The Largest Christmas Project on the Globe!

Imagine, due to a life of poverty, that your child has never received a gift of any kind, not from you, your family, or from anyone.  Now imagine your child’s face when a shoe box full of gifts is handed to him or her free of charge.  Who would do such a selfless act?  The answer is a volunteer for Operation Christmas Child.  A branch of the international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child is the world’s largest Christmas project.

Operation Christmas Child became a part of Samaritan’s Purse in 1993 when Dave Cooke from Wales handed the project to the organization.  Samaritan’s Purse is based out of Boone, North Carolina and, although founded in 1970 by Dr. Bob Pierce, the current president is Franklin Graham.  The group’s purpose is, “to provide immediate, no-red-tape response to the physical and spiritual needs of individuals in crisis situations – especially in locations where few others are working.”  According to its mission statement, the organization has helped meet the 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.

Fourteen countries take part in the giving of shoe boxes:  the United States, Canada, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Hong Kong, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Approximately 8 million suffering children in more than 100 countries on six continents will receive these gift boxes.  The recipients include children in Sudan, Russia, China and other war-torn and poverty-stricken countries.  Several shoe box gifts have also been distributed in North America to Native American and Appalachian children.  One such distribution took place in the Alaskan town of Hooper Bay.  In August of 2006, the community was devastated by fire, and Samaritan’s Purse helped rebuild the town and handed out shoe boxes to those who lost everything.   OCC has donated a total of 88,666 shoe boxes to need children living in the United States, but its focus is international missions.

Empty  shoe boxes are packed year-round by compassionate individuals, families, schools, churches, civic clubs and other organizations in all 50 states and 14 countries.   Even U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have all packed an Operation Christmas Child shoe box with gifts for needy children.

Each OCC brochure includes shoe box labels, and donors can choose if they would like the box to be sent to boy or girl. Then they are to select the age of the recipient.  The ages range from 2-14 years old.   Also included in the brochure is a list of suggested gifts.  Some of the items include school supplies, candy, hygiene items, family photos, notes of encouragement and yes, even shoes.  Some of the volunteers’ favorite items include the following:  dolls, small cars, washcloths and games.

After the boxes are brought from local drop off points, they are inspected at six warehouses across the United States.  Next, they are shipped by cargo planes, trucks or sea containers to a variety of destinations.  In the remote location of Zimbabwe, one local form of transportation has been used – elephants.  Other colorful modes of transportation have included camels and dog sleds.  By using “EZ Give,” the online giving option on the Samaritan’s Purse Web site, donors can follow their box to the destination country where the boxes are hand-delivered by church leaders in that particular country.

The coordinator for the Southeastern Pennsylvania area, Lynette Dallman, has been with the organization for 3 years.  When asked what drew her to Operation Christmas Child with so many other charities to volunteer for, here’s what she said: “Operation Christmas Child impacts the lives of children and gives them hope.  It lets them know someone out there loves them.”  Lynette has traveled side by side these precious boxes on two occasions.   First she traveled to Panama in Central America and then to Burkina Faso, West Africa.  With a thrill in her voice, she recounts the exciting atmosphere. “I felt so honored to be handing out gifts that had been prepared for these children.  Just to look into their eyes and give them that knowing smile, lets you know you care about them.  Seeing them open their boxes, to hear delight in their laughter and to see their faces is such a joy.”

If you would like to be a part of this mission of giving, Samaritan’s Purse will be collecting gift-filled shoe boxes at more than 2,400 drop-off sites in all 50 states during National Collection Week, Nov. 14-21, 2011.  To learn more visit http://www.samaritanspurse.org.

Originally printed in The Country Register, October 2010.

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Palm Sunday – What do palms signify?

As a child, I just liked waving the palms high over my head while singing with the rest of the kids that once a year song, “There’s a Palm”.   Some of you may recognize the lyrics: “There’s a palm, there’s a palm, there’s a palm for you and me hallelujah…”   These  plants were just great to play with.  Tapping your pew neighbor on the head with a palm, was a requirement to get the full holiday experience.

On Palm Sunday (some refer to it as “Passion Sunday”), starts the beginning of Holy Week, which ends on Easter Sunday.  Christians celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the week before his death and resurrection.

Joyful crowds welcomed him by waving palm branches.  The onlookers also covered the path before him with palm branches.  Some were mistakenly viewing him as a leader who would overthrow the Roman government.  In many denominations globally, a palm branch is given to parishioners to reenact Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We see this again at the end of the Bible (Rev. 7:9) where people from every nation raise palm branches to honor him.

In biblical times, palm branches symbolized goodness and victory. You could find them on coins and on the sides of important buildings.  Solomon had palm branches carved into the walls and doors of the temple (1 Kings 6:29).

As Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, he traveled through the Eastern Gate (or Golden Gate).  This is the oldest of city gates and is positioned at the eastern wall of the Temple Mount.  Interesting fact: The gate has been sealed for almost twelve centuries and will reopen upon Christ’s return.  (Ezekiel 44:1-2)

Bono’s Gift

Identification.  Thoughts that intertwine our minds with those individuals we feel understand us.  At times, Bono speaks to me.  Not audibly, although I align myself with his stance on irradiating global poverty.  When I reflect on his words, they usually meet me at a place of acknowledgement and validation.  Once Bono made the comment in an interview, that he could write a song at any given moment on any given day.  Definition:  Gift discovery.   That flicker of realization as to  why we were individually, placed upon this planet.  Favorite pick for this topic : The Purpose Driven Life by Max Lucado.  Could I weave a tale in an instant?  Isn’t that what most of us can do?  What are my gifts?  Unsure.  I will say that for me, writing it’s a needed release and is one my chosen carriers, in which to support worthy causes. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:9, that each unique gift works together for the greater good. ..You miss too much these days if you stop to think.