Operation Christmas Child helps brings Gospel to children around the world
By CAROL SMITH
I have been packing Operation Christmas Child (OCC) shoeboxes with my children since the mid 1990s. It’s a great project for children -- very concrete – an opportunity for them to share Christ’s love with children of approximately their same age.
This year, I joined the Operation Christmas Child team as a year-round volunteer, and was amazed to discover that United Methodists of the North Georgia Conference pack more than 10,000 shoe boxes, as part of the 8.6 million shoe boxes collected world-wide, all to share God’s love.
Often we are aware of our connectedness to one another, through our relationships and affiliations, but sometimes we can be unaware of how connected we really are. As we pray for these children in Third World countries, do they know that we are connecting to them? Or, closer to home, I wonder if the hundreds of participating United Methodist churches in the North Georgia Conference know that they are united in their effort to bring the Gospel to millions of children around the world as they pack shoeboxes gifts for Operation Christmas Child, which then invites children to participate in a 12-week discipleship program.
In Romans 15:6, Paul expresses his desire for the Romans to unite their work, “ . . . for with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And yet, as we get busy with our individual work, in our individual churches and in our individual communities, it’s easy to lose site of the impact we have, as the Body of Christ, united in our common goal.
As Atlanta Area Coordinator of OCC, I love hearing stories not only of how lives are being changed around the world by the simple gift of a shoebox, but also of how churches and individuals are using Operation Christmas Child to build relationships and share the Gospel here as well.
Deone Perdue, Director of Children’s Ministry at Mount Pisgah UMC, who partners with Operation Christmas Child as a drop-off center for the Johns Creek area, says “each year we celebrate Operation Christmas Child Dedication Sunday and place all the boxes in the front of the church. It’s such a great visual -- to see all the community coming together to help so many. Not only does Mount Pisgah have a great opportunity to reach out to children around the world, but also to the Johns Creek community, letting the light of Christ shine to so many.”
Each year Donna Blanton, OCC Project Leader for Norcross UMC, enjoys the way in which groups within her church connect with each other as they pack boxes together. “I have very much enjoyed getting to know more of the ‘seniors’ in our congregation,” says Donna. “I find them very inspiring.” And, the God’s Green Acres Sunday School class at Norcross UMC uses OCC to reach out to their local community by hosting packing parties in individual homes and inviting neighbors to join them.
So far this year, 11 United Methodist Churches within the North Georgia Conference will partner with Operation Christmas Child as drop off locations for their communities, including Bethel UMC, Bowdon First UMC, Canton First UMC, Douglasville First UMC, Greenville UMC, Loganville First UMC, Mount Pisgah UMC, Mt. Bethel UMC, Pleasant Grove UMC, Sugar Hill UMC and Summerville UMC. Hundreds more will be packing shoeboxes with their congregations and their communities.
This collective effort allows us to share the Gospel with thousands and thousands of children in desperate situations around our globe. We pray that the good news of Jesus Christ will be received by these children in such a way that they begin sharing Christ with their family and friends.
For more information and free resources for your church or small group, visit www.samaritanspurse.org/occ. Or call the Southeast Regional Office at 770-777-9342.