For the past thirteen years, ”here at Bethany we have opened our doors to a community of donors during Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week, as an area Drop- Off site. After every season I dream of making a bigger impact the following year. I dream of reaching more children for Christ and I dream of the eternal joy this simple shoebox may bring to the recipient, their families, their villages, and all of those involved throughout the process. Although I dream big, too many times life soon takes over and I am back to living life in my bubble.” I said this exact thing last year and nothing changed with my intentionality in 2021. So today, I am here to commit that I am going to be more intentional in 2022 with sharing the Gospel of Jesus and I am going to be more intentional on using the Operation Christmas Shoebox as a tool to reach children with the gospel message. Will you join me?
Every year I pray for everyone involved with the process to be impacted for the Kingdom of Christ. Yes, a majority of people involved are fellow believers in Christ; but all are not. Here at Bethany, we have those donors walk through our doors that don’t go to church; or have not for a long time, but they heard about this event and wanted to pack a shoebox. I have students volunteer to earn service-to-others hours and most of them are not believers. What about the truck drivers, airline pilots, or ship captains that carry these precious gifts and the Word of God, all over the world? What about those working in customs and countless other positions I have no idea about? Do they know the hope of Jesus Christ. My heart is burdened for these unbelievers but I rejoice in knowing that God is not limited to who he can use to make an eternal impact on ONE child’s life. I rejoice as I anticipate heaven where I will get to listen to the countless stories about how the truck driver, customs worker, or shoebox donors’ lives were changed because of the gift of hope, peace, and love Christ brought to them through the shoebox journey.
Here are some of Bethany’s stories. Ms. Slaybaugh was back this year!!!! Last year I shared that she was always the first donor to drop off her shoebox but she didn’t show up last year. Since I only see her once a year, I was concerned. So needless to say, I was thrilled when she once again walked into the church with her excitement and shoebox on the first day of National Collection Week.
Going back a month, in October, I received a call from another Drop-Off site in Canton. They were the recipients of two pickup trucks and a minivan full of items donated for shoeboxes. A lady was moving out of state and she had collected items during the year but needed someone to pack them in shoeboxes. I brought 12 moving boxes full of stuff that our youth used to pack shoeboxes. With her donation and the donations from our church family we were able to pack 238 shoeboxes.
But my personal favorite story of this season is the blessing of working with Helen McMullian. First, she did not wait to sign up to bring cookies, she just brought cookies. Secondly, she signed up to help on what is typically our busiest collection day of the week, Sunday November 21. On this day we move a lot of the cartons onto trailers immediately after the service and usually pack about 40 more cartons. As she observed what was happening around her, she wondered if she could be of any help. I had the perfect job for her. Every shoebox that was dropped off that day was prayed over by Helen. Ninety-nine percentage the donors joined her in prayer. When the donor was in a hurry and just handed me the box, before being placed in the shipping carton the recipient and family of that shoebox was prayed for by Helen. What a blessing it was to work with Helen and all the other volunteers throughout the week. Bethany could not be a drop-off site without the volunteers we have each and every year to share the love of Christ with our community and the world.
So how am I going to be more intentional? Starting in January, we will be collecting items throughout the year as a church with the goal of hosting a church-wide packing party in October, early November next year. Each month we will collect specific items; for example, in January we may collect mittens, hats, and scarves and in August we will collect school supplies. Stay tuned and look in your bulletin for how you can contribute in 2022.
Another way I want to be more intentional is to get information for those of you that have expressed interest in helping at the processing center in North Carolina. There is typically a three-week window, in December, in which volunteers are needed. If you are interested in more information about this opportunity please let me know.
Finally the tally for the amount of shoeboxes collected at the Bethany Drop-Off site was 2,339 shoeboxes. That was about 600 more shoeboxes then in 2020.