Gift-filled shoeboxes — more than 2,700 of them — filled every nook and cranny of the First Baptist Church in Copperas Cove this week, all part of Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week for children in poverty-stricken countries.
First Baptist Church has participated for more than a decade in the national program that grows yearly, said director of operations, Barbara Perrin, who proposed the idea to the church.
“This year, a whole new church that I have never heard of before brought boxes,” Perrin said. “Different churches and organizations as they hear about it get involved, and it gets bigger each year,”
Once approved, the shoeboxes are transported to a collection center in Temple. Later, they will be shipped to Dallas for the distribution process.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Operation Christmas Child, a ministry project established through the Samaritan’s Purse International Relief Foundation. Christmas shoeboxes collected from communities across the nation are packed with toys, clothes, school supplies, toiletries and a biblical scripture for boys and girls ages 2-14.
“A lot of times this is the only gift those children ever get,” Perrin said. “The most important thing is that whatever country (the shoeboxes) are going to, the word of Christ is being shared with millions of people that ordinarily wouldn’t hear it.”
More than 100 million shoeboxes have been delivered to needy children in more than 130 countries since the program was launched in 1993. This year, many of the shoeboxes will be sent to the Philippines because of the recent typhoon.
“We work closely with local churches in those countries so that the pastors and members can build relationships with people in the community,” said media relations associate for Operation Christmas Child, Becca Powers. “It takes a while to get the boxes processed and delivered and we try as hard as we can, but not all of the boxes will arrive on Christmas.”