By Emily Bontrager
Many churches and volunteers in the community have been supporting Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child Shoebox ministries for many years. Since 1993, Samaritan’s Purse has sent out 198 million shoeboxes to children across the world.
Connie Gutting, 69, is a member of the First Baptist Church of Kahoka and she has helped collect and put together Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes over the years.
“They are considered a tool to spread the word of Jesus in third world countries. They are filled with all kinds of necessary items like toothbrushes, soap, washrags, and combs,” Connie said.
School supplies are also included in the boxes like crayons, pencils, erasers, and notebook paper.
“It’s called a wow gift, because when they open their box, we want them to say ‘Wow’ because it’s from Jesus,” Connie said.
“Each box is given so they know who Jesus is and every box gets a booklet of the life story of Jesus from the New Testament. They are asked to be committed to come to a Bible School once a week for 12 weeks and they bring their whole family sometimes. During that school they will graduate from learning about Jesus and they will receive a Bible written in their language.”
The shoeboxes are categorized into boys and girls’ groups ranging from ages 2 to 4, ages 5 to 9, and ages 10 to 14. The age groups help the volunteers fill the boxes with certain items that they think the children would like to receive.
Many volunteers sew or make toys and gifts for the boxes as well. People in the community have also donated t-shirts, socks, Barbies, toys, and other items to put into the boxes.
Connie’s aunt, Sandy Brunk, who is 86 years old, crocheted dresses, hats, and purses for the Barbies that go into the shoeboxes.
“This year she did one a day and she gave me 341. She did it last year and I got about 100. She just started it and decided she really liked doing it,” stated Connie.
These Barbie dolls will be placed into the 5 to 9 and 10 to 14 year old girls shoeboxes. Volunteers usually put a baby doll or stuffed animal in the girls 2 to 4 age group boxes.
The First Baptist Church of Kahoka collects and packs the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes all year.
“Our church happens to be a collection site, so people in the surrounding area that don’t want to travel to Hannibal or Lancaster drop off sites can bring it to our church,” Connie said.
Each year in November, the shoeboxes are shipped to processing centers across the United States. One of these centers is in Aurora, Illinois, which is where the First Baptist Church of Kahoka sends their boxes they put together and collect each year.
At the processing center, volunteers go through each box to make sure there are no items that cannot be sent like candy, liquids, or glass.
The cost to ship one of the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes is $10. This cost also includes helping train missionaries and paying for transportation to get the shoeboxes to third world countries.
This year the First Baptist Church of Kahoka has made up 1,500 shoeboxes and with other people dropping off their shoeboxes at the church, there might be 2,000 shoeboxes being sent out from the surrounding communities. All of the shoeboxes will arrive at their destinations in December.
The Samaritan’s Purse organization has sent boxes to over 170 countries over the years.
“There were 250,000 sent to Ukraine and then the war broke out and we found out those shoeboxes were still delivered to children,” Connie said.
“It was just a miracle from God to send those out in the name of Christ to the children at the border when they were crossing to get over to a safe area. There would be missionaries handing the shoeboxes out in the name of Jesus.”
The church welcomes everyone to come help with the shoeboxes during the year.
“I want people to know that no matter how old you are, that you can serve in some capacity or some mission for Christ,” Connie said.
“We are always making something, and we meet twice a month at the church. Everyone is welcome to come and help us and sew or take stuff home to work on it.”
The church volunteers also make backpacks, sew dresses, and make pencil pouches.
“On Wednesday nights when we have our youth groups, we would love for parents to come and help us to make things,” Connie said.
All of the parents are welcome to stay, eat a meal, and help with the shoeboxes on Wednesdays during the youth group.
The First Baptist Church will gladly take donations all year for the shoeboxes. To drop off donations you can contact the church at 660-727- 3545.
If you have any more questions about donations or dropping off items you can ask Connie Gutting, Terry Kerr, Kathy Smith, or Caitlin Neace who all help with the shoeboxes. For any more information about Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes, you can also check out samaritanspurse.org.