Children at All Saints Lutheran Church in Darwin are learning that giving is greater than receiving this Christmas. They are sending shoe boxes filled with school supplies, toys, necessity items and notes of encouragement to let hurting children around the world know God loves them and they are not forgotten.
Theresa Hoff, All Saints Sunday School Superintendent, brought the idea to the church this year, and they packed 37 shoe boxes on Sunday, Nov. 11. The boxes were then delivered to The Cornerstone Church in Litchfield. From there the boxes go to Willmar and then to Minneapolis before being shipped to countries like Albania, Haiti, Brazil, Kenya and Togo. There are more than 100 countries on six continents on the delivery list.
Once the gifts are transported to countries around the world, Samaritan’s Purse works with volunteer ministry partners to distribute them by trucks, trains, boats and even yaks and camels. Samaritan’s Purse and its national partners will hand-deliver each of the millions of shoe box gifts.
In 1993, Samaritan’s Purse, founded by Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham), kicked off Operation Christmas Child in the United States, with just 28,000 shoe box gifts. That number soared to one million gifts collected in a single year in 1997, and 5 million collected in 2001. This year, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect another 9 million shoe box gifts and surpass the mark of reaching 100 million boys and girls since the start of the project.
Hoff, who has seven children of her own, is excited about tracking the delivery of the shoe boxes and hopes to get feedback and photos of a child receiving the gift from All Saints.
“My intention for a Sunday school project was to do something locally, until I came across Samaritan’s Purse on the internet. After doing some research, I discovered they had a program called Operation Christmas Child and thought this would be a good hands-on project for the kids to get involved with.
There are many projects out there for the Sunday school’s to contribute to, but sometimes it just involves a monetary donation, I wanted to do more than that and proved to be a great success for our small church. What I didn’t expect was the turnout of help from both kids and adult alike packing the boxes with the donations we had received in such a short time period. It was great to see everyone working together for such a great cause, and the kids were pretty excited to pack the boxes with everything they had to choose from.
Through this program I wanted the kids to realize that the smallest gifts mean the world to those less fortunate, not only with material things, but with the hopes that the message of God is brought to them through these packages.
I am planning on starting collections throughout the new year up until National Collections Week in November of 2013. I have had positive feedback by doing this project with the church that we may continue doing this for many years to come.”
A shoe box recipient in Guyana sent this letter of thanks to Samaritan’s Purse: “Thanks for the beautiful gift you sent me. That box was so neatly packed with all the things that I so badly needed. One of the things was a pair of shoes because the ones I have are very old and have holes. The other children would make fun of me at school and at church. When I opened my gift box and saw the shoes I was so happy, and luckily it was of the right size and beautiful. I really like my shoes and can walk in confidence among my friends both at church and at school.”
Millions of hurting children who are victims of poverty, natural disaster, war, terrorism and famine receive Operation Christmas Child shoe box gifts. For some of these boys and girls, it is the first gift they have ever received. Through the power of a simple gift and the message of hope through Jesus Christ, these children learn they are loved.
Teresa Moen, relay center coordinator in Litchfield, said there are 10-12 churches in the area that are participating in this year’s Operation Christmas Child. One lady, Phyllis Koenig, of Litchfield, hand delivers shoe boxes each year to the Litchfield drop-off site, according to Moen. “She just enjoys doing it and has a lot of enthusiasm,” Moen said.
Darwin, with a population of a little over 200, is known more as the town in the Guinness Book of World Records with the “World’s Largest Ball of Twine Built by One Person.” And the All Saints Lutheran Church in Darwin has 95 families, 212 members and a dozen children attending Sunday school classes. Despite being of a small community, All Saints is feeling big by extending their gifts and faith to children throughout the world.