For three years now, Number Seven has been a collection point for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, with an unprecedented number being dropped off here this year. Individuals, churches and schools have all contributed to the mountain of 427 boxes that were picked up to be taken to a Wolverhampton warehouse, where the boxes will be checked and shipped overseas to children living in poor communities. Last year 850,000 shoeboxes were sent from the UK to children in various countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Southern Africa and the Middle East; those collected in Bridgnorth were sent to Serbia.
Christmas shoeboxes have been collected in Bridgnorth for at least 13 years, with Cartway Church beginning to collect them in 2002, and continuing to be a collection point ever since. In Bridgnorth Baptist Church, shoeboxes first started to be filled around 10 years ago, mainly by the weekly Handicraft Group that used to meet here. Everyone was involved in making and collecting items throughout the year.
Many hats, scarves, mittens and toys were knitted, small boxes were made and filled with small gifts, and quite a few people were involved in wrapping the shoeboxes in Christmas paper. A packing session was held with great enthusiasm (and a little good-natured rivalry!), and the boxes were then handed over to Cartway Church for collection. When the Handicraft Group finished three years ago several people carried on making and collecting items for shoeboxes and having packing sessions to complete the boxes, which were added to others brought in by church members and friends.
This year we did a number of different things to try to encourage more people both from church and the wider community to get involved with Operation Christmas Child:
- purchased 100 specially designed flat-packed “shoeboxes”, so that people who perhaps didn’t have the time (or inclination!) to wrap a shoebox in Christmas paper could still participate. (This seemed a lot of boxes at the time);
- offered to be a collection point for individual items to go in the shoeboxes – as to fill a whole shoebox can be quite expensive. To help with this collection we asked for people to bring shoebox gifts as part of our Harvest service in October;
- planned a ‘Big Packing Party’, where people could come together to make gifts and to fill shoeboxes with donated gifts.
Displays in the window of Number Seven and in church attracted attention from people in the community and church, and by the time of the packing party 60 of the flat-packed boxes had been taken – so we had 40 boxes left, and enough gifts to fill around… 40 boxes. In the afternoon of the same day that we had done this reckoning, a lady walked into Number Seven with four bags filled with teddy bears to go in the shoeboxes! This was a real blessing that would add a special something to each of the boxes we would fill (and more).
It has been so exciting to see the number of people who have wanted to show love through Operation Christmas Child this year. Here are the words of Oxana Prohorova, who received a Christmas shoebox as a child in Belarus:
“As I look back in my life and wonder what the shoe box meant to me, the Lord brings me to Joshua 1:5, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ The days that I prayed as a child and wondered if God was listening, He gently reminded me through a stranger’s kindness that He was there when I wept and He was there when I rejoiced. He did not leave my side.”
We pray that each child who receives the shoeboxes that we have sent will truly know the love of their Father God.
Catherine Brown, Mandy Fortune, Ruth Smith
Members of Bridgnorth Baptist Church