Operation Christmas Child event in Jackson welcomes visitors from Trinidad

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Toys share the stage as the CrossRoads Fellowship band performs during the Operation Christmas Child countdown Monday night at CrossRoads Fellowship Church in Jackson. Operation Christmas Child is a program of Samaritan's Purse that delivers a shoe box full of gifts to boys and girls around the world. (Laura Simon)

CrossRoads Fellowship Church in Jackson hosted a campaign kickoff for Operation Christmas Child with food, live music, fellowship and stories from organizational leaders from Trinidad.

Operation Christmas Child, part of Samaritan's Purse International Relief, makes a yearly effort to collect and distribute shoe boxes filled with gifts, basic hygiene items and school supplies to needy children all over the world. About 86 million boxes have been distributed in more than 130 countries since 1993, according to its website.

"These boxes are filled with love and prayer," said Daniel Kumar, national coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in Trinidad, who spoke at the event with his wife, Melinda, discipleship coordinator.

"Many times the correct box reaches the correct child," he said, sharing stories of children who were surprised and delighted to find something they had wished for in the box they received. Kumar and his wife, both retired schoolteachers, have been involved with the program since 2001, when they made their first shoe box delivery to children from the back of a truck in a depressed region of their country. He recalled that initial effort, when a small girl opened her box and pulled out a dress that fit perfectly.

"Now I can go to the wedding! I have a dress!" the young girl shouted.

The Kumars emphasized the importance of the Christian curriculum, "The Greatest Journey," that accompanies each shoe box they deliver. The educational materials are associated with the ministry efforts of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and are distributed in more than 50 countries. Children have the opportunity to join a 12-week class and receive a New Testament and certificate of completion at the end.

"Many children, that is the only graduation function they will experience," Daniel Kumar said.

Contact with the shoe box program is many families' first exposure to Christianity, and the organization hopes those 12 weeks and the experience of graduation will create a foundation for a strong relationship with the church.

"Our goal is to reach as many kids as we possibly can," said Birdie Casebolt, area coordinator for Southeast Missouri. Last year, 16,056 shoe boxes were packed by local supporters, and she hopes to meet the goal of 17,500 this season.

Casebolt suggested that those who would like to create a box to set aside items now to be ready in time for collection Nov. 14 to 21. Boxes are designated for a boy or a girl ages 2 to 4, 5 to 9 or 10 to 14. A $7 donation accompanies each box to cover delivery and project costs. In-person help to receive and sort boxes can be given in lieu of a financial donation.

Those interested in supporting the program can visit samaritanspurse.org for tips on what to include in a shoe box and to find the five closest drop-off locations. Casebolt can be contacted at 398-9191 or msbirdie716@yahoo.com.

Pertinent address:

4400 E. Jackson Blvd., Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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