We are finally into one of my most favorite times of the year. Because of my Christian faith Christmas holds a special meaning. Over the years we all develop traditions to mark this season. Decorating, parties, Christmas plays, Cantatas and other events fill our calendars and give us more chances to enjoy the festive feelings.
A few years ago I began to take part in the annual ritual of packing a variety of items into a wrapped shoebox to send to all corners of the world with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization based in Boone, North Carolina and led by Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist Billy Graham. Over the past twenty years since this program began 100 million shoe box gifts have found their way into the hands of deserving children.
Many people will do this to try to teach their children how to think of others at Christmastime, a period usually with a heavy “me first” mentality. Children can take part in this by personalizing their gift with items they favor. They can also add drawings or letters that give them a connection with the child their box will bless.
My involvement has increased from simply packing a few boxes to leading the efforts of my church. In 2007 our effort totaled 476 shoe boxes and a new emphasis on missions for our church. As you can imagine this required a paradigm shift in the way we did things. I incorporated the action plan of a neighborhood church that collected items year round to pack this larger amount.
I became the bargain hunter extraordinaire, scouring the discount aisles at my local Dollar Stores, groceries and department stores. When Christmas coloring books and such went on discount I scooped them up. I collected stuffed animals after Valentine’s Day and Easter. Summer toys as Fall began to approach and so on.
The next year we aimed higher and collected over 600. The following year we had to draw back our plans due to the economic slowdown that made everything a bit harder to accomplish. The blessings continued, however as we received letters from box recipients from India. Our children got so excited I think they could have packed several thousand, if we had the materials.
Last year I headed up the campaign at our new church and we gathered 100 shoe boxes for a smaller sized congregation. The new wrinkle was that I got to be part of an eleven person mission team that traveled to Belize to deliver these gifts personally. Unlike in previous years when we turned the boxes over to a larger organization, last year we got to see them opened in person.
In one week I will board a jet again to return to Belize with 115 gifts from our church along with 4oo or so more from other local churches. We also will deliver 600 children’s books to an after school center in the village of Maya Mopan, which is part of the capitol city Belmopan where we will be based. The reward from the trip last year was something I will never forget. I wish all of you could experience such joy this Christmas season.
This is for the Yeah Write Moonshine grid.