WILLIAMSTON - Operation Christmas Child is right around the corner.

National collection week for Operation Christmas Child is nearing fast as it will be Nov. 15-22 this year.

This project is through the Samaritan’s Purse that partners with local churches worldwide to share the good news of Jesus Christ and make disciples of the nations. It’s mission is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to the children that are in need around the world.

What is the Operation Christmas Child?

It is a shoe box that the Samaritan’s Purse collects that is filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items for the children around the world.

The Operation Christmas Child Project all begins with children or seniors who pack the shoebox gifts each year.

The local churches then collect the boxes from their communities. Local churches serve as a drop off location for the shoeboxes. Then it is time to ship the boxes to the children.

For this to take place thousands of volunteers serve annually to inspect and prepare the shoeboxes for internal shipping. While this is taking place the workers will stop every hour for a few minutes to pray for the children that are going to receive these boxes.

It is not to late to pack a shoebox or several shoeboxes for a child to make their day and have it ready for drop off.

Shoeboxes can be dropped off at several different locations in and around surrounding counties. Drop off locations will be opening up on Nov. 15 – 22 this year to accept the packed shoeboxes.

“In the midst of the pandemic, children around the world need to know that God loves them and there is hope,” said Franklin Graham, President of Samaritan’s Purse. “A simple shoebox gift opens the door to share about the true hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ.”

When is comes to the distribution of the boxes worldwide in more than 100 countries, volunteer National Leadership Teams train pastors and community leaders who want to share the message of the Gospel and bless the children. The leaders learn how to host child-friendly outreach events, and how to implement the Greatest Journey follow-up discipleship program.

Pastors around the world will host outreach events in places where the people may not know Christ and invite them to follow him. Other churches will use the boxes as resources of outreach in orphanages and other at risk areas.

As a result of what they learn the boys and girls grow in Christ and share with their friends and family.

But it all has to start with the community packing the shoeboxes. One now may ask well how can the shoebox be packed?

Start with an average size cardboard or plastic shoebox, visit the Samaritan’s Purse label options page at www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/label-options to find out which label will best fit, fill the boxes with a medium to large item along with the other products, pray over the box, donate for shipping cost, and lastly drop the shoebox off at a drop off location.

Some items that are recommended for the medium to large items are a stuffed animal, soccer ball with pump or a clothing outfit. Some personal care items that are recommended for the age groups are combs, toothbrushes, wash cloths, reusable plastic containers, blankets, compact mirrors, flashlights, stick deodorant and nail clippers and files. School Supply items that are recommended are pencils, crayons, markers, notebooks, pens and glue sticks. Toys that are recommended are kickballs, foam balls, kites, slinky, yo-yos and plastic toys and toy figures. Do not forget to leave a personal note and a picture in the shoebox for the child that may receive the box.

In order to see more recommended items in the different categories view the Samaritan’s Purse website at https://samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/what-goes-in-my-shoebox-suggestions/. If a person would like they can also go on the Samaritan’s Purse website and build a shoebox online.

There are several different local drop off locations. There is a drop off location in Williamston at the Williamston Memorial Baptist Church, 109 West Church St. Shoeboxes can be dropped off there starting form 9 a.m – noon on Mon. Nov. 15, 3 – 5 p.m. Tue. Nov. 16, 10 a.m. — noon Wed. Nov. 17, 3 – 5 p.m. Thurs. Nov. 18, 2 – 4 p.m. Nov. 20 & 21 and 9 – 11 a.m. Mon. Nov. 22.

The drop off location in Bertie County is at Ross Baptist Church, 1020 Bull Hill Road Windsor. Shoeboxes can be dropped off there from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. from Nov. 15-19, 11 a.m. — 1 p.m. Sat. Nov. 20, 1 – 4 p.m. Sun. Nov. 21 and 7 – 9 a.m. Mon. Nov. 22.

First Baptist Church in Ahoskie, 312 Main St. West, is also a shoebox drop off location. There drop off times 4 – 6:30 p.m. Mon. Nov. 15, 9 a.m. — noon Tue. Nov. 16, 4 – 6:30 p.m. Wed. Nov. 17, 9 a.m. — noon Nov. 18 & 19, 10 a.m. — noon Nov. 20, 4 – 7:30 p.m. Sun. Nov. 21 and 5 – 7 a.m. Nov. 22.

Open Door Church Edenton, 1255 Haughton Rd, is also a drop off location. There drop off times will be from 4 – 6 p.m. Nov. 15 & 16, 4 – 8 p.m. Wed. Nov. 17, 4 – 6 p.m Nov. 18 & 19, 3 – 5 p.m. Sat. Nov. 20, 3 – 6 p.m. Sun. Nov. 21 and 8:30 – 10:30 a.m. Mon. Nov. 22.

So it is no to late to go out grab the supplies needed and sit down and pack one or more shoeboxes for these children for Christmas.

History of Operation Christmas Child

In the summer of 1993 Franklin Graham, Samaritan’s Purse president received a call from a man in England asking if he would be willing to fill shoeboxes with gifts for children in war-torn Bosnia. Franklin agreed, but figured Christmas was months away. He then forgot about his promise until he received a call back around Thanksgiving asking about the gifts.

Franklin asked his friends, the late Pastor Ross Rhoads of Calvary Church of Charlotte to see if he could help with the need. On a Sunday shortly afterward, Pastor Rhoads demonstrated for his congregation how to fill a shoebox with simple gifts and encouraged them to include a letter to a child as well. Within weeks, the church had 11,000 shoeboxes lining their hallways.

Due to their generosity and additional gifts from Canada, Samaritan’s Purse sent 28,000 shoebox gifts to children in the Balkans that Christmas. Through these gifts, we communicated to children and their families what the angel said to the shepherds about Jesus’ birth.

Every year since, Samaritan’s Purse has collected shoebox gifts filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items for children around the world. Since 1993, more than 188 million children in more than 170 countries and territories have received and Operation Christmas Child shoebox. The project delivers not only the joy of what, for many kids, is their first gift ever, but also gives them a tangible expression of God’s love.

Tens of thousands of volunteers from local churches around the world partner with the Samaritan’s Purse to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ at festive outreach evens where children are surprised with these shoebox gifts.

If anyone is interested in finding out how they may be able to get involved it can be found on the Samaritan’s Purse website at https://samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/volunteer-year-round/.

Brandice Hoggard can be reached via email at bhoggard@ncweeklies.com.

Thadd White is Group Editor of the Bertie Ledger-Advance, Chowan Herald, Perquimans Weekly, The Enterprise & Eastern North Carolina Living. He can be reached via email at twhite@ncweeklies.com.