HANNIBAL — Clover Road Christian Church will join two other churches in Marion County as drop-off locations for the growing Operation Christmas Child ministry — which distributes boxes filled with gifts and hygiene essentials for children in struggling nations.
Ashley Yoder, children’s minister at Clover Road Christian Church, has been helping pack the bright red Operation Christmas Child boxes at her church for at least 14 years, and this Christmas season is the first time her church will serve as a drop-off location for Operation Christmas during collections from Monday, Nov. 18 to Monday, Nov. 25 — joining the longtime site at Immanuel Baptist Church in Hannibal and another new location, Cornerstone Church of Marion in Palmyra. Yoder said the growing ministry brings joy to children and encourages families to learn about Jesus.
In Marion County, 4,686 boxes were packed and delivered all over the world. This year, the goal is to deliver more than 5,000 Operation Christmas Child packages. Yoder expressed her excitement that Clover Road Christian Church is a new drop-off location this season, and she said it takes the dedication of donors in churches and other locations throughout area communities to bring everything together. People pack the boxes throughout the year, and churches like Clover Road Christian Church host “children’s packing parties” so youth can pick out the items to include in each box.
“It’s really neat to see all the different organizations and churches and individuals in the area that come together to support this,” she said.
Yoder said everyone packs boxes their own way, and she emphasized the importance of including a “wow” item like a deflated soccer ball and air pump for boys or a doll for girls. Hygiene items like washcloths and soap also make a big impact, Yoder said, but donors are reminded not to pack liquids or war-related items.
The shoebox-sized packages have been delivered to 107 groups of people who were previously unreached in 46 nations. Billy Graham started Samaritan’s Purse — and Operation Christmas Child is a part of the group. Yoder said that Samaritan’s Purse volunteers have set up field hospitals in Syria, as well as in the Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian.
The red boxes bring joy to children in war-torn and struggling nations, and include a book titled “The Greatest Journey.” The children are invitedto a 12-week class about Jesus, and Yoder said
children often bring their relatives along for the experience.
Yoder said the gifts and opportunities for families to learn about Jesus change lives forever. She encouraged anyone with interest in the mission to visit www.samaritanspurse.org/occ to learn more about what items are a good choice for each box and how to get the packages to drop-off locations in the area. When people click on the “find my drop-off location” and enter their ZIP code, each of the three locations in Marion County appear on a list.
“It will list the hours that we’re open to receive shoeboxes, so they can find a location and a time frame that works with their schedule, and be able to bring those shoeboxes,” Yoder said. “And then we’ll take it from there, and get them all ready to go.”