week (November 16-23, 2020), Samaritan’s Purse will collect the gift-filled shoeboxes at nearly 5,000 drop-off locations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Shoeboxes may be dropped off at Bible Union Missionary Baptist Church from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. November 16-21; 12-5 p.m. on November 22; and 7-9 a.m. on November 23.
Each year, Charles Ogg drives the truck that pulls a trailer, loaded with cartons filled with the shoeboxes to the central drop-off location in Troy, Tennessee. The cartons are then loaded onto semi trailers, which are transported to one of the eight processing centers nationwide. They are located in Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; Boone, North Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Denver, Colorado; and Fullerton, California. Gift boxes from the Weakley County area are usually transported to the processing center in Atlanta, Georgia.
“We go to the processing center every year to work, and Pastor Keith Sumner drives us,” Wireman said.
“To guard against catching and spreading the coronavirus, volunteers have PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies, including gloves, masks and hand sanitizer,” she added.
Volunteers check the contents of the shoeboxes to make sure they don’t contain anything not allowed. The shoeboxes are then sorted before being shipped overseas.
When asked what drives her and the other volunteers to do this every year, Wireman replied, “Knowing children all over the world will learn about Christ, and share it with their families and their communities, and they will receive Christ as their savior.”
Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 178 million shoebox gifts to children in more than 160 countries and territories such as Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda and Ukraine. This year, the national goal is 9.2 million shoeboxes, and the worldwide goal is 11 million.
Shoebox gifts are collected in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Spain, and New Zealand.
Nearly 575,000 volunteers worldwide — with more than 270,000 of those in the U.S. — are involved in collecting, shipping and distributing shoebox gifts. These gifts are delivered into the hands of children through local churches.
“We have over 100,000 volunteers that serve in the U.S. during collection week at the processing centers,” Mrs. Wireman said.
To spread the word, tag Operation Christmas Child on any social media posts related to the project. The public can also share their shoebox stories and photos by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org. their content may be used on national social media pages. Be sure to like, comment and share Operation Christmas Child posts.
For more information, visit: the website for Operation Christmas Child at https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child; their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/OCCshoeboxes/ ; or call Bible Union Church at 587-4571; or email Pastor Sumner at email@example.com.