Operation Christmas Child wrapped up Nov. 20 in West Plains, finishing out First Baptist Church’s 20th year as a drop-off location for shoebox gifts to be distributed to children around the world.
Operation Christmas Child’s parent organization, Samaritan’s Purse, recently recognized the church congregation for its service with a bronze statue depicting the story of the Good Samaritan (Look 10:37). The statue was presented to church members, volunteers and staff by Operation Christmas Child officials on behalf of Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham.
Since 1993, officials said, Samaritan's Purse has provided more than 200 million children in need with gift-filled shoeboxes. More than 30 million of these children have also enrolled in The Greatest Journey, the discipleship program designed especially for shoebox recipients, added officials, noting that roughly half of the participants “have made decisions for Christ and are sharing their faith with others.”
During National Collection Week, held this year from Nov. 13 through 20, First Baptist West Plains and Trinity Worship Center served as drop-off locations in West Plains. Churches, businesses, clubs, schools, and individuals faithfully dropped off their packed boxes. Volunteers at both locations joyfully received them and put them into cartons preparing them for their long journey. On the last day of collection week, 3,550 shoeboxes rolled out of West Plains on a large truck and trailer headed to the central drop-off location in Mtn. Grove!
Collection day was held on a rainy morning, but right before it was time to leave, shared Lesa Rothgeb with First Baptist Church, “The rain stopped and a beautiful double rainbow came out! The first bright bow seemed to arch its way into the trailer where the shoeboxes were and then the fainter one landed over the church! God seemed to be saying, ‘Well done, West Plains!’”
There were an additional 161 boxes built online to add to those dropped off, she added, nothing those boxes will be sent to hard-to-reach people groups who are often resistant to the gospel, and brought West Plains’ grand total to 3,711 shoeboxes.
All day Nov. 23, volunteers at the central drop-off location in Mtn. Grove loaded cartons packed with shoe boxes onto two semitrailers. A total of 11,171 boxes were brought from communities stretching from Thayer to Rogersville; adding the boxes packed online, the region’s total is 11,333.
The boxes next headed to to Charlotte, N.C., to be processed. Anyone who opted to track a box can check the samaritanspurse.org website to see where it landed. Boxes are beginning to arrive at their destinations now.