To the Ends of the Earth
Operation Christmas Child is a unique ministry of Samaritan’s Purse that Church at The Mill partners with each year as they utilize shoeboxes filled with tangible items to share the gospel all over the world. The boxes go to places that many people are familiar with like Nicaragua, Africa and Haiti. However, Samaritan’s purse also takes the boxes to unreached people groups who live in some of the toughest places to travel to. Around the world, there are places that many have never heard of; communities with people that have never been told of the gospel of Jesus Christ leaving them with no hope. The ministry works to deliver shoeboxes to hard to reach areas so that no people group goes unreached. Each year, they reach places that they’ve never been before, all because of the help from churches all over the world that partner with them by packing shoeboxes or being a host church in a remote area.
Church at The Mill has been taking part in the project for many years by sending groups of volunteers each year to the processing center to assist in inspecting thousands of boxes and by encouraging church members to pack boxes with their families and Small Groups. Many Small Groups have been hosting packing parties together for over 20 years where they collect items, spend time in fellowship, pack and pray over the boxes that are being sent. The project has always been one that every ministry can get involved in to serve people all over the world. The dedication to the ministry by the church has shown the urgency of the desire to give and send the Gospel to places where it’s never been.
Last year, a team of 12 volunteers from Church at The Mill served at the processing center in Charlotte, NC. One of the volunteers, Rilee Rhodes, had been involved with the project as a child in her hometown, but experienced the processing center for the first time in December 2021. She says, “The processing center shined a new light on the ministry for me. I was able to see everything the boxes go through before getting into the hands of children.” At the processing center, volunteers learn the details of how the ministry operates and how these boxes go from families and Small Groups blessing a child by packing a shoe box, to the route that it takes to get the box to that child. Rilee says, “Going to OCC was such a great experience for me and I would highly recommend the experience to others. It is more than just sorting boxes, it’s changing the lives of children who may not receive anything for Christmas and opening the door for the gospel. If you can’t make it to the processing center, consider packing a shoe box or two, you don’t know the impact you will be making!” During the serving time at the processing center, leaders share videos of children receiving their boxes, where the boxes will be delivered that are being reviewed that day, and a time of prayer over those shoe boxes before they are sent out. It’s an experience that has brought back many of the same volunteers each year.
For the 2021 project, Church at The Mill collected and sent 1,248 shoeboxes from the Central campus and over 250 boxes from the Woodruff campus. Each of those shoeboxes was given by hand to a child who was then told about Jesus Christ. They also had the opportunity to take part in a discipleship program to learn how to be a true follower of Jesus and share the good news with their families. One of the newest features of sending a shoebox is getting to track your shoebox to see where it will be delivered to. This gives people the opportunity to learn more about the people group and pray more specifically over the child, their family, and community. We invite individuals, families, Small Groups, and anyone interested in packing a shoebox to learn more about the ministry and to read the incredible stories of what only God can do through this project. Shoeboxes will be available at both the Central and Woodruff Campuses beginning Sunday, October 23rd and collection day will be on Sunday, November 20th. One box packed means one child hears the Gospel which can impact their communities and families for generations to come. Help us reach the ends of the earth through Operation Christmas Child!