Locals begin packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child
Operation Christmas Child is a program of Samaritan’s Purse that sends gift packages to children in 130 countries. Calvary Chapel Vail Valley and Trinity Church in Edwards are helping coordinate local efforts. Go to trinityvail.com, ccvv.org, or samaritanspurse.org.
Drop off is Nov. 16-22 at Calvary Chapel Vail Valley in Edwards. It’s located at The Vail Academy and Vail Christian High School, on Highway 6 in Edwards.
EAGLE COUNTY — Forget department store displays, you know it’s the Christmas season when you’re packing a shoebox to send on an international adventure.
Operation Christmas Child is in full swing in the valley and across the nation.
If you can pack a shoebox with toys and supplies, and will, then you have what it takes to help an international missions effort.
Think locally, give globally
Churches, schools and other organizations collect shoebox-sized packages of joy, including toys, games and supplies, which can be the same thing as joy if you’re a kid for whom Christmas doesn’t seem to work out.
Last year, 1,372 boxes were collected around the region.
Almost every church in the valley is part of it. Civic organizations are on board, Scout troops … the list goes on and on. Some schools are packing boxes.
Locally, Trinity Church and Calvary Chapel Vail Valley are helping coordinate the effort.
“It’s a great way to get kids thinking about missions and the world,” said Tommy Schneider, Calvary Chapel pastor.
“We’ve done Operation Christmas Child for many, many years,” said Nikki Kohrmann, pastor of children ministries with Trinity Church.
Load your shoebox with small toys, school supplies, toiletries, clothing — anything you can stuff into it.
There’s a list of things to pack, and things you shouldn’t, on the website, samaritanspurse.org.
“If you’re new to this, it’s probably a good idea to look at that list,” Kohrmann said.
How it started
In 1990, Welsh couple Dave and Jill Cooke began Operation Christmas Child after witnessing the harsh conditions faced by children living in overcrowded Romanian orphanages. In less than three months, the Cookes had collected enough items to send a convoy of nine trucks carrying $1 million in aid supplies and thousands of gift-packed shoeboxes to those Romanian children.
In 1993, the Wales-based Operation Christmas Child partnered with international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son. That gave them access to Samaritan’s Purse’s 20 years of expertise in relief work and global reach. Samaritan’s Purse works in more than 100 countries providing aid to victims of war, natural disaster, famine, disease and poverty.
Samaritan’s Purse was the first on the ground in Haiti following the massive earthquakes, and is now working with Syrian refuges. Among other things, they meet them on the coast of Greece, make sure they have clothes and shoes, give them food and water and send them on their way.
“They put their money where their heart is,” Schneider said.
In the United States, Operation Christmas Child began in 1993 with 28,000 shoebox gifts. Since then, these kids helping kids have collected and hand delivered more than 80 million shoebox gifts to children in more than 130 countries.
They work with local churches all around the world. People deliver the boxes to villages in all sorts of places, and while they’re there they meet all kinds of other humanitarian needs.
“Every time you walk the aisles of a store you think about the kids. Are they warm? Are they cold? Do they have what they need to survive? It feels like Christmas when I start doing that,” Schneider said.
Simple and beautiful
The shoeboxes are so simple, as great ideas often are. The idea was to get people thinking of others.
Some families write letters to the recipient and volunteers say a prayer over each box.
Last year, more than 9 million children received Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in more than 130 countries on six continents. They’re anticipating more this year. Colorado alone is expected to generate 700,000 boxes.
Those millions of boxes will be hand delivered to children around the world using whatever means necessary — sea containers, trucks, trains, airplanes, helicopters, boats, elephants and even dog sleds.
80 million boxes, 80 million stories
There was the boy who received a box and years later when he was in the U.S. he tracked down the people who gave it, so he could thank them. He and the girl in the family ended up married.
Alex Nsengimana survived the genocide in Rwanda by running and running and running.
Alex’s is a long story of miraculous escapes from the slaughter, long journeys and forgiveness.
His entire family was killed and eventually he ended up in the U.S. and was adopted by a Minnesota family. He later returned to his village as part of an Operation Christmas Child expedition. While he was there, he went to a prison where the man who’d murdered his family was being held. Alex told the man that God had enabled him to forgive him.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.