While children usually hope to receive as many Christmas gifts as possible, on Nov. 9, children at Cordova Church of the Nazarene scrambled to see how many gifts they could give away. The church prepared 39 packages to be distributed internationally, up from 30 in 2018. Next year, the church aims to distribute at least 50 packages, Pastor Steve Leppert said.
“It gets the kids involved in giving, rather than just getting,” Leppert said.
“Shoebox” care packages distributed through the Operation Christmas Child program deliver supplies to children in over 100 different countries and on U.S. Native American reservations. The program is run by Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical humanitarian aid organization. Cordova Church of the Nazarene funds its yearly care package project through fundraisers like its Oct. 19 bake sale and clothing giveaway.
This year, Leppert tried to balance fun gifts with functional ones, including both candy and clothing items, along with durable toys like harmonicas and diecast metal cars. Additionally, each child was given $20 with which to select an additional gift from the COPE bookstore. Some children choose to include greeting cards, photos of themselves and other items to help personalize their packages.
Samaritan’s Purse guidelines prohibit certain items, including toy guns, military figurines, fruit snacks and breakable objects such as snow globes.
Fourteen-year-old Levi Pearson is one of several youths who have come back to participate in Operation Christmas Child year after year. Pearson’s attention was first drawn to the problem of poverty after Leppert spoke with him on the topic, Pearson said.
“I like to help the people who are not as fortunate as us,” Pearson said. “I don’t always get a whole lot of opportunities in this town to do that.”
Leppert has encouraged other local churches to participate in the Operation Christmas Child program, he said. Although most of the children currently participating are congregation members, anyone is welcome, regardless of religious affiliation or conviction, Leppert said.
“We wouldn’t shut the door to anybody because of any kind of religious beliefs,” Leppert said. “We’re not trying to proselytize to people when we invite them… Anything we’re doing is open to the public to come in and help.”
The church will begin preparations for Operation Christmas Child in June next year, while ferry service is running, Leppert said.