Millions of children across the United States and around the world rarely received a Christmas present until Operation Christmas Child started in 1993 by Bob Pierce, founder of Samaritan’s Purse. Since then, more than 188 million gift-filled shoeboxes went to children in over 160 countries and territories.
“Operation Christmas Child seeks to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world and together with churches worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ,” states Samaritan’s Purse website. Their goal is to reach 9.7 million children.
Each year churches and organizations in Oklahoma, as well as across the United States, create shoeboxes full of toys, hygiene products, and school supplies. In November these go to children around the world for Christmas.
Pastor Mark Brumbelow his wife, Cherry, are from Wild Peach, Texas where they pastor Grace Baptist Church. This Friday they are making a noon presentation at Crown Heights Baptist Church (2803 Maple Ave.) in Woodward about Operation Christmas Child. Their small church went from completing less than 10 shoeboxes a year for children to over 10,000, so far this year. Their goal for 2021 is to collect more than 21,311 shoeboxes filled with gifts for children around the world.
The Brumbelows will talk about Operation Christmas Child, give tips on collecting and packing the shoeboxes and share stories of how rewarding and beneficial the program is for children around the world and scores the United States.
The presentation is free and open to anyone interested in attending. If you can't attend in person, you can access the website at www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.
Mark Brumbelow had never heard of Operation Christmas Child until the early 2000s. “We were actually over at my mother’s house in 2003. My mother had some shoeboxes laid out on her table and we started inquiring about it and she told us about it,” Mark Brumbelow said. “We thought this was something we want to do.”
“We asked the man that was pastor of our church then and he said we could do it (Operation Christmas Child),” said Cherry Brumbelow. “These boxes are collected all over the nation the third week of November every year and it is officially called Collection Week. boxes are collected and then taken to distribution centers throughout the nation.
“The boxes are each checked that there are no inappropriate items, then distributed, and sent all over the world. Over 160 countries receive Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.”
In August of 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit the Brumbelow's area hard.
“Seven families in our church had their homes severely damaged or totally destroyed, like ours, so we had several families living in our church," Cherry Brumbelow said.
When the time came to have a Packing Party, the church family prayed about it and believed God wanted them to proceed as planned.
“We had a Packing Party in September, and it was amazing,” Cherry Brumbelow said.. “Every flooded family in our church was there and we had a wonderful time.”
One week later the church received a surprising phone call from Samaritan’s Purse headquarters. They had heard about Grace Baptist Church’s Operation Christmas Child Packing Party even after the hurricane damaged or destroyed their homes. Samaritan’s Purse specifically wanted boxes the church members had packed and invited both Mark and Cherry Brumbelow to help deliver them to the children whose Caribbean Island, Barbuda, was seriously damaged by Hurricane Erma. The residents of Barbuda Island were re-located to the Antigua Island located twenty miles away, due to the sever damage from the hurricane.