NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Socks. It’s Christmastime, and your mother gave you socks again. Socks are not considered to be the most spectacular or original gift to those of us living in the United States, but to children in developing and war-torn countries, those same socks may be the first gift they have ever received. Thanks to the vision and scope of Operation Christmas Child (OCC), socks will not be the only gift extended to them this Christmas.
“In addition to the shoebox which contains items such as toys, soap, a toothbrush, clothes and school supplies, the children are given a Gospel tract in their language called, ‘The Greatest Gift of All.’ It’s about Jesus,” said Lloyd Harsch, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary faculty member responsible for establishing the seminary as an OCC collection site. “Most of them have never had gifts, and here is a Christian presenting them with a gift celebrating the birth of Jesus.”
In 2003, LifeWay Christian Stores nationwide began participating in a joint promotion of the program with Samaritan’s Purse, the Operation Christmas Child sponsor. The stores distributed information about the program and many served as collection sites for the shoeboxes.
“Last year was the first year NOBTS was a collection site, and we collected just under 4,400 shoeboxes. This year, we set a goal of 6,000 shoeboxes, and we collected 6,037,” Harsch reported.
“When I moved to New Orleans a couple of years ago, I learned that there was no collection site in the entire city,” Harsch said. “I went to [NOBTS President] Dr. [Chuck] Kelley and Chris Friedmann [associate vice president of operations] with this request and they gave us space and logistical support for the collection center. Faculty, staff and students all pitched in to help. I’m very grateful for the cooperation and help I’ve gotten from our administration for housing an OCC collection center.”
OCC at NOBTS is such a large project that Harsch said it would not have been possible without the help of his assistant, Cheryl Julian. The master of divinity student helped keep the event organized by scheduling volunteers to collect shoeboxes during drop-off times.
NOBTS faculty, staff, students and homeschooled children participated in the program, Harsch said. Many New Orleans-area churches packed shoeboxes as well.
Harsch said that this year, OCC has taken on a different meaning for his family. Last January, Harsch and his wife, Jill, adopted a 7-year-old child named Michael from an orphanage in the Philippines. This December will be Michael’s first time to celebrate Christmas.
“[Michael] is really excited about Christmas. He’s not quite sure what to expect,” Harsch said. “My son grew up in an orphanage and knew about Christmas, but he had never received any gifts. This year, both of our boys went shopping and packed shoeboxes. They bought enough stuff to pack two boxes each. Michael had the idea and hopes that his boxes might go to some of his friends at the orphanage that he came out of.”
While packing an OCC shoebox was a learning experience for many of those involved, it was a teaching experience for Quickson Ndlovu and his 6-year-old daughter, Linda, who was 2-and-a-half years old when the Ndlovu family moved to New Orleans from Zimbabwe, Africa.
“I was a pastor for 13 years in my country…. The kids are lonely, hopeless and dirty because even if parents are living, they have no resources to take care of them,” Ndlovu said. “I participated in Operation Christmas Child because I want to teach my child about what kids go through in other countries. I wanted her to be a part of packing the box to send so that she can learn. She saw the number of collected boxes, and that memory will stick with her.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: SEASON FOR SHOEBOXES and FILLED FOR FAITH.