Operation Christmas Child

October 2022 | Written by Steve Moberg

     “I wanted to teach children about giving,” says Marlene Weatherford as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of her introducing Operation Christmas Child at Gashland.  In 2002, Marlene was teaching a Sunday School class for 3-year-olds.  She hoped her students would see the joy of giving as they bought items to fill a shoe-box sized box as a Christmas present for another child somewhere in the world.  They filled about 45 boxes that first year, so the next year the program was expanded to all Sunday School classes and then in 2004 it was introduced to the whole congregation.  Gashland members have filled as many as 287 boxes in a single year, which happened in 2006.

     For this year’s operation, Marlene will have empty boxes available for you to pick up throughout October at both worship services, and she asks that you turn those back in by November 6.  Suggested items to pack in a box include personal care items like toothbrushes (sorry, no toothpaste!), washcloths, combs and hairbrushes; school supplies; accessories like socks, sunglasses, jewelry and watches, and flashlights (with extra batteries); and small toys, like cars, jump ropes, yo-yos and toys that light up and make noise (again, extra batteries are helpful)!  If you really want to include a “wow” item, think about a deflated soccer ball with an air pump, doll, stuffed animal or shoes.  In addition to toothpaste, items to NOT include in the boxes are candy, gum, used or damaged items, scary or war-related items, seeds, food, liquids or lotions, medications or vitamins, breakable items or glass containers, and aerosol cans.

     Marlene recommends you take your kids shopping with you and have them pick out items they think another child their age would appreciate and enjoy.  As you fill your box, you will be asked to designate whether the gifts are for a boy or a girl and the age range for which they are best suited (2-4, 5-9, or 10-14 years).  There is a $10 charge to get each box shipped to a child.  If you are able, you can include the $10 with your box in either cash or check.  Others who wish to help with the shipping costs can also donate – just make out a check to GEPC with “Operation Christmas Child” on the memo line, and include it in the offering.

     Boxes should be returned unsealed, because after they leave Kansas City they will go to a processing center in Denver where a pamphlet (in the language of the recipient) is inserted to teach them about Jesus Christ and God’s love.  The boxes are delivered to the children by local churches, with the hope of connecting with the child and their family for ongoing spiritual enrichment.

     Operation Christmas Child was started in 1993 as a project of Samaritan’s Purse, the organization headed by Franklin Graham, which works in over 100 countries throughout the world to provide aid to victims of war, disease, disaster, poverty and famine.  575,000 volunteers around the world (270,000 of them in the US) are involved in collecting, shipping, and distributing the shoebox gifts which come from the US and ten other countries.  More than 10.5 million gifts were collected last year (9.1 million from the US), with a goal of 11 million for this year.  Since its start, Operation Christmas Child has delivered over 198 million shoebox gifts to children in more than 170 countries and territories.  So this year’s collection should push them well over 200 million shoeboxes!