Churches participate in Operation Christmas Child

Published 11:38 am Thursday, November 22, 2018

VALLEY — Operation Christmas Child is a nationwide effort by the evangelical aid organization Samaritan’s Purse that encourages churches, groups and individuals to fill shoeboxes with hygienic, educational and fun items to be donated to children all over the world.

West End Baptist Church is part of the Chattahoochee Valley Area Team consisting of eight shoebox drop off locations in Eufaula, Phenix City, Columbus, Ellerslie, Buena Vista, Pine Mountain, LaGrange and their own location in Valley. Out of the team’s 23,000 boxes collected, the churches, groups, schools and individuals who donated to West End Baptist raised 1,635 shoeboxes.

“We are reaching the gospel to children that we would never come in to contact with, we would never have the ability to go to,” said drop-off location leader Donna Downs. “We can do it through these shoebox gifts.”

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The shoeboxes contain items that help children with hygiene, education and playtime. Once they are filled and collected, they are brought to children in over 114 different countries.

“Most of these children, when they receive this shoebox, that may be the only gift they ever receive in their life,” Downs said. “That’s just mind-blowing for us Americans. We just don’t realize that.”

Since Samaritan’s Purse is an evangelical organization, the boxes also include religious materials aimed at spreading the gospel to those who receive them.

“The children get these gifts, go home, tell their parents and then it just multiplies,” Downs said. “The gospel multiplies through these kids.”

Downs explained that the boxes are collected during the third week of November each year. In the 10 years since West End Baptist became a drop off location, she said that people have taken the idea and ran with it.

“We had a lady who was 84 and very passionate about Operation Christmas Child,” she said. “She didn’t need anything for her birthday, so for the last few years she told family and friends to just bring shoe boxes, fill shoe boxes.”

This woman’s name was Faith Pruitt. Downs said that Pruitt had planned to do the same in 2018 but unfortunately passed away before her birthday. In light of this, Pruitt’s family honored her memory by collecting boxes for her funeral, at the end of which they had collected 157.

“It was like a legacy for her because that is what she was passionate about,” Downs said.