Lanett church sets personal record for Operation Christmas Child

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, December 18, 2021

This year Plant City Baptist Church in Lanett packed 470 boxes in person and 10 online for Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse that delivers boxes of gifts to needy children around the world, according to church project leader and resources team member Susan Otto. 

Otto said this is the largest number of boxes the church has packed. This was also the church’s third year sending volunteers to process boxes in Atlanta.

“There the task is to inspect the boxes,” she said. “You have to go through and make sure that there aren’t any items that can’t be shipped. And these are items that when the boxes get to certain countries, and they have to go through customs, if they find items in there that are not acceptable, they’ll stop the whole carton of boxes from going in.”

Otto said the boxes were prayed over when they were packed, when they were dropped off and again at the Atlanta processing center.

She said the boxes she and her team worked with at the processing center were being shipped to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

She expressed excitement that they were going there.

“Another exciting thing that happened that day, we were able to process some of our own boxes,” she said. “That almost never happens that our boxes came through at the time we were there. We pulled out some of the boxes, and they had letters from members of our church there.”

Operation Christmas Child is a way to introduce children to Jesus and the gospel. Otto said each gift box comes with a book called “The Greatest Gift,” a book about Jesus. After a child receives the book, they’re invited to enter a 12-step discipleship program called The Greatest Journey, which teaches them how to become followers of Jesus. 

“It’s such a blessing to know that you’re packing a box and sending it so that a child will know more about Jesus,” Otto said.  

Otto said materials are presented in children’s native languages, and volunteers working with them are familiar with their native cultures.

The boxes are also packed with other small gifts, which Otto said are often the first gifts children ever receive.

“We try to pack one ‘wow’ item that catches the child’s attention when they open the box such as a stuffed animal or a soccer ball or a special toy like a doll or a car or something,” she said.

“But we also pack school supplies because in a lot of areas, children are not allowed to go to school unless they can provide their own school supplies.”

Otto said other common gifts are soap and a washcloth or a toothbrush. Members of her church contribute homemade dresses for small children.

The local drop-off location for the Valley, West Point, Lanett area is West End Baptist Church in Valley. Otto said that this year, 1,500 boxes were collected from the area.

The boxes were then taken to the central drop-off location, Lakewood Baptist Church in Phenix City, which collected 17,724 boxes this year, according to Otto.

From there, they were taken to the Atlanta processing center. Otto said that as of Wednesday, the Atlanta center had processed 1.5 million boxes for the program.

“In the United States, we send millions of boxes each year,” she said. “And they are packed by volunteers throughout the country from churches or civic organizations or just individuals who want to participate in the program.”

Otto said that about 25 organizations in the local area participated in Operation Christmas Child this year.

Though it’s too late to locally donate items for this year’s operation (Samaritan’s Purse says there’s still time to build a shoebox online), people can already donate items for next year. Items can be taken to any local organizations, mainly churches, that participate in the program.

For more information on local donations, Otto can be reached at (706) 588-8046 or by emailing suotto57@gmail.com.

For more information on Operation Christmas Child, visit https://www.samaritanspurse.org and select “Operation.