NEW ORLEANS (BP)–For the third year, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary collected Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes from area churches, schools and families –- gathering more than 5,600 boxes for the worldwide Samaritan’s Purse project.
Operation Christmas Child volunteers collected shoeboxes throughout the United States in November. Now the shoeboxes full of Christmas gifts and the gospel message are being delivered to children in need around the world.
Before New Orleans Seminary opened its doors to OCC in 2002, there were no collection centers in the area, said Lloyd Harsch, assistant professor of church history who coordinates the OCC ministry at the seminary.
This year, West St. Charles Baptist Church in Boutte, La., First Baptist Church of La Place, La., and Calvary Baptist Church in Slidell, La., served as OCC relay centers by collecting boxes from their respective communities and sending them to NOBTS. The boxes were then shipped to OCC headquarters in Boone, N.C., to be checked and distributed throughout the world.
This year, more than 50 people volunteered at the seminary’s collection center. Christopher Black, NOBTS doctoral student and one of the volunteer coordinators, said members of the seminary family comprised a large number of the OCC volunteers, most for the first time.
“I appreciate the enthusiasm the student body showed during such a busy time of the year,” Black said. “They’re starting a tradition of serving.”
Shane and Astasha Baker, who have given shoeboxes to OCC for five years, were among the first-time volunteers.
“Shane and I got started doing Operation Christmas Child back home,” Astasha said. “We enjoyed doing it so much, we’ve done it almost every year.”
Shane and Astasha have a strategy for stuffing their shoeboxes as full as possible with gifts. Instead of buying gifts and taking them home to pack the shoebox, the Bakers take their shoebox with them and pack it as they shop.
“We take our box with us to Wal-Mart,” Astasha said. “We put the items in the box as we shop to make sure it’ll all fit.”
In addition to the toys and hygiene items they put in the shoebox, Astasha said they also include a journal and some pens to encourage the child who receives their box to learn how to write and draw.
Shane and Astasha volunteered for two hours, and though only three people came while they were there, those three people brought more than 70 shoeboxes of gifts.
The family of Lloyd and Jill Harsch provided a good example of how parents can involve their children in preparing a shoebox. Michael, one of the Harsches’ children, was adopted from the Philippines.
“We said that maybe one of his friends back in the orphanage [in the Philippines] would receive a shoebox like this,” Harsch said. “That’s the way we personalized it.”
Last year alone, OCC sent more than 84,000 shoeboxes to the Philippines. Overall, OCC collected more than 6.6 million shoeboxes and distributed them to children in some 95 countries. In each box, gifts are accompanied by the Gospel message, printed in the child’s heart language. In 2003, the Gospel was sent out in 54 languages.
For more information on where OCC shoeboxes go or how to get involved in 2005, go online to www.samaritanspurse.org.