Operation Christmas Child a success

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On Aug. 24, over 150 men, women and children from 10 counties gathered to enjoy an afternoon of gospel music, provided by:  Amber Lee Abbott, the Andrews Family, the Dixie Jubilees, and Circle Cross Cowboy Band. 

The Suwannee Valley Region North Central Florida Area Team for Operation Christmas Child hosted this celebration to kick off the expected goal of 19,180 shoebox gifts (gospel opportunities) to be collected from residents of Baker, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Suwannee, and Taylor Counties for needy children overseas through Operation Christmas Child this year.  

The guest speakers were Sasha Makarova and her brother, Stefan Makarov.  They shared their special story of receiving an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox while living in Kaskelen, Kazakhstan, and how it impacted their lives and the lives of all the children who received a shoebox. They are from a family of seven children. Their father was a pastor in Kazakhstan, where at a church meeting they received their own Operation Christmas Child shoebox.

Stefan shared the excitement of receiving toys, something many of the children never had.  Sasha shared the importance of the items we take for granted (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, wash cloth, and school supplies).  Stefan asked that we, “continue planting the seed” by packing shoeboxes to reach the children for Jesus.

Also at this celebration, all were able to enjoy a scrumptious baked potato bar.  Prior to the music, everyone took a look at the displays showing the ministry opportunities of Operation Christmas Child (Church Relations Team, Prayer Mobilization Team, Community Relations Team, Media Relations Team, and the Collections Network Team).  At each of the display tables volunteers were available to share information and ideas.  Wonderful ideas for crafts, sewing, and items for shoeboxes were displayed along with informational handouts.  They also had an opportunity to learn about the Journey of a Shoebox.

Operation Christmas Child, a project of international Christian relief and evangelism organization Samaritan’s Purse headed by Franklin Graham, has collected more than 100 million shoebox gifts since 1993. Through simple gifts and a message of hope, children learn they are loved and not forgotten. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect another 9.8 million gift-filled shoeboxes in 2013, with 19,180 coming from our 10-county area. 

If you or your church is interested in learning more about Operation Christmas Child or in having someone speak to your group, please call Colleen Ruehl at 850/556-1787 or email jcruehl@aol.com or visit www.facebook.com/OccSuwanneeValley.

For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child or to find the nearest drop-off site, call 850-556-1787 or visit www.samaritanspurse.org.

National Collection Week for gift-filled shoeboxes is Nov.18–25.