GALLIPOLIS — French City Baptist Church has approached roughly a decade of giving while serving as a drop off location for Operation Christmas Child.
“It started off really slow and almost quit,” said Pastor Mark Williams. “We were asked to take it over and it blew up…It’s stayed pretty steady the last few years…These (gift boxes) go all over the world. Sometimes these may be the only gift a kid will ever get in their life. People think (the program) goes back every year. No. They may go to Sudan and this year they’re in this village in the upper left hand corner (of the map) and next year they might be in the lower right hand corner. They’re trying to reach as many people as they can. This is evangelism. It’s a gift, but there is a little booklet in these called ‘The Greatest Gift’ and it’s about Jesus.”
Williams said families who receive gifts are invited to come to a 12 lesson Bible study called the Greatest Journey at a pickup center.
“We get them (boxes) here and we are considered a drop off center,” said Williams. “We take them to South Point to a collection center and then they go on semis and go to Boone, North Carolina. They open every box to make sure there are no liquids, no candy or toothpaste, things with an expiration date or anything that might leak or melt…They are delivered by boat, trucks, maybe camel or canoe and be carried to deliver them wherever they are going.”
Williams said items often packed were meant to help with everyday life and may include things like toothbrushes, shoes or a shirt and a toy.
“A lot of these kids will keep these boxes for years,” said Williams. “That’s why what started as a (standardized) shoe box, a lot of people are buying (similarly sized) plastic totes now.”
Samaritan’s Purse was started by Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, said Williams, and Operation Christmas Child is one of Samaritan’s Purse’s ministries.
“Every year we’ve had like a thousand to 1,400 boxes for the last seven years,” said the pastor.
The church collected gifts from Nov. 12 to Nov. 18. Then after, gifts were loaded onto semis in South Point and shipped on their way.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.