By Meredith M. Dark
“Working with Operation Christmas Child has meant so much to me and my daughter (June). We have enjoyed the privilege of getting to know and work with other wonderful people, both members of our congregation and non-members alike, as well as knowing that we are helping people and touching lives around the world. We have been so blessed by this ministry in so many ways.”
This quote from Diane Swann of Mount Hebron United Methodist Church, West Columbia, is only one of many about how Operation Christmas Child has transformed people’s lives and given new perspectives on God’s blessings. God is at work in many ways here, and we are blessed to have this particular ministry.
The Operation Christmas Child “bug” was first in the air during vacation Bible school, where the children were able to pack roughly 276 boxes. Treva Hill and Diane Gooding’s classroom was transformed into the Operation Christmas Child room, and each child was given a box. They formed an assembly line to pack their box, meant for another child like them.
“Currently being disabled, I didn’t now how I could serve the church,” Hill said. “I have enjoyed doing missions. Last year I strongly felt the Lord leading me toward OCC. We started getting ready for the packing parties early, as OCC was the mission project of VBS. Each child attended four classes about OCC, and in the last class they made pictures to put in the shoeboxes. Each group also learned how to pack a shoe box at packing parties.”
From 93-year-old members making pew dolls to 2-year-old members making bracelets, this mission project has enabled us to demonstrate God’s love to others in a tangible way.
Since VBS, the ministry has continued and morphed into an endeavor where our ultimate goal is 1,000 boxes. As of today, we have exceeded our goal.
One of the outstanding aspects of Operation Christmas Child is that it is, in a sense, a short-term-mission in that it seeks to create relationships with others worldwide. If the individuals who have packed the boxes include information about themselves, it is likely that the person who receives it will write back, and a relationship can be formed. Of the 564 boxes that Mount Hebron packed last year, we heard back from two children. We hope that our 1,000 this year reach folks who can write back and tell us about themselves, as relationships are important to us and relationships built on Christian love and community are the most important in our lives.
As Bobbie Dozier of Mount Hebron said, “I can’t physically go to the ends of the earth to teach the Gospel, but my love for children and my desire to share the love of Christ with them is possible! OCC takes my small gift and places it into young hands that I will never see on this earth. The gift brings them the joy of knowing that people around the world loves them. OCC also offers them the opportunity to know more about our Savior and His love. A small box of love! What a great work.”
The times in which we live are unstable, and it is refreshing to know that Operation Christmas Child boxes reach areas of the world where the Gospel is restricted. The boxes reach displaced children in serious need where they may receive the message of Christ. This is a very timely ministry in our world and one we are overjoyed to be a part of. As the hymn says, “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we will scream and shout the victory.”
We have seen the face of Christ our Lord in this mission, and pray that the lives of these 1,000 children are enriched because of the Gospel.
Dark is associate minister for worship and evangelism at Mount Hebron UMC, West Columbia.