Introducing Churches to Operation Christmas Child

April 14, 2020 • United States
Mary Johnson works to get churches involved in Operation Christmas Child in the greater Petersburg, Virginia, area.
Mary Johnson works to get churches involved in Operation Christmas Child in the greater Petersburg, Virginia, area.

Year-round volunteer Mary Johnson encourages churches in her area to participate in Operation Christmas Child.

Mary Johnson serves as the church relations coordinator for the Greater Petersburg, Virginia, Area Team. This group of volunteers is responsible for promoting and coordinating shoebox packing efforts in five counties just south of Richmond.

“I think our key role for this area is our black churches,” Mary said. “Our job is to get in the door to try and explain to them what Operation Christmas Child is all about.”

Churches won’t participate if they’ve never heard of the project. So, Mary introduces these congregations to how the Lord uses gift-filled shoeboxes to change the lives of boys and girls.

You Can Volunteer Year-Round

“We need them to know that it’s about sharing the Word of God—giving children the opportunity to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior,” Mary said.

Mary’s goal is to get churches “to partner with us and stay with us,” packing shoebox gifts each year.

Mary took on the role of coordinator after serving for three years as a church relations team member, contacting churches to get them involved in the Samaritan’s Purse project. The first year Mary was involved with church relations, God used her to rally a church to pack between 10-15 shoebox gifts for children around the world. The next year, they packed 50, and she envisions that they could pack 100 or more in the years to come. Seeing the shoeboxes coming in is exciting because she knows they are life-changing to children in need.

Giving Her Time Back to the Lord

After years of faithfully packing shoebox gifts with her church, Mary decided to also volunteer at a processing center to prepare the gifts for international shipping. Walking into one of our warehouses and seeing thousands of volunteers working together with joy motivated her to serve as a year-round volunteer.

Mary was already very involved in her church, leading a Bible club and a couples’ ministry, as well as serving in the choir and the library, but when she saw the faces of the children in the Operation Christmas Child videos, she thought, ‘God, I can do more.’

Mary encourages others to do the same, because there’s so much more to the Christian life than just going to church on Sundays.

“You need to get out and do more for the Lord Jesus Christ so that souls can be saved. People are dying every day and going to hell. That’s why we’re here—to glorify the Lord by winning souls.”

Mary is encouraged knowing that the message of the Lord Jesus Christ will be shared in conjunction with gift distributions and that many children also participate in the follow-up discipleship program, The Greatest Journey.

As she tells people about the project, Mary explains that every shoebox is not just a gift, “It’s sharing the Gospel—the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

She adds that the body of Christ then multiplies as shoebox recipients tell others about the Good News.

“We’re a part of it through a little shoebox,” Mary said.

Mary believes time spent as a year-round volunteer is worth it. “What’s more precious than giving your time back to the Lord? Look what He has done for us.”

View roles available as a year-round volunteer for Operation Christmas Child.