Southern Baptist churches apparently lead in participation of the filling shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child project.
STATEWIDE – Southern Baptist churches apparently lead in participation
of the filling shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child project.
Six of seven major collection centers for the Samaritan’s Purse shoebox
project in Louisiana are at a Southern Baptist church or seminary, and
the overwhelming majority of the 24 relay centers in the state are
There’s no way of knowing how many individual churches are involved,
relay center organizers say, because in the rush of many people
bringing in shoeboxes filled by people at many churches, accurate
records cannot be maintained.
What is known, however, is that at least 55,326 shoeboxes filled with
toys and other items for children, an evangelistic tract and $7 per
shoebox, were gathered just before Thanksgiving across Louisiana.
“Operation Christmas Child “provides an opportunity for people of all
ages to be involved in a simple, hands-on mission outreach. … Along
with shoe box gifts, millions of children are given Gospel booklets in
their own language,” according to the Samaritan’s Purse website.
Operation Christmas Child began in the United States in 1993 with
28,000 shoe box gifts. Since then, the project designed to be
kids-helping-kids has collected more than 46 million shoe box gifts and
hand-delivered them to needy children in some 120 countries. This year
Samaritan’s Purse national partners will hand-deliver the shoe box
gifts to 8 million children in some 90 countries.
It’s not just Baptist churches who are involved, said Janice
Birchfield, co-coordinator with Linda Rhodes at the Bossier City First
Baptist Collection Center, the state leader in shoebox collections.
Many organizaitons, churches, and denominations participate.
Lloyd Harsch, the coordinatior at New Orleans Baptist Theological
Seminary – the only seminary in the nation that serves as a collection
center – was overwhelmed with his city’s participation this year,
especially considering the devastation caused by Katrina.
“There’s been a one-third increase in the number of shoeboxes given in
the area, compared to pre-Katrina, which is a testimony to the
generosity of God’s people even in the midst of devastation,” Harsch
said. “People were coming just with a pent-up desire to contribute.
They were wanting to be able to help others just as they have been
helped here in the city.”
Once a church becomes involved with the Christmas Child shoebox
ministry, a snowball effect tends to occur, some of the coordinators
“At first we collected the gift shoe boxes only at the church,” said
Lynn Henderdson, co-ordinator at Fair Park, which has been involved
with Operation Christmas Child for 13 years, the longest of any other
collection center in the state.
“Eventually, we were asked to be a Relay Center (drop-off for other
churches) in the area. Next, we were asked to be a Collection Center
for Northeast Louisiana,” Henderson said. “This year, we continue to be
a Collection Center, but [Fair Park member] Mrs. Jane Peterson has been
asked to become the whole Northeast Area Coordinator. Her job is
to get other churches and organizations involved.”
The number of volunteers needed for an OCC project varies, depending
upon the size of the project. For Florida Boulevard Baptist in
Baton Rouge, that has been different for each year of the church’s
“It kind of grows every year as people learn more about it,”said Dave
Tettleton, Florida Boulevard’s coordinator. This year he used 25 to 30
volunteers. Six of those were core people, while the others fluctuated.
One family from the Port Allen area worked two days as a homeschooling
No matter the level of involvement, most who participate in Operation
Christmas Child say they find it rewarding on a number of levels.
It is a missions project that can be completed from our home town, said
Cheryl Forrester, Kingsville Coordinator. “When they receive their shoe
box gift, they hear about the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ.”