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November 9, 2010 > Shoe boxes bring hope and change lives

Shoe boxes bring hope and change lives

By Julie Grabowski
Photos By courtesy of Samaritan's Purse

Can you imagine never having received a Christmas gift? Never experiencing an expression of love from another or the excitement and joy of the holiday season? Such is the sad reality for millions of children around the world, living in the shadow of poverty, war, disease, famine, and natural disasters.

But Samaritan's Purse is joyfully at work, bringing light and hope each Christmas to those in need. An international relief and evangelism organization, Samaritan's Purse runs Operation Christmas Child (OCC), whose mission is "To demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ."

This tangible way is through a simple shoe box, filled with toys, candy, school supplies, and hygiene items. Since 1993 Samaritan's Purse has distributed shoe boxes to over 130 countries and 69 million children. Last year eight million children received shoe boxes.

Several local churches participate in this outreach, including Bridges Community Church, Resonate Church, and Centerville Presbyterian. Bridges Community Church in Fremont has been a part of OCC for the past six years. Children's Ministry Director Pattie Larsen says they got involved after a parent's suggestion. "It's really about our kids being able to relate to kids in other countries and understanding how they live." Pictures of excited kids receiving shoe boxes make a powerful impact upon children here who have so much, and about 75 percent of preschool through sixth graders participated last year. "It's a simple way for our kids to give to other kids," Larsen says. "It shows that kids can do something, they can get involved too."

"My family has been participating in OCC since it was first introduced and promoted at Bridges," says Nancy Charlet, who is coordinating the shoe box collection this year. "We've donated shoe boxes as a fun family project during the holiday season as a small way to learn about giving to others, especially those who are less fortunate. My girls look forward to picking out cute little toys and stuffed animals to include in the shoe boxes while I pick up the practical items. We pack the boxes together with love and prayers to show the love of Jesus to children around the world who may not know Him."

Bridges collected 767 shoe boxes last year from individual families and groups, receiving 422 boxes from the Cantonese Church alone. The Women's Deaf Ministry and young adult group were also heavy participators. "I remember one family brought in 15 shoe boxes from members of their own family," says new Resonate Church coordinator Karen Munekawa. "Another person had a packing party at her home and invited her co-workers to pack shoe boxes in her garage."

Munekawa got involved with OCC after a missions trip to Vietnam. "I met some people who were on the receiving end, and gratefully expressed how much their children in the village appreciated the gifts in the shoe boxes. Also I have a desire to help people help others. OCC is a way we can come together as a community to help others in need."

All across the country shoe boxes are packed and dropped off at local collection centers, then delivered to one of six Processing Centers. The Orange County Processing Center in California receives all boxes on the West Coast. They are then shipped to various countries and delivered into the hands of thrilled children.

"Volunteering in the Processing Center was a great experience," says Munekawa. "Millions of shoe boxes are delivered to the Processing Center, a huge warehouse, where volunteers come from all over to inspect and prepare the boxes to be shipped overseas. We would periodically stop and pray over the boxes that it will touch the hearts of the children receiving them. It was especially fun to do this with some of my family and friends."

Any group or individual can participate in this community-wide project. Wrap a standard sized shoe box (lid separately), decide whether your gift will be for a boy or girl and choose an age category: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. Print a label from www.samaritanspurse.org and mark your choices, then tape to the lid of your box. Now the fun part - fill your box with things like cars, balls, stuffed animals, jump ropes, and yo-yos; pens and pencils, pencil sharpeners, crayons, markers, and solar calculators; soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, brush, comb, and hairclips; hard candy, gum, and mints.

Visit the website for more ideas and packing instructions. A $7 donation is requested for each box to help cover shipping and other expenses. You can also go online to make your donation, which allows you to be notified of where your shoe box has gone. Put a rubber band around each closed box and drop off at your nearest collection center.

"What I love about OCC is that each shoe box comes with a prayer of hope and love to the child receiving it. It's not about the toys or the school supplies in the shoe box but about the eternal gift of salvation from Jesus Christ available freely to all," says Charlet.

Take part in this wonderful holiday outreach whose impact will last far beyond a day. A simple gift can transform a life, bringing joy, hope, and the promise of a new future.

For more information on Samaritan's Purse or Operation Christmas Child call (828) 262-1980 or visit www.samaritanspurse.org.

Collection sites and dates:
Bridges Community Church
Sunday, November 14 and 21
9 a.m. - Noon
505 Driscoll Rd., Fremont
(510) 651-2030
www.bridgescc.org

Resonate Church
Sunday, November 21
9 a.m. - Noon
Forest Park Elementary School
34400 Maybird Circle, Fremont
Karen Munekawa, kmunekawa@gmail.com

Centerville Presbyterian Church
Sunday, November 14
9 a.m. - Noon
Wednesday, November 17
11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Thursday, November 18
9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Sunday, November 21
9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
4360 Central Ave., Fremont
Mary Hogle, marylhogle@yahoo.com

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