THE POWER OF PRAYER, SIMPLE GIFTS AND CHRISTMAS
- Mardi Ford
- The Observer
Children live in packs like animals in the underground pipelines of the impoverished Ukraine.
In war-torn Uganda, night after night hundreds of boys and girls walk miles from their villages to sleep in city streets to escape being kidnapped from their homes by terrorists in the night.
The simple act of giving a Christmas present to these children may not seem like much, but Â— as Evangelist Franklin Graham states Â— there is power in a simple gift.
Since 1993, Franklin Graham's ministry Â— Samaritan's Purse Â— has delivered 46 million Christmas boxes to children in 134 countries around the globe. It is a partnership with churches across the United States called Operation Christmas Child.
Trucks, airplanes, cargo ships, snowmobiles, Jeeps, camels and canoes deliver shoe boxes filled with dolls, balls, picture books and personal items.
But more than toys or toothbrushes, though, each Operation Christmas Child shoe box is filled with the prayers of the person sending it. Operation Christmas Child encourages the donor to pray for the recipient as they prepare their gift, asking especially for open hearts and a willingness to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
"Prayer is key to the success of Operation Christmas Child," states Graham.
Volunteers sorting and packing the shoe boxes in warehouses across the U.S. continue to pray. And those who deliver every gift into the hands of each delighted child are the final link in a prayer chain that begins in homes across the continental U.S. to rekindle hope in the heart of a child.
But that chain of success must first start in a heart willing to be the first link.
Six years ago, after first learning about Operation Christmas Child, Carolynn Vaughan's passion for the children inspired her to share the mission with the women in her church. Vaughan is the administrative assistant for the First Christian Church-Disciples of Christ in La Grande.
Since then, Vaughan's church has operated as a relay center for Operation Christmas Child. She serves as coordinator with joyous passion for the mission.
"Last year, we delivered 654 boxes to the collection site in Walla Walla," Vaughan says with a bright smile.
Vaughan says local donations come from as far north as Enterprise, south to Baker City. From Walla Walla, the boxes are sent to California Â— one of many huge distribution centers across the U.S. Â— and added to other boxes from all over the Northwest.
Last year, the boxes' final destination was in the hands of children in the Philippines, Panama, Mexico, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and China.
"When you see them delivering these boxes all over the world from out of canoes and off the backs of donkeys, it's just amazing to know that here in La Grande, we are a part of this here," Vaughan says.
She adds that boxes are also delivered here at home. One example: After Katrina hit, Operation Christmas Child was there.
This year, it will cost approximately $7 to to put a Christmas present in the hands of a child through Operation Christmas Child. Those donating boxes locally at the church may also make that donation, but it is not required in order to donate a filled shoe box.
Vaughan says the women's group at her church has endeavored to underwrite the cost of all the boxes sent from the La Grande Relay Center as another way to serve the greater mission, but appreciate any help.
Financial donations strictly to cover the cost of shipping the boxes are gratefully accepted, as are sturdy, clean empty shoe boxes roughly the size of a man's shoe size 10 to 12.
Vaughan says some folks have taken to using plastic containers of the same size and shape as a shoebox to put their items in.
"These plastic boxes are great because the children and their families can use them to carry water or whatever," Vaughan says.
It is not necessary to wrap boxes, as they have to be inspected before leaving the country. If folks want to wrap them, Vaughan suggests wrapping the top and bottom separately so the lid can be easily removed without destroying the Christmas wrapping.
Suggested items to fill the boxes for children ranging from roughly 2 years to 14 include Slinkys, stuffed animals, crayons and coloring books, school supplies, toothbrushes and toothpaste, socks and costume jewelry.
Double bag items like hard candy or mild bar soap in plastic to prevent leaking in case they begin to liquefy.
Â• The First Christian Church will collect items for one week Â— Nov. 13 through Nov. 19. Collection times are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Nov. 13 through Nov. 17 , from 8 a.m. to noon on Nov. 18 and from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 19.
Â• For more information on Operation Christmas Child, call Vaughan at 963-2623, or go online to www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.