Faith: Operation Christmas Child gets ready to roll

Staff photo: Brooke Finch From left, Tina Dill and her two daughters, 3-year-old Leah Dill and 5-year-old Lesley Dill, use a shopping cart to drop off their full load of gift-filled boxes at Clovis’ Parkland Baptist Church during National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child. The Dill family on Tuesday donated the gifts on behalf of Living Stones Nazarene Church’s MOPS group, “Mothers of Preschoolers.”

Staff photo: Brooke Finch
From left, Tina Dill and her two daughters, 3-year-old Leah Dill and 5-year-old Lesley Dill, use a shopping cart to drop off their full load of gift-filled boxes at Clovis’ Parkland Baptist Church during National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child. The Dill family on Tuesday donated the gifts on behalf of Living Stones Nazarene Church’s MOPS group, “Mothers of Preschoolers.”

By Brooke Finch
Staff Writer
bfinch@cnjonline.com

Impoverished children around the world will have something special to open on Christmas morning, maybe for the first time, thanks to the effort of a Clovis church.

For 10 years, Parkland Baptist Church has partnered with Operation Christmas Child, an outreach program offered through the Samaritan’s Purse international relief organization.

OCC nationally collects age- and gender-specific shoeboxes filled with gifts and hygiene items. The organization then ships the boxes overseas just in time for the holidays and into the hands of 2- to 14-year-old children in countries affected by war, poverty or natural disasters.

Every shoebox also contains “The Greatest Gift,” a pamphlet that presents the Gospel in the child’s native language.

With OCC’s National Collection Week kicking off this week, Parkland is abuzz with volunteers dropping off, gathering and packing shoeboxes.

For Clovis and surrounding areas, Parkland serves as the community’s relay center. After collecting the shoeboxes, volunteers of the church deliver the boxes to an Amarillo collection center, where they’re sent off to their final destinations.

If volunteers want to see where the shoebox ends up, they can purchase a tracking label for a $7 donation online.

Parkland church member Nancy Guthals, who’s volunteered with OCC for several years, said she inherited her interest in OCC from her mother.

“I didn’t know anything about it,” Guthals said, “but my mother used to do this one box a long time ago. The more I’ve done it, the more I’ve learned about how much good it does and where it goes. It’s very widespread, and it reaches a lot of children, makes a lot of them happy.”

According to the Samaritan’s Purse website, OCC since 1993 has collected and delivered more than 135 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in at least 150 countries and territories.

Guthals also learned it takes a team to make the program successful.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “A lot of people fix boxes and stuff, but packing them is just the start of it.”

Because the church collects boxes year-round, Parkland Pastor Wayne Boydstun said the church began with more than 200 boxes at the week’s start; this jumped to 1,558 as of Thursday afternoon. Boydstun expects the church to reach between 2,000 and 2,100 boxes by the deadline on Monday, which is about the same amount as last year.

Boydstun said the program is just as much a gift for him as it is for the thousands of children receiving a box.

“A lot of the children that receive these might not get anything else in the course of the year,” he said. “A lot of them live in poverty to levels we can’t even begin to imagine.

“The most rewarding part for me is knowing not only the number of children who receive a gift that might not otherwise get a gift, but that they get the opportunity to hear the story of Jesus. For me that’s huge, considering what my calling in life is.”