Each year, Church at The Mill partners with the Operation Christmas Child ministry through Samaritan’s Purse to send gifts and the Gospel to children overseas. It is a way in which Church at The Mill members can minister to children whom they may or may not ever get to meet in person.
Several small groups participated in packing boxes, many having their own packing parties and packing upwards of 50 boxes as a group. Tom and Doris Sinclair’s Small Group took it one step further, however. Their group has a tradition that began about 20 years ago in which they get together as a group and have a big event for packing and fellowship. Each group member signs up to collect a specific item to fill the shoeboxes, and they collect the items throughout the year. Then they gather to pack the boxes in November. When that time comes, the group sets up the assembly line for packing their boxes, then they all sit down to enjoy some food and fellowship. The Small Group members bring soups, cornbread and desserts to share. Once they have eaten, the real work begins. “‘The world’s greatest organizer,’ Randy Kibler, organizes it for us and has made a game out of it,” Tom said. The group has challenged themselves to see how quickly they can pack 200 shoeboxes. This year, they succeeded in packing those 200 boxes in just under ten minutes. What started as a fun way to fellowship and serve together, packing around 25 boxes, has grown into a true ministry for this Small Group. “It’s a challenge, but it’s an enjoyable thing for us,” Tom said, “We desire to serve the Lord, and this is a way that we can serve, by packing these boxes that will go all over the world to children who don’t know the Lord.”
Diane Dilworth, a member of the Sinclair Small Group, joined a group of six volunteers from Church at The Mill who traveled to the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child Processing Center in Charlotte, North Carolina to serve the ministry by checking and preparing boxes for delivery. This was Diane’s fifth year going to the Processing Center, and it was her second trip this year. Diane said that she loves serving with Operation Christmas Child “because [she] just knows it is a wonderful organization all around.” In addition to volunteering at the Processing Center, Diane also works at the drop-off center in Greer, where churches in the area take their packed boxes to be sent to the Processing Center. She is also on the Operation Christmas Child “leader list,” so she is one of the first to be contacted when volunteers are needed.
While she has not been able to witness children receiving the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes first-hand, Diane has been to Uganda on two different mission trips and has seen what the children play with. “They will play with a Coke bottle all day long, so getting toys and gifts is really special,” she said. Diane grasps the importance of what Operation Christmas Child does for children all over the world. She mentioned that while working at the Processing Center, she has seen boxes labeled for “undisclosed” locations — boxes going to closed countries where the Gospel is not welcomed. “This is a chance to get God’s word out there,” Diane said. “It makes kids in other countries so happy, and it makes my heart warm.”
Operation Christmas Child is about more than just filling a shoebox to the brim with toys, toiletries, art supplies and other gifts. It is about sharing the love of Christ with children who may never experience it otherwise.
This year, Church at The Mill packed and sent 1,083 boxes. That’s 1,083 boxes full of gifts sent to bless children overseas; 1,083 children who will hear the Gospel and experience the love of Jesus.