Youth help organize shoeboxes dropped off at Calvary Evangelical Church for "Operation Christmas Child." (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
Youth help organize shoeboxes dropped off at Calvary Evangelical Church for "Operation Christmas Child." (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

VAN WERT – For the third year in a row, Calvary Evangelical Church has been the drop-off point for area churches to drop off their shoeboxes collected for Operation Christmas Child to be distributed to children around the world.

Lyndel Smith said that it is anticipated that at least 2,500 boxes will be delivered from churches, 4-H groups, businesses and individuals in Van Wert County.

“We will load them and take them to the central drop-off place at Celina Grand Lake United Methodist Church,” said Smith. “From there, they will be taken to the main processing center in Charlotte, North Carolina.”

Smith said that the boxes wouldn’t be opened from the time they left Calvary Church until they arrived in Charlotte. There, boxes will be examined to make sure the gifts are appropriate and comply with the gift guidelines.

Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, said Franklin Graham, currently the organization’s leader. Graham is the son of well-known evangelist, the late Dr. Bill Graham.

Graham said that over the past 25 years, 157 million children have heard the Word of Christ in 60 countries and territories.

“Before a child receives his box in 120 countries, they are invited to an event explaining who Jesus is,” said Smith. “They receive a book, ‘The Greatest Gift,’ and then the gifts are passed out. They are also offered a 12-week Bible Study, ‘The Greatest Journey.’"

“It means so much to me that children be introduced to who Jesus is,” continued Smith. “These are small gifts but they can have Jesus for eternity. To every gift received up, nine people are impacted, villages are changed and churches are planted.”

“Samaritan’s Purse has helped tens of thousands of families across the United States recover from tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and other disasters,” said Graham. “We have truckloads of supplies, tools and heavy equipment ready to roll immediately, plus a nationwide network of Christian volunteers who work tirelessly to clear debris, make emergency repairs and pray with survivors suffering unspeakable grief and loss.”

Smith likes the concept of churches in a community coming together in a collection point and working together on the project in a community.

“It’s so exciting to visit with fellow churches and fellow believers,” said Smith. “It’s wonderful to make new friendships in the community.”