With Thanksgiving only 13 days away, it is safe to say that Christmas will be here before we know it.
With that comes holiday shopping for family and other loved ones.
However, there are people all around the world who won’t be on the receiving end of holiday gifts, unless there are people willing to give a little extra.
Operation Christmas Child is a ministry project which focuses on giving care packages to children in underprivileged and war-torn countries, and to countries who are suffering from a natural disaster.
The organization partners with Samaritan’s Purse, an organization who provides relief to countries suffering from poverty and natural disasters.
Operation Christmas Child’s Area Coordinator for eastern Nebraska, Kim Bunton said, while relief and assistance is often given to adults and families as a whole through Samaritan’s Purse, their goal is to make sure the children in these areas also see that people care.
Simple items, such as hygiene products, toys, school supplies and notes of encouragement are packaged into a shoebox, collected and sent to one of 130 countries around the world, she said.
“It’s hard to know in the world today, if the things we do really make a difference,” Bunton said. “We use the shoeboxes as a tangible expression of God’s love. We just try to reach children in need, so they know that someone somewhere cares for them.”
From Nov. 18 through Nov. 25, is National Collection Week for the organization. The local drop off center for people in eastern Nebraskan is First Baptist Church at 206 E. 23rd Ave. in Bellevue.
Participants can either put together their own shoebox, or they can bring in items the youth group from First Baptist Church will put together, which will then be sent to one of the 130 countries that receive the packages.
The First Baptist Church congregation got involved with Operation Christmas Child eight years ago.
The youth pastor, Bryan Watson said the congregation started participating in the ministry project because they were giving something to children who may have never received something before.
Watson said that the project also because a way for people to learn about God.
“A lot of the kids — this is the first gift they have ever received,” Watson said. “And there is a book in their own language about the life of Christ.”
Throughout the last couple of years, the congregation has been able to raise over 600 items each year and those results are what have kept them going.
“As a congregation, we average about 200, so to average 900 boxes, our folks are really getting excited,” he said.
“I have seen churches grow spiritually in their heart,” Bunton continued. “They are seeing there is a bigger world, and that not everyone is blessed.”
Last year after they raised over 700 shoeboxes, the organization asked them to become a relay center for the Eastern Nebraska area.
The collection site’s operating hours are Monday through Nov. 22 from 4 to 8 p.m., Nov. 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Nov. 24 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Nov. 25 from noon to 4 p.m.
For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call 800-567-8580 or visit samaritanspurse.org.