|Operation Christmas Child now taking boxes|
|November 13, 2014 Jerry Purvis|
Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen - Chris and Carissa Smith, along with daughter Payslee, are part of the Operation Christmas Child program in the region to bring Christmas cheer to children around the world.
From Nov. 17 – 24, volunteers at First Baptist Church in Scottsbluff will be preparing packages to be sent around the world as part of Operation Christmas Child.
The church serves as a regional collection center for the packages, which are distributed by the worldwide ministry Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham.
“We’ve been involved with the program for the past 12 years,” said volunteer Chris Smith. “We collect for the Nebraska Panhandle and also reach into a portion of South Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado.”
Operation Christmas Child is the world’s largest outreach ministry for children. “We collect shoeboxes full of gifts for different ages of either boys or girls,” Smith said. “Those boxes go to different counties all over the world along with gospel material in their own language. They’re delivered by missionaries and pastors in those countries.”
The process is simple. Use an empty cardboard or plastic shoebox then decide whether the gift is for a boy or girl in age categories 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14. Fill the box with gifts that a child of that age would like. It could include hygiene items, school supplies or even clothes that can fit in a shoebox. Tape a note to the box top identifying the category. Place a rubber band around the box and drop off at the nearest collection point.
Area collection points include First Baptist Churches in Scottsbluff, Chadron and Valentine; Evangelical Free Churches in Sidney, Alliance and Kimball; the Community Bible Church in Harrison; and the First Church of God in Gordon.
“Last year, we shipped 3,719 shoeboxes,” Smith said. “This year our goal is 3,800.”
Volunteers will be in the annex building at First Baptist Church of Scottsbluff, at 3009 Ave. I, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. to accept boxes for shipment.
Smith said that in the local program’s first year, some ladies from the church collected about 12 boxes for shipment to Samaritan’s Purse in North Carolina. The next year, Smith and his future wife Carissa got involved and collected about 120 boxes.
“I delivered them in the back of my pickup to the collection center in Cheyenne,” he said. “They needed a collection center in western Nebraska, so they asked if we were interested. And it’s been growing ever since.”
For more information on the program, call Carissa Smith at (308) 631-9674, their website, firstbaptistscottsbluff.com, or the First Baptist Church of Scottsbluff page on Facebook.