Moffat County churches begin Operation Christmas Child with stories from Uganda
- Grab a shoebox or plastic tub to fill with toys, school supplies and hygiene items for girls and boys appropriate to one of three age groups — ages 2 to 4, ages 5 to 9, or ages 10 to 14). • Suggested gifts include pens, pencils, crayons, writing pads, coloring books, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, jump ropes, a toothbrush, comb, t-shirts, socks and a personal note. • Buy sale items in bulk to affordably prepare and give more than one shoebox. • Do not send used or damaged items, war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures, food, candy, liquids, lotions, toothpaste, medications, vitamins, breakable items, or aerosol cans. • Create a team to help assemble a larger number of boxes. • Boxes should include $9 for shipping and postage. Participants can donate $9 per shoebox gift online through “Follow Your Box” and receive a tracking label to discover its destination.
CRAIG — A big smile and brightly colored clothing hide threadbare seams pinned together to provide a little girl from Uganda with a dress for Sunday church service.
She sat with other impoverished children at a special shoebox service provided by volunteers with Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child. The service began with “The Greatest Gift” — a Gospel story of 11 scriptures narrated by the Apostle John to invite children to follow Christ — and ended with a shoebox full of gifts.
“The people of Uganda are so filled with joy and happiness, despite their lack. To be a part of watching these precious children open these boxes is overwhelming,” said Sandy Schalbrack, OCC area coordinator for the Western Slope, who, along with OCC network coordinator for the Western Slope Lydia Landry, traveled to Uganda in June to witness the shoebox ministry.
For its ministry, Operation Christmas Child distributes the gospel along with millions of shoebox-sized packages filled with small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies for children in countries affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine, and disease, as well as to children living on Native American reservations in the United States.
“There is no other place that I can touch what touches a child’s heart so directly,” Schalbrack said during a presentation she and Landry made when the pair visited the Craig Christian Church in late September.
Volunteers in Moffat County have been contributing boxes for more than a decade.
Landry said Moffat County OCC Drop-off Coordinator Julie Grobe has collected 1,290 shoeboxes during the past three years. On the Western Slope, 9,815 shoe boxes were collected in 2017, and more than 157 million shoebox gifts have been given to children in need in 160 countries in the program’s 25-year history.
Grobe has set a goal of collecting 500 boxes in Moffat County during National Collection week, Nov. 12 through 19.
Moffat County boxes go first to Clifton, then are taken to Denver to the processing center. According to Landry, many end up in Mexico.
Around the world, children are overcome with delight after opening the boxes, which are often the first — and perhaps only — gift they will ever receive.
“The best sound that I have ever heard in my life is the sound of that box being opened,” Schalbrack said.
Landry described how every part of the box, and the boxes themselves, are used by the children and their families, but even more valuable is what the box means.
“What they get from this box is eternal: the hope of Jesus,” she said, adding, “Children were not there to get boxes. They were there for a beautiful story about Jesus. … Then, the box comes as a tangible way of letting these children know that someone loves them.”
There are three steps to a building a box, Schalbrack said: “Pray for the box, provide for the box ($9 shipping), and then pack your box.”
Both Landry and Schalbrack believe God directs the boxes to where they are most needed.
“I am packing with more faith, and I am packing knowing what God is going to do with it,” Schalbrack said.
Pointing to the little girl with the big smile and brightly colored dress, Landry said: “Most of the children, like the little girl in this picture, from a distance look very well dressed.”
She advanced to the next slide showing the pins holding the girl’s tattered dress together, and continued: “But, when you are up close to them, you realize they are in their best, but their best might be tattered, torn, and pinned together. Most of these kids have never been told that they have value in the world. Our boxes are doing amazing things.”
Boxes and information are available at many area churches, including Craig Christian Church, 960 W. Victory Way.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.