Texas Shoebox Packers Continue to Give After Hurricane Harvey

November 17, 2017 • United States
Sharon Woody (middle) has packed Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts for many years. After her home sustained major damage during Hurricane Harvey, Samaritan's Purse volunteers worked hard on her home. Sharon attends First Baptist Church of Portland, where our disaster relief unit has been set up since the end of August. The church is also a shoebox drop-off location.
Sharon Woody (middle) has packed Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts for many years. After her home sustained major damage during Hurricane Harvey, Samaritan's Purse volunteers worked hard on her home. Sharon attends First Baptist Church of Portland, where our disaster relief unit has been set up since the end of August. The church is also a shoebox drop-off location.

In the months following the devastating storm, Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts in Texas are packed with an extra measure of love and hope.

Although the building sustained major damage during Hurricane Harvey, First Baptist Rockport is still a shoebox drop-off location.

Although the building sustained major damage during Hurricane Harvey, First Baptist Rockport is still a shoebox drop-off location.

On a brutally humid September morning, mosquitoes swarmed as church pianist Becky Livingston prepared to play to the First Baptist Rockport congregation sitting in lawn chairs under a huge tent. A generator powered her keyboard.

Becky hadn’t seen her church family since Hurricane Harvey ripped through Rockport, Texas, one week earlier. Most, like herself, had evacuated and returned to find that their homes and the church building had sustained major damage. Electricity wouldn’t be restored for weeks.

Yet, that Sunday morning was one of the sweetest times of worship Becky has ever experienced.

“We have been struck down, but we’re not destroyed,” she said. “We wanted to be with each other and comfort each other. This is our family.”

First Baptist Rockport volunteers pack shoeboxes.

First Baptist Rockport volunteers packing shoeboxes.

First Baptist was determined to preserve some sense of normalcy—and to keep their focus on God—in the aftermath of a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane.

They honored their commitment to serve as an Operation Christmas Child drop-off location during National Collection Week, which began on Monday, Nov. 13.

“[This storm] hasn’t beaten us or stolen from us who we are,” said Jeff Lanningham, executive pastor of First Baptist. “We believe in what Operation Christmas Child is doing to take the Gospel and discipleship to children. It has been a tangible way for our congregation to focus outward and to continue to give.”

“We believe in what Operation Christmas Child is doing to take the Gospel and discipleship to children.”

Although the storm damaged homes and destroyed personal belongings, shoebox packers like Becky continued their tradition of sending gifts to children in need across the world.

An Anchor for the Soul

Becky, 71, began packing shoeboxes several years ago with her grandchildren.

You Can Pack a Shoebox

“I wanted to teach my grandchildren about reaching out and helping others,” she said. “There’s such joy in serving the Lord.”

Becky has found joy in serving God through Operation Christmas Child despite enduring one of the most difficult seasons of her life. Her family had to wait four days before they could return to Rockport after Harvey and were welcomed home to a mess.

Personal belongings were strewn about in tree limbs. Their barn and cattle trailer were destroyed.

Becky Livingston has played the piano at First Baptist Rockport for 30 years.

Becky Livingston has played the piano at First Baptist Rockport for 30 years.

“There was nothing but debris and disaster. Snakes were everywhere in the yard. We had a big hole in the roof of our home,” she said.

Becky was heartbroken to see Rockport devastated because this small, coastal town in southeastern Texas has been home all her life. Five generations of her family have roots in Rockport.

“It was total destruction. You grieve when you look at friends’ homes or businesses that won’t open again,” she said.

In her grief, Becky chooses to run toward God. “God is our living hope. Hope anchors our soul. Without hope we don’t have anything.”

Unexpected Blessings in Rockport

Samaritan’s Purse has had a disaster relief base of operations in Rockport/Portland since Aug. 29. Later this month we will begin a rebuild project, and our volunteers will be called on to do both restoration work and new construction.

Becky couldn’t believe that a team of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers from across the country would come to Texas to serve people they’d never met. About 15 volunteers worked hard on her home and fixed broken windows, removed a heavy fence, cut up fallen tree limbs, and cleared yard debris.

“I was so humbled that they came because they wanted to show the love of Christ,” Becky said.

Becky is a compassionate, tender soul who shared her heart with our volunteers, talking about her favorite Bible verses and her love for playing piano in church, which she’s done at First Baptist for nearly 30 years.

“We had fellowship and an absolutely wonderful time of praying. I was floating on air,” she said.

“I was so humbled that they came to show the love of Christ.”

Every homeowner we help receives a Bible signed by the volunteers who worked on the home. That simple act of kindness meant more to Becky than the physical labor because she was encouraged to continue clinging to God’s Word.

“Every day is a new challenge to walk closer with the Lord,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to surrender everything I am to Him.”

A Gospel Opportunity

Sharon Woody, also an Operation Christmas Child shoebox packer, never considered allowing difficulties caused by Hurricane Harvey to stop her from packing the gifts.

“I came to faith at a young age. That’s why I have a passion for kids,” she explained.

Sharon has participated in Operation Christmas Child for about 10 years because she wants children to know Jesus Christ. “What better way to get the Gospel to children?” she said.

Sharon Woody packs shoebox gifts so that the Gospel can be spread to children across the world.

Sharon Woody packs shoebox gifts so that the Gospel can be spread to children across the world.

Sharon and her husband were among the few to ride out the storm in Rockport. They couldn’t get a phone call out to their children to let them know they were safe until four days after Harvey.

Before the call finally came through, their daughter had feared that her parents were dead.

“The wind was so strong we thought it would be the end. We thought we were going [to heaven] that day,” Sharon said.

The 64-year-old has degenerative disc disease and had back surgery about a year ago, as did her husband who also has kidney cancer. After the storm, they were overwhelmed and needed help.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers cut up heavy tree limbs and drug them to the curb, cleaned up debris from the yard, and raked leaves.

“The volunteers worked so hard and it was so hot. My husband and I couldn’t have done the work,” Sharon said.

No matter what she’s going through, giving to others and helping to expand God’s Kingdom through Operation Christmas Child gives Sharon a reason to rejoice. She plans to continue packing shoeboxes for years to come.

“If you want joy, pack something for a child in a shoebox. It blesses them and it will bless you, too.”

Please pray for the children who will receive Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts. Pray also for communities such as Rockport/Portland that are still on the road to recovery after Hurricane Harvey.


Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, works with local Christians in more than 100 countries to deliver gift-filled shoeboxes to children in need. The Greatest Journey is our 12-lesson follow-up discipleship course for children who have received shoebox gifts. 

You can be a part of this exciting international evangelistic outreach by prayerfully packing a gift-filled shoebox! Learn how to pack a shoebox. You can also volunteer at a processing center.

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