Nearly 5,000 Operation Christmas Child shoebox drop-off locations open today around the country.You Can Still Pack a Shoebox
Hibben United Methodist Church (UMC) in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week. Located in greater Charleston, Hibben UMC is one of nearly 5,000 shoebox drop-off locations that opened today across the country to receive shoebox gifts for the Samaritan’s Purse project.
After a welcome from emcee Izabella McMillon, a former shoebox recipient, Hibben UMC Senior Pastor Ray Litts thanked people for coming to the event and participating in Operation Christmas Child. “What a difference it makes in the life of a child,” he said.
He introduced Dr. Sandra Stevens-Poirel, Charleston area district superintendent for the UMC, who opened in prayer. “We pray that each box would be a tangible expression of Your love to children in need. We pray that these gifts will touch many, many lives.”
Collection center coordinator June Bohac said that the church has been packing shoeboxes for almost two decades and last year this drop-off location gathered 11,847 shoebox gifts. Out of the 12 million Operation Christmas Child is praying for from the United States this year, the Charleston area hopes to supply 32,001.
Next, singers from Hibben Preschool, a ministry of Hibben UMC, reminded the crowd of Operation Christmas Child’s focus on children with two songs.
Izabella shared about receiving an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift as a 13-year-old in Romania. Her colorful shoebox not only contrasted the grey of her then-communist country, but it was a specific answer to prayer. Although interested in God since finding a Bible hidden in the floor of her home at age 7, Izabella was about to give up on prayer because she had been asking for snow all winter and none came. But when she found a snow globe in her shoebox gift, it renewed her faith in Him. Izabella said it showed her “God really answers prayers—only his answers look different than we expect.” [Note: Snow globes are no longer allowed in shoeboxes, because they are breakable and contain liquid.]
Praying for the Children
Next, the group was led in prayer by five different individuals. Linda Rhyne, volunteer Operation Christmas Child community relations coordinator for the Charleston area, prayed for those who graciously donated shoebox gifts. Dr. David Piccolo, headmaster at Coastal Christian Preparatory School, Mount Pleasant asked God to bless the volunteers serving at drop-off locations. Jenny Hartzog, volunteer area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in Charleston, prayed for the logistics of getting shoebox gifts around the world. Katrina Houston, assistant campus minister at Charleston Southern University, lifted up the international volunteers who coordinate the shoebox distribution. And Sue Cuthbert, director of Holy Cross Island School in Daniel Island and Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, prayed that the children who receive the boxes will respond to the Gospel: “We pray you’d hand select the children who need to receive an Operation Christmas Child gift this year and ask that [they] would come to know you.”
Next, Jenny, June, and one of the longest serving Operation Christmas Child year-round volunteers in the Charleston area, Kathy Raven, used three large scissors to cut the red ribbon.
The event closed with the ladies’ high school chapel chorus of First Baptist Church of Charleston singing “Prayer of the Children,” which featured cries of boys and girls around the world in war-torn nations.
“It’s not too late to pack a shoebox. It’s not too late to change a life,” Izabella said before dismissing the crowd.
With the drop-off location open for business, Coastal Christian Preparatory School of Mount Pleasant delivered 200 shoebox gifts and Sullivan’s Island Baptist Church in Sullivan’s Island brought in 102. “They quadrupled this year! I’m so excited,” Jenny said, noting the 25 boxes the church packed last year.
Shoebox drop-off locations will remain open through Monday, November 21. Check here to find the one nearest you.