Christmas may be more than two months away, but it’s not too early to think about being part of a merry Christmas for a child in one of more than a dozen countries by contributing to Operation Christmas Child.
“The whole purpose is just to show the love of Christ,” said Grace Christian Fellowship Pastor Stephen Schneider, whose church (formerly Glad Tidings Pentecostal Church) is organizing the program in Creston.
Run by Samaritan’s Purse, a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization that has provided spiritual and physical aid around the world since 1970, Operation Christmas Child involves filling shoebox-sized containers with items purchased locally for a boy or girl in the 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14 age ranges.
Operation Christmas Child was started in 1990, and to date has distributed over 100 million shoebox gifts worldwide. Last year, Canadians filled 664,000 boxes.
Last year, Creston Valley residents filled just over 200 boxes, and Schneider is aiming for 300 this year, stuffed with toys, hygiene items, school supplies and treats.
“It’s something that will help them and bless them, but also something they will enjoy,” he said.
Boxes can now be picked up at Pharmasave, Your Dollar Store with More, Creston Card and Stationery, Extra Foods, Erickson Elementary School, Creston Baptist Church and Grace Christian Fellowship.
Once filled, they must be dropped off by Nov. 20 at Pop Shoes, Creston Baptist Church and Grace Christian Fellowship, the latter of which is hosting the Assante Children’s Choir’s Sound of Hope tour that evening, featuring children from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.
Although none of those countries are being served by Operation Christmas Child this year, the concert and shoebox project combine to help people in the Creston Valley keep the Third World in mind as they enter the holiday season.
In addition to the 13 countries on this year’s Operation Christmas Child list, Ukraine will also receive 20,000 boxes, offering hope to children suffering from that country’s unrest.
“They just need hope, to know that someone cares for them, someone loves them,” said Schneider.