By CLINT FOSTER
For the 17th year, Palo Pinto County residents will have the opportunity to join with millions of people worldwide in filling empty shoeboxes with toys, school supplies and hygiene items for 9.8 million impoverished, international children.
Operation Christmas Child – which is celebrating its 20th anniversary – will hold its National Collection week Nov. 18 through 25, when they will receive, process and prepare packed boxes to be delivered to children in more than 100 countries by either trains, planes, boats, bikes, elephants or even dog sleds. According to a press release, the Christian ministry has collected more than 100 million shoebox gifts for needy children since 1993, using the gifts as a way to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ and evangelize the world.
With each shoebox full of gifts, each child also receives a book with a 12 week course to lead them to Christ. Many places that have mission worker gather classes full of the children and use the book as course material with great results.
“Through simple gifts and a message of hope, children learn they are loved and not forgotten,” the release said. “For many of these children, the shoebox gift will be the first gift they have ever received.”
Local givers can drop off their shoeboxes at First Baptist Church in Mineral Wells at 100 SW 4th Avenue. The church will be open to receive the donations from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 18 through 21, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 22, 10 a.m. to noon on Nov. 23, noon to 1 p.m. on Nov. 24 and 8 to 10 a.m. on Nov. 25. Collection sites are also located in Weatherford, Aledo, Eastland, Granbury, Springtown, Stephenville and Fort Worth.
FBC Senior Adult Director Ann Fidler is the local coordinator for Operation Christmas Child. She said Operation Christmas Child gives local people a unique mission opportunity that can effect an entire family overseas without even leaving town.
“It gives individual people an opportunity to touch those that have nothing,” she said of the ministry. “Not only do [the children] receive the gift of encouragement, but they can receive the gift of salvation.”
Any one can now build a box at any time with Operation Christmas Child’s year-round, online giving tool. On the project’s website, samaritanspurse.org, participants can select a child’s age and gender and shop through an online selection of gifts, virtually packing an empty shoebox and writing a note of encouragement. The box will then be packed by volunteers and shipped to the child on behalf of the donor.
Participants can now also follow their shoeboxes to their destination countries and into the hands of their children with tracking technology.
Each shoebox gift can be registered with an online donation form for this purpose.
For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call 1-800-567-8580 or visit samaritanspurse.org.