By LeRae Haynes –
For more than 10 years the community has rallied to support a truly faith-driven program through Cariboo Bethel Church in Williams Lake. Every year, between 3,000–5,000 shoeboxes containing gifts for children are sent to places around the world through Operation Christmas Child.
“I’ve stepped into some really big shoes,” explained Cariboo Bethel Church office administrator Jasmine Alexander, who helps run Operation Christmas Child.
She explained that Operation Christmas Child, which is evangelism and gospel-focused, is run as an extension of Samaritan’s Purse, which was in Williams Lake offering relief during the wildfire season.
“This year the shoeboxes are going to places in Central America, Africa, and Europe,” she said.
Operation Christmas Child was started in 1990; it grew and was adopted by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization run by Franklin Graham, in 1993. To date, Operation Christmas Child has collected and distributed over 135 million shoebox gifts worldwide. In 2016, Canadians donated 664,525 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes for hurting children around the world.
Each shoebox is filled by Canadians with hygiene items, school supplies, and toys, and is given to children regardless of gender, race, or religion. When culturally appropriate, copies of a book entitled The Greatest Gift, which has been translated into 130 different languages, are offered to children after the shoeboxes have already been distributed.
You donate $10 for every shoebox you prepare—donations that help cover project costs, including shipping.
“Williams Lake has been very enthusiastic about the shoeboxes” she continued. “Every year we order between 3,000 and 5,000 boxes, and they all get filled and sent.”
“This has its own momentum; it carries itself. All I did was let people know the boxes are here, and they started streaming in to pick them up.”
Samaritan’s Purse has been around a while as a Christian relief and development organization. “I did Operation Christmas Child boxes as a child. It was really different to meet Samaritan’s Purse after our wildfires,” she said. “They all took off from summer time with their families to be here.”
Samaritan’s Purse Canada has been doing essential relief and development work in Jesus’ Name all around the world since 1973. The organization’s emergency disaster relief programs provide urgently needed assistance including food, water, and temporary shelter, and they meet critical needs and give people a chance to rebuild their lives here in Canada and around the world.
Cariboo Bethel Church is a collection centre for Operation Christmas Child. “The deadline to bring your full shoebox to the church is November 17,” said Alexander. “On collection day, volunteers pick up the boxes and put them on Greyhound for shipping.”
For more information about Operation Christmas Child, visit www.samaritanspurse.ca/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/ and for more local information, phone Cariboo Bethel Church at (250) 398-6731 or find the church on Facebook.
LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.