There are Operation Christmas Child relay stations and collection centers that have wrapped things up this week. The next phase of the process is preparing for a major distribution of shoebox gift packages across the globe. Are you familiar with it? It happens every year when Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham, sets up over 2,000 collection points across America. I took some time to talk with Charlie Hairr, the coordinator at Live Oak Baptist Church outside of Selma, North Carolina to learn some things.
What Is Operation Christmas Child?
It started in Europe by World Vision founder Bob Pierce, a man from Ireland, who put together shoeboxes with literature about the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was able to get into the inaccessible villages that missionaries were unable to reach. He met Franklin Graham in 1973; who eventually took the vision of spreading the Gospel message of Christ in a shoebox around the world. There are six processing centers, two of which are in North Carolina; one in Charlotte and one in Boone. The relay centers are spread throughout the country receiving shoeboxes from the local collection points; one of which is Live Oak Baptist Church.
When Did You Get Involved and How Did That Come About?
It was around 2001, I remember that, because it was after 9/11 happening. Our Pastor at that time, had introduced Operation Christmas Child to the congregation. The first year I think we had 15 or 20 shoeboxes; it was new to everybody and the enthusiasm for the project just hadn’t developed. There was an unrelated conflict among our members in which the coordinator had left. I felt the Lord leading me to pick up the task of heading up the collection point. Each year, a video is put out to promote this event and each year, I find myself seeing the shoeboxes as boxes of hope and boxes of love, being sent throughout the world.
Each year, I feel a deep sense that we are part of that hope and love reaching out to those in need. It touches my heart when I see that something as simple as a shoebox, full of stuff we take for granted every day, can bring a smile of joy to a childs face. Most important is the literature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, going to over 130 countries. What probably influenced me most was going to the “Equip” meeting in Charlotte, about mid-August and hearing testimonies in-person of children who’ve received the shoeboxes in the past. They remember the sweetness of the soap or something special they didn’t have anymore but they still had the wrapper; even cherishing the shoebox itself and what it represents.
What Preparations are Needed to Get Ready for a Job Like This?
The first thing is the “Equip” meeting that happens in mid-August. It’s an information meeting and a pep rally to kick things off; my wife, Dianne, and I have grown to look forward to that time of year. We also determine how much materials we’ll need and discuss record keeping. After that, as the collection time gets clos,e I make it a point to inform the congregation and offer the opportunity to help; which there is always a good response.
What gets accomplished can not be done by one person. The ones I find most responsive, are the youth and the children. I think it’s because they can connect more with the kids they see on the DVD that we show. We usually order our supplies based on what was done the previous year, plus a little more. The shoeboxes that Samaritain’s Purse provides are the big item, because often the other churches in our area are asking for them. I have seen that the shoebox-sized plastic bins that people fill are very valuable to the children who receive them; they become like treasure boxes where the children can put things away that are valuable to them.
How Many Shoeboxes Were Collected This Year?
This year we had 1849. This was down from last year when we had 3274 shoeboxes. Some of the churches had decided to take their collected shoeboxes to the collection centers themselves. And really, that’s okay. The important thing is that the shoeboxes are getting into the hands of children that need them.
What’s Your Vision for Operation Christmas Child at Live Oak?
I would love one day to see us have a tractor trailer supplied by Operation Christmas Child on site, as we collect the boxes, put them in cartons, and place them directly into the trailer of the truck. The expression of gratitude from the people who bring their shoeboxes, I’d like to believe, indicates the Body of Christ working together and I just hope that grows.
Does Operation Christmas Child Have a Website for interested readers?
Go on-line at www.Sameritan’sPurse.org, to find information more about Operation Christmas Child.