BY DAVID FISHER
WEAKLEY COUNTY (October 26) — This is the 28th year the congregation at Bible Union Missionary Baptist Church 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 project “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 shoeboxes are 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 the shoeboxes are either for a boy or girl ages 2-4, 5-9, and 10-14.
When packing a shoebox, some suggested items are: washcloth and soap (leave in wrapper), toothbrush, school supplies (notebooks, pens and pencils, erasers and pencil trimmers), combs and brushes, flashlights, solar calculators, clothing including tee-shirts, shorts, socks, flip-flops, and hats; and ‘Wow’ items, such as soccer ball and pump, jump ropes, stuffed animals, small nerf football, dolls, trucks, cars or crafts. ‘Wow’ is what the children say when they receive a special item like these and that’s why they are called ‘Wow’ items. The shoeboxes may also contain other fun toys including: dolls, cars, yo-yos, jump ropes, colors and coloring books. These are just a few to choose from and there are a lot of items kids would love to have.
However, some items are not allowed in shoeboxes, such as: glass or anything breakable, toothpaste, seeds, aerosol items, used or damaged items, scary or war related toys (toy knives, guns, military figures or camouflage items), drink mixes, candy, fruit roll ups, fruit snacks, gum, medication, vitamins, or lotions.
Wireman states each shoebox is packed with a Bible accompanied by a booklet titled, “The Greatest Journey,” which tells them about 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. At a graduation ceremony, they receive a certificate and a colorfully illustrated New Testament in their own language.
“If a child gets saved, sometimes the whole family and friends get saved,” Wireman added. “So we’re reaching the world through a shoebox.”
Participants can use a regular shoebox wrapped in Christmas paper or a plastic box with lid (the size of a shoebox). Those who prefer the convenience of online shopping have the option of browsing 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, then finish packing the virtual shoebox by adding a photo and personal note of encouragement.
A $9 gift donation in each box is suggested, which pays for collecting, transporting, processing, shipping the shoeboxes, training local churches, The Greatest Gift Gospel Booklets, and other Project Costs. Most importantly, pray over your shoeboxes.
To learn more about 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 banned.
Wireman notes, during National Collection Week (November 15–22), Samaritan’s Purse will collect the gift-filled shoeboxes at nearly 5,000 locations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Locally, 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.
She states volunteers at her church will participate in receiving and boxing up the shoeboxes this Christmas season. Shoeboxes may be dropped off at Bible Union Missionary Baptist Church from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. on November 15-20; 12-noon until 4:30 p.m. on November 21; and 7-9 a.m. on November 22.
“If you can’t come at these times please call and we will come whenever you need,” Wireman said. “Thanks so much for all your hard work packing shoeboxes that are spreading the gospel all over the world.”
For directions or more information, call Jo Ann Wireman at 731-819-3490.
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.
Wireman expressed her appreciation to Delores Brand, as well as Dot and Charles Ogg, for starting this ministry at Bible Union, which she says “has been such a blessing.” She notes, each year, Ogg drives the truck that pulls a trailer loaded with cartons filled with the shoeboxes to the central drop-off location in Troy. The cartons are then loaded onto semitrailers, 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. “If you are interested in volunteering, please let us know, we would love to have you. We also go to Atlanta Processing Center the first weekend in December and if you would like to go please call or send a text to Jo Ann Wireman at 731-819-3490.”
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.
Since 1993, more than 188 million children in over 170 countries and territories have received a shoebox gift. In 2020, nearly 9.1 million shoebox gifts were collected worldwide. This year, the national goal is to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach an additional 9.7 million children with the Gospel message.
Since 2009, 26.9 million shoebox recipients have participated in the Greatest Journey, with more than 18.7 million graduates and over 12.6 million decisions for Christ.
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.