Children around the world are excitedly opening their Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes thanks to a small farming community that came together.
With a population of just 1,300 people, Belle, Missouri did the amazing. At their 23rd annual dedication service, 120 people from more than 25 different churches gathered to commit 1,744 shoebox gifts to God’s purposes around the globe. That’s more than the total population of the town.
Each box — uniquely packed full of toys, school supplies, and hygiene items — was placed at the front of the church. Pastors and community members from various denominations led the group in reading Scripture and praying over these precious gifts that will be used to share God’s love with boys and girls in need.
At the close of the service, participants lined the center aisle of the church and passed each shoebox to the next person in the row, praying over them as they handed them off, until all the shoeboxes were placed in shipping cartons located just outside the church doors.
“It’s such a special time to pull so many different people from different denominations together and to be praying for each shoebox,” said Mary Moore, the drop-off location team leader in Belle. “As we touch each shoebox, we’re lifting them up in prayer—the child that will get it, the country it’s going to, the impact it will have.”
According to Mary there are always “lots of tears” of joy at the event because each year they show an Operation Christmas Child video of children opening the boxes somewhere in the world. The church counts it a privilege to witness examples what their simple gifts will accomplish in the lives of so many.
“It truly is a coming together to do the work God wants us to do,” said Janice Hartinger, the Operation Christmas Child volunteer coordinator over the area.
The dedication service tradition began in 1996 when the late First Baptist congregant Sharon Oliver heard about the Samaritan’s Purse project and got her church involved in packing shoebox gifts. For more than two decades, participants have come from Belle and from communities up to a nearly an hour away to participate in the unique service. Through these years, they have packed, dedicated, and prayed over 26,822 gift-filled shoeboxes.
The shoebox gifts dedicated in Belle will now be transported to one of eight processing centers around the country where volunteers will inspect and prepare them for international shipping. From there, the shoeboxes will make their way to local churches around the world that will use them as tangible tools to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with children and their families.
Each shoebox has a long journey ahead, which is just one reason why First Baptist Church is so committed to praying over the gifts.
“Prayer’s a big part of what we do,” Mary said, “because we know that with prayer we’re agreeing with God—His plan, His way of letting people know about Him.”