DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — It’s a small red shoebox. Inside are a few toys, some toiletries, school supplies and a sweet treat or two. If most American children found it under the Christmas tree they might brush past it on the way to a larger present.
But for thousands of children across the globe, this humble shoebox generates laughter, smiles and a much larger “gift.”
“The Gospel is shared with each and every child who receives one of these gift boxes,” said Karrie Byrd, a member of First Baptist Church of Marble Falls and a local Operation Christmas Child coordinator. “So the box is a gift, but it also has the potential to introduce the child to the greatest gift of all: Jesus.”
Operation Christmas Child is a global mission outreach project by Samaritan’s Purse. During the year, especially as the Christmas season approaches, churches and organizations across the country gather gifts, school supplies and donations to pack the Christmas shoeboxes. Then, volunteers transport the boxes to local drop-off spots — including First Baptist Church of Marble Falls — from Nov. 17-23. From there, the boxes go to a regional distribution center and then onto a larger center, but the ultimate goal is placing each one in the hands of a child who might never have heard of Jesus or experienced Christmas.
Byrd said the organization provides the shoeboxes only in areas where Christian missionaries are present so they can continue to share the Gospel with the children. One of the most recent additions to Operation Christmas Child is “The Greatest Journey.”
“It’s a 12-week Bible study that children who are interested in learning more about Jesus can attend and really get a good introduction to the Gospel and Jesus,” Byrd said.
People can still get involved by picking up a shoebox (Byrd recommends using the Operation Christmas Child-supplied box), gathering items and packing the box. Many Highland Lakes churches have boxes available, but if not, people can contact Byrd through First Baptist Church of Marble Falls at (830) 693-4381 or (830) 613-9655.
People also may make donations or volunteer to help pack boxes. According to Samaritan’s Purse, since starting Operation Christmas Child in 1993, the ministry has delivered more than 113 million shoeboxes to children in more than 150 countries. The goal this year is to collect and deliver 10 million shoeboxes, and it all starts one red shoebox at a time at local churches such as here in the Highland Lakes.
Go to www.samaritanspurse.org for more on Operation Christmas Child and “The Greatest Journey.”