By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
Residents of Cleveland and Bolivar County are doing their part to make sure all children have a gift to open Christmas morning and know the meaning of the day.
First Baptist Church of Cleveland is taking part in Operation Christmas Child, a campaign to deliver toys, hygiene items and other supplies to children around the world.
The campaign started in 1990 and is a yearly fixture of Samaritan’s Purse, a humanitarian organization based out of Boone, NC.
FBC’s education pastor James Walker said the church has been involved in the operation since well before the nine years he has worked with the church.
“Every year before Christmas, we collect shoeboxes that are put together by church members and people in the community,” Walker said. “They have toys and different things in them for the children that they go to.
“We collect them here the week before Thanksgiving to box them up and they are shipped to Atlanta for distribution.”
Walker said the program is about spreading the word of Christian faith.
“People kind of mistake the fact that they do this at Christmas, but Operation Christmas Child is about Jesus, because the Christmas child is Jesus. They take these boxes and they share the gospel with children around the world by distributing them and giving them to them.”
Walker estimates that FBC contributes between 400 to 500 shoeboxes of their own but also acts as a distribution center for others involved in Operation Christmas Child.
These include Morrison Chapel Baptist Church, Immanuel Baptist Church and Bayou Academy.
Churches in Drew, Greenwood and Greenville also take part in the program.
Walker said that the Cleveland community as a whole is expected to contribute about 1,100 shoeboxes.
“It’s really life-changing for a lot of them,” said Walker. “They get an opportunity to get a gift but also to hear the gospel. Samaritan’s Purse works through churches and communities that want to do outreach events to reach their community and some of those churches have meal plans and provide food for families. These go to the poorest of the poor around the world.
“It’s just an opportunity to reach out and to find people that need to know the gospel and need help.
“We enjoy doing it. It gives children an opportunity to put something together and put things in there that mean something to them to give to children around the world.”