Proclaiming Christ and prayerfully participating in Jesus' own work of reconciling the world to God's very self!

Pack locally, impact globally

By Sue Sprang

ACME – “The church is now leaving the building… and the United States… via a shoebox,” said a post by Feast of Victory Lutheran Church member Abby Tongue on Facebook.

Tongue was reminding her fellow members that Operation Christmas Child was underway and it was time to gather at the church to pack the shoeboxes of gifts for kids around the globe. This is the ninth year the congregation has participated in the program.

In Mongolia, a girl is all smiles as she hugs unexpected gifts.

In Mongolia, a girl is all smiles as she hugs unexpected gifts.

Operation Christmas Child is sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse – Christian International Relief (www.samaritanspurse.org). The shoebox ministry began in 1993 and this year the organization expects to reach a mission milestone of over 100 million gift-filled shoe boxes being sent to children in over 100 countries.

Feast of Victory members look forward to the yearly packing of the boxes, and everyone is invited to help out. Members donate items – school and hygiene supplies, small toys, etc. – for the boxes. Although Samarian’s Purse provides a printed letter that the packers can fill in, the packers are also encouraged to write personal notes and include photos.

Some members pack boxes at home and bring them to the church. Others join in an intergenerational “packing party” held between services on a Sunday in November.

The 100+ boxes were placed at the altar to be included in the Prayers of the Church.

The 100+ boxes were placed at the altar to be included in the Prayers of the Church.

This year’s packing day was Nov. 13, when kids, teens, and adults of all ages gathered in the church’s fellowship hall. Individual tables held boxes to be assembled and labeled, items to be packed, and letter-writing supplies.

As boxes were filled, they were delivered to the sanctuary and placed at the altar to be prayed over during worship. They then headed to one of eight collection locations across the country for inspection by Operation Christmas Child volunteers, then shipped around the globe.

A Liberian boy is elated with his package – perhaps the first gift he’s ever received.

A Liberian boy is elated with his package – perhaps the first gift he’s ever received.

Receiving the boxes are trained pastors and community leaders, who are able to distribute them and further share the message of Jesus’s love with the children and youth – many of whom have never before received a gift.

The people of Feast of Victory hope that the recipients find it as meaningful as they do:

“This is a great project. It reminds us how fortunate we are and that we have a responsibility to others.”

“We enjoy doing this. Everyone can help by donating items, packing, praying for the children who will get the boxes, or donating money to help cover shipping.”

“We receive so much from this project. We work together and we know our work will brighten someone’s day.”

Children in Nepal dig into their shoeboxes to find treasures, hope, and lots of love

Children in Nepal dig into their shoeboxes to find treasures, hope, and lots of love

“The most fun is writing the letters. We don’t expect anything in return, but sometimes we get letters from the kids – and that’s the best thing of all.”

The congregation has other local and global projects that keeps it focused on the needs of others. Some examples are:

  • Lutheran World Relief school kits;
  • Samaritas (formerly Lutheran Social Services) Assisted Living Center (which is, literally, in the congregation’s back yard); and
  • The Acme Christian Thrift Store and Food Pantry (an ecumenical endeavor which has its roots in a small food pantry started by the congregation in an unfinished elevator).

Along with the above projects, Operation Christmas Child has found a permanent home among the people of Feast of Victory Lutheran Church – and members urge other congregations to take a look at how they can make an impact from their little corner of the world:

“It’s a project any church can do. We just pack it and let God do the rest – and it makes an impact somewhere in the world.”

Thank you to Samaritan Purse for the use of its photos.