One year when Zion Evangelical Church members Cheryl Rose and Barb Kautz traveled to Denver to volunteer at the Operation Christmas Child distribution center, a European woman in her 20s stood up in front of the volunteers to tell her story. She had in her hand the Operation Christmas Child box she received as a child when she lived in the Soviet Union. She told the volunteers that the little toys in the box were her most prized possessions to this day.
“They were a poor family, and this made such an impact in her life, so now she was out promoting Operation Christmas Child and helping those of us who are working,” Kautz said. “It just encouraged us.”
It is stories like these that keep Kautz and Rose continuing their involvement in Operation Christmas Child. Zion Evangelical Church has been packing and sending boxes since 2007, headed largely by Kautz and Rose.
The boxes contain all kinds of little goodies from dolls and stuffed animals to crayons and toothbrushes. Rose said that some church members even knitted a few hats to put in the boxes this year. Each box is then topped off at the distribution center with an insert about accepting Christ.
These shoebox treasure troves are sent to children all over the world whose families are in need and don’t necessarily have the resources to always provide their next meal, let alone to get Christmas gifts for their children. The purpose of the boxes is to alleviate some of that stress on those families and bring a smile to the kids.
“If it’s just one day a year that they get a smile on their face, that’s worth it to me. Every bit of it,” Kautz said.
Both Kautz and Rose attribute their involvement in the Operation Christmas Child program to their love of children and passion for children’s ministry. Both have worked in children’s ministry for a long while. Rose currently serves as the AWANA director and has been working with the AWANA program for nearly 37 years.
Rose uses Operation Christmas Child to not only serve children less fortunate, but also as an opportunity for her AWANA kids to learn the importance of serving others. Kautz, who was director of AWANA before Rose, agreed that it’s a great opportunity for children’s ministry on both sides.
“Part of what being a Christian is about is serving, and then giving to others and giving of yourself and letting Jesus do the work after that,” she said. “We have to trust that each one of those boxes will touch somebody’s life, but that’s not up to us, it’s up to the Lord to see that that happens.”
“It’s just neat to see God’s hand and stuff like that,” Rose added.
This week marks National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child, which is a nationwide initiative through the international nondenominational evangelical Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse. Anyone can participate in the program by putting together a shoebox-sized box of little gifts and finding the nearest collection site in their area on the Operation Christmas Child’s webpage. Collections will be shipped off to the distribution center in Denver by Sunday.
Rose said she often collects little gifts throughout the year to prepare for the upcoming November when she has a bunch of her AWANA kids pack up boxes. This year, the church will have around 80 boxes packed up and ready to go between those AWANA put together and those congregational members made up.
“It’s just a neat project … We’re privileged to be able to do and provide the gospel message to those kids,” Kautz said. “And then something fun to go along with it.”
For more information about Operation Christmas Child, visit https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/.
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