First Baptist holds kickoff for Operation Christmas Child

By BRITTANY FHOLER
Cove Leader-Press

Children in other parts of the world will be receiving special gifts, thanks to volunteers with Operation Christmas Child. The Mid-Texas Area Operation Christmas Child held a kickoff on Saturday morning at First Baptist Church in Copperas Cove to share about the initiative. 
Operation Christmas Child is a project in which shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items are collected and delivered to children in more than 160 countries and territories. 
At Saturday’s kick-off event, people from Clear Creek Baptist Church in Kempner, Victory Baptist Church in Copperas Cove and from churches in Lampasas County showed up to learn more. Those who were familiar with OCC were updated on the changes to the rules of what to pack and not to pack in the shoeboxes, while those who were new learned what the shoeboxes were for and the impact they had. 
Kathy Dutton, the Church Relations Coordinator for the Mid-Texas Area, and her husband, Kent, shared videos of children who had received a shoebox through Operation Christmas Child and the impact it had on them. Each person also received a bag filled with information and a DVD to take back to their own church to share about what Operation Christmas Child is about. Volunteers with Operation Christmas Child, Cathy Barth and Cathy Scribner, also led the guests in a “Make and Take” activity where they made little square or rectangular boxes out of old Christmas cards. 
Judy Johnson, OCC’s Area Coordinator, went Tanzania in 2015 to witness the distribution of OCC boxes, something she called the most outstanding experience of her life. There were only enough shoeboxes for 125 children at that church compound, but there were dozens and dozens more children who weren’t able to get shoeboxes, she said, and there’s a need for more shoeboxes. 
“While it’s called Operation Christmas Child, these aren’t delivered necessarily at Christmas time because if you don’t know about Jesus being born at Christmas, you don’t have any idea,” Johnson said. “It’s very important on that end because of the impact, the experience, the witness of Jesus.” For those packing the shoeboxes, this is important because they can go and be with the children, in spirit, by sending the shoeboxes, she added. 
Hillary Newton, who was there with her son and other members of Clear Creek Baptist Church, said they came to learn how to better support the Samaritan’s Purse. Newton said she first started packing shoeboxes at her church when she was 12 or so.
“I think it’s a really great way for us to help people all around the world and it’s a great ministry for us to be able to share the love of Jesus in countries that we can’t go to so it’s cool that we get to do that,” Newton said. 
Clear Creek Baptist has sent as many as 70 boxes and sent around 50 shoeboxes last year, she said.  
Newton explained that kids can definitely help pack the boxes and collect toys, such as from Happy Meals. When her kids get a Happy Meal with a toy, she said she tries to turn it into a lesson.
“We’re gonna save this toy and we’re going to give it to someone who doesn’t have things because there are people who don’t and what is my kid going to do with that McDonald’s toy, but another person might think that’s really awesome,” Newton said. 
Towards the end of the presentation, Cathy Scribner shared different examples of items to include in boxes, such as pencil cases, pencils, fishing kits, shoes, gloves, skirts, yarn dolls, or other little toys. Hygiene items, such as a toothbrush, are encouraged, as are school supplies like notebooks and pencils. Candy and toothpaste are not allowed in the boxes this year, nor are any items that might harm the shipment by leaking or ruining other boxes. 
For more information on what to pack and how to pack a shoebox, visit the Samaritan’s Purse website at samaritanspurse.org. Packed boxes will be accepted at local drop-off centers November 13-20. The drop-off centers for Mid-Texas Area are First Baptist Church in Copperas Cove; Skyline Baptist Church in Killeen; Immanuel Baptist Church and Taylor’s Valley Baptist Church in Temple; Lometa First Baptist Church; as well as churches in Rockdale, Rosebud and Bremond, according to Johnson.

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