Twenty years ago, Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, and a number of his friends sent several boxes of toys to Bosnian children for Christmas. Thus began a project which is now known as Operation Christmas Child. Since its beginning, Operation Christmas Child has sent several billion boxes to children over all over the world.
Sun Lakes Baptist Church members are primarily retirees and snowbirds/rainbirds, so five years ago when the Church started its Operation Christmas Child project, they figured that if they were able to send 20 or 25 boxes the first year, their project would be a success. Helen Maxwell who heads the project said, “We collected and sent 42 boxes! Each year since, our collection has grown with our highest number last year of 238.”
Operation Christmas Child is an outgrowth of Samaritan’s Purse – a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the church worldwide to promote the Gospel.
Each year, millions of shoeboxes are collected during National Collection Week, but before these precious gifts can bring hope and joy to a child, each one has to be carefully inspected and made ready for overseas shipment by volunteers.
Next, they travel by plane, truck or ship to more than 100 countries and territories where local churches distribute the boxes to children in need. As they are given out, the Gospel is shared through an evangelistic booklet called The Greatest Gift, available in 65 languages.
As teams work in crisis areas of the world, people often ask, “Why did you come?” The answer is always the same, “Our ministry is all about Jesus — first, last and always. As the Apostle Paul said,‘For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.’”
“We are excited by our small part in Operation Christmas Child,” Maxwell said. “It’s wonderful to think that somewhere in the world, children who otherwise would receive nothing for Christmas will open presents that we collected just for them.”