Operation Christmas Child drop-off deadline this weekend

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Above are photos of Operation Christmas Child recipients from around the world. They are posted on a board at Living Hope Church in Alpena, and people are asked to write a prayer on the back a photo and return it to the board. Each box is prayed over before it is sent on to the processing center in North Carolina.

ALPENA — Shoeboxes full of toys, school supplies, hygiene products, and most importantly, the Gospel of Christ, are ready to send out to children around the world.

You can still bring your packed shoebox for Operation Christmas Child to Living Hope Church in Alpena today, Saturday, Sunday or Monday morning. Organizers prefer if you can get it there by Sunday so it can be sent to Gaylord in the trailer, along with thousands of other shoeboxes.

The church, located at 1499 M-32 West, Alpena, will be accepting shoeboxes from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, and 8 to 10 a.m. Monday. Shoeboxes collected on Monday will be driven to Gaylord separately.

From Gaylord’s E-Free Church, the boxes will first be transported to Charlotte, North Carolina, before they are taken all over the world to children who live in remote areas that have likely never heard the message of Christianity.

Since 2008, shoeboxes packed in Alpena have gone to: Alaska, Togo, Madagascar, Angola, Ecuador, Guyana, India, Uganda, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Ghana, Rwanda, Peru, Uruguay, and Haiti.

Living Hope member Jackie Barber is the drop-off lead for Alpena County, and heads up church relations for OCC for our region.

Living Hope held an OCC packing party on Friday, Nov. 5, with more than 60 people in attendance.

“We packed 1,027 boxes on Nov. 5, here,” Barber said. “We had a lady that came from Midland to come up and help us pack. We have four ladies that came, that don’t go here, but they are such passionate people about OCC that they came and helped us pack.”

She said those ladies used a Thrivent Financial grant to buy items for the shoeboxes.

“Our goal has been 1,000 boxes for the last five years, and every year, we’ve exceeded that,” Barber said.

She said the annual goal for Alpena in total is 3,500 boxes, including the 1,027 packed on Nov. 5.

“Which is extremely high,” she said. “We are the highest collection area in Northern Michigan. Our region goes from Mancelona, Houghton Lake, Alpena, to Cheboygan.”

Her mom, Edie Kelley, was in charge of the Alpena program from 2005 to 2013, at which time Barber took over. They have been working with OCC together since 2005.

She explained that it’s nice to give children gifts, but the most important gift in that box is the message of the love of Jesus Christ.

“We need Jesus more now than ever,” Barber said. “And the children who get these boxes don’t know Jesus.”

She added that children only receive one OCC box in their lifetime, but they are invited back to hear the Gospel lessons in their villages each year.

“They get an introduction to Jesus booklet,” Barber said. “A lot of these kids have never had a gift, let alone their own personal toy, or their own, even, bar of soap.”

She added that getting the message of Christ to the children is important, because then they share it with family members who may ask, “Where did that gift come from?”

“Your gift came from Jesus,” she said. “It came from us, because of Jesus.”

The children get Bibles in their own language after completing a 12-step discipleship program, she added.

According to Samaritan’s Purse, the organization that heads up OCC worldwide, in 2020, more than 9.1 million shoebox gifts were collected across the globe, including 7.8 million from the U.S.

You can also fill a box online at samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/buildonline.


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