2016-12-22 / News

Youth Group Travels to Minnesota To Pack Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child

By Betty Browning

Volunteers from Glen Memorial Baptist Church’s youth group help inspect crates for Operation Christmas Child at the Midwest processing center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Volunteers from Glen Memorial Baptist Church’s youth group help inspect crates for Operation Christmas Child at the Midwest processing center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One-hundred-fifty shoeboxes packed with a variety of small toys and toiletries have been sent as Christmas gifts to needy children in Madagascar with the help of volunteers from Glen Memorial Baptist Church in St. Ignace.

Merv Wyse, a member of the church, thought it would be wonderful to get the youth group from his church involved in Operation Christmas Child. Mr. Wyse also said he got involved because he loves Christmas and shopping.

He approached the church and asked if people wanted to donate so the youth group could shop for items for needy children overseas, everything from dolls to coloring crayons, hygiene products, soccer balls, and teddy bears.

Through the program, the youth group may put a Christmas card in each box along with their name and hometown, so they can track their boxes with an online tracking number so they can see exactly where the boxes are sent.

Merv Wyse holds up a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. Merv Wyse holds up a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. The shoeboxes filled with gifts are then tagged with the gender and age range of a child, such as 2- to 4 –year-old boys, or 5- to 9-year-old girls, for example.

This year the volunteers packed and shipped 150 boxes.

Boxes from the Eastern Upper Peninsula are then collected by David Goldthorpe of St. Ignace, who has been donating his time over the last years to collect the boxes, and he also donates the truck and goes from town to town in the Eastern U.P., where different organizations have packed boxes. He takes them to a relay center in Gladstone, where they are then crated up and taken to the big Midwest processing center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Each crate will hold between 17 and 20 shoeboxes, depending on their size.

Mr. Goldthorpe said more than 2,900 boxes came from just the Eastern Upper Peninsula, and were shipped out from the Gladstone center to Minneapolis.

In November, Mr. Wyse was able to take the St. Ignace church youth group to Minnesota, so they could see the process, and actually work there for a day. Eight teens and five chaperones took part, including Tara Bunker, Kathleen Bunker, Josh Kaiser, Jenae Kaiser, Andrew Will, Melissa Dockry, Elizabeth Penner, Micah Davis, Jessica Davis, Peter Lane, Daniel Moore, and Kayla Smith.

Mr. Wyse said it was not only fun, but humbling, for the young people to go and see an operation of this size. They realized that the only Christmas some of these children will have, or have ever had, will be this shoebox they are given.

He said it was an enjoyable day, an informative day, a humbling day, and a day to feel blessed for what one has. It was also a day to be able to bless others around the world.

Every box that came into the processing center had to be opened and inspected before being closed, as items that could not go had to be removed before the box was sealed and tagged.

He said they learned that anything military in appearance, such as a camouflage T-shirt, had to be removed because if a small child there put it on, enemies might think they had been trained as a solider, and they could be killed for just wearing the shirt.

Glass, chocolate (because it could melt), liquids, lotions, vitamins, or aerosol cans also could not be sent.

The youth working at the center were also able to fill out a profile card to include in the box, so the child receiving it could read about the person who packed the box, and why they chose the items to put inside.

The recipient of the box is also able to write back to the person who packed the box, so if they want to thank them for the gifts, they can.

Mr. Wyse said that Franklin Graham, the son of Reverend Billy Graham, said that the most important thing one can send in the shoebox is prayer, so each and every crate is prayed upon before leaving the center.

Operation Christmas Child, or Christmas Shoebox, as some call it, is a program that was started by the Billy Graham Ministries. It is a part of the Samaritan’s Purse program, an organization that helps Third World countries and people here in the United States with relief efforts during catastrophes, and many more programs.

It is their hope to send 12 million boxes around the world.

This year the goal for the Minneapolis Center was one more than 800,000. That is how many went out of the Minneapolis Center last year.

Mr. Wyse said the main goal for Operation Christmas Child is not to just give a gift to a child, but to spread the word of God around the world. A pamphlet is included in each box, in the child’s native language, that tells the story of Jesus.

Mr. Wyse said that his goal for next year is to start promoting Operation Christmas Child early, and to designate particular items to be collected each month so that by November, they will have more boxes to donate than this year.

He recalled that one of the boxes he handled was for a 5- to 9-yearold boy, and there, taped to an envelope, were two tubes of lipstick. He asked if he should remove those, but was told, “No, leave those there, because he may have a sister or his mother, and he can give them for a gift.” This is something he may not be able to do otherwise.

Mr. Wyse said that working at the center in Minneapolis gave him great ideas for next Christmas. When they are buying items for the boxes, they can include things like fishing lures, so a child can fish, and little sewing kits, so they can learn to sew.

Toothbrushes, they learned, are very important to give because an entire family might only have one toothbrush for all of them to use.

Scott Clement’s dental office in St. Ignace donated many toothbrushes this year for the boxes.

While listening to Mr. Wyse tell the story of Operation Christmas Child, and their church and youth group involvement, it made me realize how truly blessed I am.

Each story touched my heart and made me wish I, too, had gotten involved.

We can all get involved next year. We can all donate items to the church throughout the year, so in the fall when they start packing these boxes to go to children around the world, we will know we had a hand in giving a child a Christmas that they may have never had.

If you would like more information on how you can help donate to Operation Christmas Child, contact Merv Wyse at (906) 630-1477 or email him @ wyseguys@juno.com. The Glen Memorial Baptist Church here in St. Ignace can be reached at 643-8608.

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