Planning the trip: Churches organize shoebox ministry
Published 12:01 am Friday, November 14, 2014
NATCHEZ — Volunteers from three Natchez churches are gathereing once again to spread joy for the holidays.
Diane Lazarus of Parkway Baptist Church, Beverly Laurant of First Assembly of God and Beth Dudley of Grace United Methodist Church all gathered at Parkway Thursday to participate in Operation Christmas Child.
“This is not a Parkway thing,” Lazarus said. “This is national, but we are here for the community.”
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Operation Christmas Child is a nation wide project, which sends shoeboxes filled with school supplies, toys and hygiene items to children around the world.
The Operation is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization headed by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham.
Parkway Baptist Church serves as one of the drop-off locations in Mississippi for the operation and is in its eighth year of participating.
The volunteers will pack the shoeboxes, which will then be sent to Atlanta to be distributed throughout the world. But the kids who receive the special gift of toys will gain so much more, Dudley said.
“Once they reach their destination and given to the children, all the children will have the opportunity to take a 12 week discipleship study program and get a booklet called “The Greatest Journey,” Lazarus said.
The extra token will teach children the story of Jesus, his life and salvation, giving them the opportunity to receive him as their savior.
“One shoebox is given to one child, but it can impact other people,” Lazarus said. “God put it on my heart to teach through the shoebox, and not what’s in it. One more child will have the opportunity to hear about Jesus.”
Laurant said sending the shoeboxes to other countries is a way to connect with children from far away.
“They really get a chance to hear the gospel,” Laurant said. “We can’t go, but it’s a way of being a part of God’s heart. That’s what we want for all of our churches.”
Dudley said the shoeboxes have made their way to Ukraine, Guatemala, Madagascar and Macedonia in the past.
Collections will be taken up from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday in the lower parking lot of Parkway Baptist Church.
Lazarus said participants can bring a bag of toys or have them packed in their own shoebox. A donation of $7 can also be given.
As the three volunteers organized shoeboxes Thursday, Dudley said passion gives her strength.
“I love the whole aspect of the shoeboxes providing families around the world with necessities,” Dudley said. “The children are who we touch, and it’s just a passion.”
For Laurant, she shares the same passion as her fellow volunteers,
“I don’t wont to be anywhere but Parkway next week,” Laurant said. “I told the Lord years ago that I wanted to work with a collection center, and the next year Parkway started doing this project and were in need of volunteers.”
Although Parkway Baptist Church is the initial drop-off location, many churches and organizations have participated all year to send shoeboxes around the world.
“We collect all year long,” Lazarus said. “Its not just something we do in November.”
The volunteers said they have heard many miracles of what a simple shoebox filled with gifts can do.
“One shoebox had a CD player in it, that CD ended up in a child’s hospital for a child who was terminally ill and could not respond or talk,” Lazarus said. “The minute the CD was plugged in, that child smiled for the first time in weeks.”
The volunteers said God knows who’s getting the shoeboxes and what someone might need.