A Texas congregation of 25 packs 5,173 Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts and also volunteers with Samaritan’s Purse U.S. Disaster Relief.You Can Pack a Shoebox
Last weekend, the 25 members of Grace Baptist Church, Wild Peach, Texas, located 60 miles south of Houston, celebrated reaching a seemingly impossible goal—for the third year in a row. The church used to pack 10 to 20 Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts each year, but in 2014, Pastor Mark Brumbelow challenged his congregation to fill 500 shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items for children in need around the world. To the church’s amazement, they not only packed 532 gift-filled shoeboxes, but their annual Christmas missions offering to their denomination also doubled.
Last year, Pastor Brumbelow felt God was calling them to pack 2,000 shoebox gifts. Despite his concerns about how they would accomplish the goal, they filled 2,172. God also provided the $7 donation* for the collection, shipping, and delivery of every one of them.
This year, they again believed God for big things. The church set their sights on packing 5,000 shoeboxes in order to expand their Gospel witness in the lives of still more children affected by war, poverty, famine, disease, and disaster.
Sunday morning November 6, Grace Baptist Church invited their special speaker, shoebox recipient Alex Nsengimana, to pack the final shoebox of their season, bringing their total since January 17 to 5,173.
Attached to shoebox shipping cartons spread across the front of the church hung a banner with 2 Chronicles 16:9: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (KJV).
Pastor Mark said, “It would be absurd and laughable to say, ‘Look at what we’ve done.’ It’s Him showing Himself strong on our behalf.”
The recommended donation to cover the shipping and other program expenses for their boxes exceeded $36,000, and, to their delight, God provided $45,780.29.
“It’s our prayer each year that God will allow us to collect more than the shipping,” Pastor Mark said.
This year’s giving allowed him to give the largest check Grace Baptist Church has ever written to Operation Christmas Child. Pastor Mark pointed out that it was almost the amount of their $50,000 annual budget. In addition, someone gave $500 to start their 2017 fund for shoebox shipping and other expenses.
Pastor Mark and his wife, Cherry, are amazed at what God has done at their church the past three years and believe it is nothing short of miraculous.
“God visited us,” Mark said. “It’s just as real as when the Red Sea parted, and it’s the same One doing it. We feel so privileged and wonder, ‘God, why do You let us be a part of this?’”
Beyond Shoebox Gifts
This isn’t the only time this year that the Brumbelows have seen God move mightily in their own backyard of Brazoria County.
In early June, the Brazos River rose to historic levels, flooding entire neighborhoods and leaving between 8 inches and 5 feet of water in homes. Making matters worse, the water did not recede until a couple of weeks later.
When that finally happened, Pastor Mark and Cherry joined Samaritan’s Purse volunteers from across the country in mudding out homes that had been devastated. The Hispanic residents of the town of Holiday Lakes, population 1,200, called them “ángeles naranja” or “orange angels” because of the bright T-shirts they wore as they sorted through their belongings and got their homes ready for rebuilding.
“Even though it’s hard, hot, terrible work, it feels good to serve God,” Pastor Mark said.
Cherry was impressed the first day she volunteered when they were told that it wasn’t about the house—it’s about the homeowner.
“The emotional and spiritual needs are first,” Cherry said.
God used this focus and the partnership of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team to bring 99 people to Christ during the Samaritan’s Purse five-week response to 58 homes in Brazoria County.
More than half of Grace Baptist Church assisted in the flood relief efforts in some way. Five worked on mudding out houses while another 10 provided meals twice a week to the more than 370 total volunteers who gathered at the host church, Life Foursquare Church, Angleton, during the course of the response.
“Serving with disaster relief made our commitment to Operation Christmas Child so much stronger,” Cherry said.
Growing the Kingdom of God
In her role as a year-round volunteer for the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas project, Cherry hosted a booth at the Brazoria County Fair the last couple of years to promote shoebox packing. In previous years, nay-sayers gave her a hard time that her charity did not address needs in the United States. But this year, thanks to the Samaritan’s Purse response to the Brazoria County flooding, she had a concrete answer from their area.
“Samaritan’s Purse U.S. Disaster Relief is going to tremendously boost the number of shoeboxes collected in years to come,” she said with a bright orange disaster relief T-shirt in the corner of her Operation Christmas Child booth. “It’s all tied together to grow the Kingdom of God.”
In addition to the rewards of obedience, Cherry developed lifelong friendships as she did the dirty work of cleaning out flooded homes. She wants others to experience the blessings she has through volunteering.
“Anybody that has the opportunity to serve with Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief should serve,” she said.
Mark agreed: “As Christians we’re to imitate Jesus, and if Jesus had been in Brazoria County [that month], He’d have cut out Sheetrock.”
*The suggested per shoebox donation is $9 as of 2017.