Small Goes Big

October 21, 2014 • United States

God does “exceedingly abundantly” by enabling a little church to packs hundreds of Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts

Alberton, Montana does not have a traffic light. Driving through the town of 420, you will find a feed store and a grocery store with fewer items for sale than gas stations carry in big cities.

This former railroad town in the Rocky Mountains is largely home to senior citizens living on Social Security and low-income families who travel many miles to work.

It is also home to Alberton Community Church, a small church with an average attendance of 30 and only two children but a big heart for helping kids overseas by packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.

Ten years ago, when Pam Elder introduced the Samaritan’s Purse project to her women’s Bible study, it was a stretch. The older, retired women didn’t think there was any way they could pack shoeboxes. They simply didn’t have enough extra money.

Operation Christmas Child small church

Sylvia Reinicke and Pam Elder pack shoeboxes together.

Elder persisted. She encouraged the ladies to look for bargains and items on sale that they could contribute. They ended up packing about 25 shoebox gifts. The next year as people began talking about the project, they filled nearly twice as many. The project has grown every year since, in dramatic and even miraculous ways.

“Every time it is a huge step of faith,” Elder said. “Last year, the Lord gave us a challenge of 500 shoeboxes and nobody thought we could do it.”

GET INVOLVED: Join the congregation at Alberton Community Church and people across the country in packing shoebox gifts for children overseas.

Only six to eight women attend her Bible study, but they began inviting other seniors who did not attend the church to join them. Operation Christmas Child became a community effort and, exceeding their prayers, they packed 518.

Each year they try to beat their record and God brings in roughly 20 more than their goal.

“It is strictly through prayer,” Elder emphasized. “We can’t do it alone.”

In 2014 they are hoping for 600, but one woman believes God wants them to pack 1,000. They believe in “Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, NKJV).

Operation Christmas Child small church

Deanna Nelson, Loma Morris, Blanche Petersen, Pam Elder, Pastor Phil Taylen, and Lynn Taylen celebrate the shoeboxes collected by Alberton Community Church.

Elder is grateful for the backing the group receives from their pastor, Phil Taylen. As the shoeboxes are completed, he invites the women to place them at the front of the church because each box represents an opportunity to share the Gospel.

As soon as Alberton Community Church turns in their boxes during National Collection Week, they start shopping for the next year.

“When you’re shopping if God says to ‘Go for it,’ then do it,” Elder said.

They buy when they find deals and store the items at the church until fall. Seeing the growing pile of gifts motivates others to bring in items.

The group includes a letter with photos of Alberton and contact information in every box. Through Facebook, the group has heard from recipients in Mexico and Panama.

Elder would encourage everyone to pack a shoebox gift that can bring good news and great joy to a child overseas. She might even suggest setting a goal, because she knows how God can make it happen.

“Pray, pray, pray,” she said.