Touching the hearts and lives of children around the world through Operation Christmas Child
- Posted on December 23, 2016
As we anticipate sharing gifts this Christmas, we have an extra reason to celebrate – over 3,200 reasons in fact. For the 21st year in a row, 37 PHS communities helped to fill 3,250 shoeboxes with gifts to be delivered into the hands of children living in some of the world’s poorest places through Operation Christmas Child.
Since 1995, PHS has participated in Operation Christmas Child, which began in 1993 as a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, a charitable organization founded and led by Franklin Graham. It’s a simple idea with a big impact. Shoeboxes are packed with small toys, candy and personal hygiene items and sent to regions of the world affected by war, famine, disaster and disease; anyplace there are children who need a gift of hope and love.
Jean Greener (left), Past OCC organizer who recently retired from PHS and Gayle Januschka (right) current PHS OCC organizer, organizers, stand with Livia, a past shoebox recipient.
Operation Christmas Child begins again this year
Operation Christmas Child 2016 at PHS was launched in May when volunteer leaders from across PHS gathered at the home office in Roseville, MN. They heard from Livia, an Operation Christmas Child spokesperson who shared a powerful testimony about how a shoebox made its way to her orphanage in Romania 15 years ago. Livia (pictured right, center) told how this shoebox gift, packed by a stranger and empowered by the Holy Spirit, changed the trajectory of her life and of her understanding of Christ's love.
Months of preparation
Throughout the past year, residents, employees, and volunteers have worked towards gathering gifts for the boxes. Some people knitted or crocheted hats, scarves, and mittens all year long. Others created toys in woodshops. Shoppers were on the lookout all year for school supplies, small toys and a big favorite with all ages: stuffed animals. Festive community packing parties were held in October and November.
Community packing parties held at (from left) McKenna Crossing in Prior Lake, MN; Lake Minnetonka Shores in Spring Lake Park, MN; Highland Ridge in Williamsburg, IA.
Employees at the PHS home office in Roseville, MN, joined the effort, holding their own packing party.
A gathering of gifts
As the sun rose on the morning of November 10, leaders from participating PHS communities brought their boxes to the annual PHS Management Retreat to be delivered to the Operation Christmas Child Processing Center in Eagan, MN. A prayer of dedication was offered as the truck prepared to roll out.
Packing up shoe boxes at the PHS Management Retreat.
Packed and ready to go
On December 13, Gayle Januschka, Accounts Receivable Supervisor and her PHS finance team members arrived at the Operation Christmas Child Processing Center to prepare shoeboxes packed in Minnesota for delivery around the world. Amidst the checking and taping, they prayed for the children who would eventually open these boxes.
PHS employee volunteers at the OCC Minneapolis Processing Center. (Photo right: pictured from left) Catherine Obonyo, Sam Moen, Gayle Januschka and Deb Asmussen.
Creating smiles in the eyes of children
The many PHS residents, staff and volunteers who contributed toys, cash and/or time to Operation Christmas Child will have to wait to find out where in the world this year’s shoeboxes will land. In the meantime, they hold on to a story shared by an Operation Christmas Child staff member about a colleague who was helping deliver boxes in Trinidad in 2015. He sat next to a little girl who opened her box to find it filled with many gifts, including a teddy bear and a note from residents at Valley Ridge, the PHS community in Burnsville MN!
A child in Trinidad opens her shoebox packed with a note from the residents of Valley Ridge.
As we honor the Child whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, we invite you to join us in prayer for all the children who will receive shoebox gifts from Presbyterian Homes & Services!
About Operation Christmas Child
In 2017, Samaritan's Purse hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach over 10 million children through the Operation Christmas Child project. More than 500,000 volunteers worldwide, with more than 100,000 of those in the United States, are involved in collecting, shipping, and distributing shoebox gifts. To learn more, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.