Through Operation Christmas Child, Brooke Slocumb’s family is helping spread the Gospel across the globe one gift-filled shoebox at a time.
“Our family has participated in Operation Christmas Child since 2010 when we moved to Cartersville,” said Slocomb, also referring to her husband, Brad; and their two sons: Brock, 10, and Braden, 8. “... We love supporting Operation Christmas Child, because it gives children around the world a chance to hear the Gospel of ... [Jesus] Christ. Packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child has become a tradition for our family each November. We look forward to shopping as a family for these items.
“My boys love to pack boxes for boys their age. ... In the boxes, my sons like to choose balls, cars, trucks, puzzles, drawing paper and pencils — anything boys like to play with. We also like to include toothbrushes, soap, spoons, bowls and a brush. The most important two items we like to include are a Bible and a note telling them how much Jesus loves them and that we are praying for them.”
A project of Samaritan’s Purse — an international Christian evangelism and relief organization — Operation Christmas Child is seeking 9.6 million shoebox gifts from American donors during its National Collection Week, which starts Monday and wraps up Nov. 20. The containers will be dispersed to children ages 2 to 14, who are living in dire conditions ranging from poverty to war-torn areas. To deliver these items, various modes of transportation will be utilized, some of which include planes, bicycles, canoes and elephants.
In preparation for the National Collection Week, the Slocumb family took part in a packing party recently at their church, Cartersville First Baptist. Nearly 160 containers were filled by more than 110 elementary-age children Nov. 1 and 5.
“According to my son Brock, he would encourage people to bring in shoeboxes, because he wants to share the Gospel around the world for children who might not hear about Jesus and become a Christian,” said Slocumb, a Cartersville resident. “Brock said videos and pictures [of children receiving the gifts] encourage him because he sees the excitement of the children and that makes him want to pack more boxes.
“After we pack the shoeboxes, our favorite part is praying for the boxes. We pray for the child that will receive the shoebox as well as their family. Our prayer is that they will come to know Jesus and begin a relationship with him.”
For National Collection Week, Operation Christmas Child is featuring three drop-off locations in Bartow County for area residents to deliver their shoebox gifts. Contributing 4,324 boxes in 2016, Bartow’s goal is 4,756 this year.
At Connesena Baptist Church, 71 Connesena Road in Kingston, donations will be collected Monday, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.; Tuesday, 6 to 8 p.m.; Wednesday, 9 to 11 a.m.; Thursday, 6 to 8 p.m.; Friday, 9 to 11 a.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon; Sunday, Nov. 19, 1 to 3 p.m.; and Monday, Nov. 20, 9 a.m. to noon. Cartersville First Baptist, 241 Douthit Ferry Road in Cartersville, will serve as a collection site Monday, 9 a.m. to noon; Tuesday, 9 a.m. to noon and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon; Sunday, Nov. 19, 1 to 4 p.m.; and Monday, Nov. 20, 8 a.m. to noon.
Participants also can drop off gift-filled containers to Taylorsville Baptist Church, 19 Church St. in Taylorsville, Monday, 10 a.m. to noon; Tuesday, 6 to 8 p.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m. to noon; Thursday, 6 to 8 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to noon; Saturday, noon to 2 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 19, 2 to 4 p.m.; and Monday, Nov. 20, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
After selecting the gender and age category — 2 to 4, 5 to 9 or 10 to 14 — of the child, contributors need to fill a regular-size cardboard shoebox or plastic container similar in size with hygiene items, school supplies, toys and, if desired, a personal note and a photograph of themselves. A $9 donation is required to cover shipping costs. Further details, such as a list of suggested items, can be found at www.samaritanspurse.org. Participants also can pay their shipping cost online and track the destination of their shoebox.
“Since starting in 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to over 146 million children in more than 150 countries and territories,” said Sarah Pasche, media relations coordinator for Operation Christmas Child. “For many of these children, it is the first gift they have ever received. [One example of this is] Luis Gonzalez [who] grew up in Panama, surrounded by poverty.
“He was raised in the ghetto by a very hardworking single mother in a small house with a dirt floor. All Luis ever wanted to do was to go to school but could not because they were unable to afford school supplies. His mother told him that if he really wanted to go to school, he needed to pray for school supplies, and that’s exactly what Luis did.”
Now an adult and OCC contributer, Luis’ life was enhanced as a child when he opened a shoebox filled with fun items and necessities.
“The very next day, on a friend’s invitation, Luis attended a nearby church where he received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift,” Pasche said. “It was the first gift he ever received. When he opened it, he could not believe his eyes. Amidst candies and action figurines, were school supplies, which he desperately needed. Luis could finally go to school. That day, Luis and his mother realized that God is real and ... he can answer prayers.
“The shoebox was accompanied by another treasure — a letter from the shoebox packer. In it were the words: ‘Jesus knows you, and loves you!’ This simple statement started him on a journey of becoming more involved in the local church, and when he was 14 years old he committed his life to Jesus. He describes this experience with very simple words: ‘I fell in love with Jesus.’”
She continued, “He helped the local church, from that point on, develop various caring ministries and became a youth pastor by the age of 17. Today, Luis lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife, and they are involved at Northeast Christian Church, where they pack shoeboxes every year. Luis believes in the eternal message each shoebox carries across the globe: ‘Jesus knows you, and loves you.’”
In all, the Operation Christmas Child gifts will be sent to more than 100 countries around the world this year. Previously, shoeboxes processed at the Atlanta center were delivered to children living in numerous countries, some of which included Belize, Chad, Haiti, Peru and Zambia.
“There are terrific videos showing the kids cheering and screaming with delight,” said Cartersville resident Jan Burkett, Operation Christmas Child’s church relations team member and drop-off team leader for the Georgia Highlands area team, which includes Bartow. “They are so happy and thankful. My heart melts to see how much they appreciate our gifts.
“... The joy of deciding to help a hurting or needful child is healing. We have so much in our American culture. Our material belongings overflow within our homes. It is a way of saying, ‘Thank you Lord for all you have provided for me, now it is time for me to share with others.’ I hope donors feel like they are personally touching a life on the other side of the world.”
For more information about Bartow’s drop-off sites, visit www.samaritanspurse.org or call Burkett, 770-658-8393.