When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Debbie Smith of Walden Chapel Baptist Church, Danville, began sewing face masks to give to family and friends. Many recipients wanted to pay for the masks, so Smith accepted donations and collected funds to help fill more than 550 Christmas shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.
God was faithful in spite of the pandemic, Smith said, and provided for the church’s shoebox ministry at each step along the way this year.
“Truly, God provided for my [personal] shoeboxes before the shutdown,” Smith said. “Every time I went [shopping], I would find exactly what I needed and most of it was half-price.”
And when COVID-19 closed the church doors in March, Smith said she wondered if the congregation, which is currently without a pastor, would be able to fill shoeboxes this year.
Shoeboxes and Vacation Bible School make up the primary outreach program for the congregation of just over 20, most of whom are senior adults.
When the church couldn’t host VBS due to the pandemic, Smith felt it was vital that they find a way to do shoeboxes.
“[God] kept providing, and I just kept buying. I had no idea how many we would do, but I told [the congregation], ‘This is not the time to stop sending the gospel to children,’” Smith reflected.
Since older church members couldn’t leave home to shop, many gave money, as did others in the community.
“They just wanted to be a part of it, even though they couldn’t get out,” Smith said.
At packing parties, volunteers spread shoebox filler items throughout the church so participants could safely pack boxes while wearing masks and gloves.
Ider Baptist Church in north Alabama adapted their collection process as well. With the church building closed for several months because of the pandemic, shoebox coordinator Nancy Graham said online wish lists at Amazon and Walmart helped the church meet and even exceed their goal this year.
“This allowed people to still be able to shop safely for those items and at the same time we still had people making monetary donations that allowed me to do the shopping for the needed items,” Graham said.
Local drop-off efforts looked different this year due to COVID-19, with many donors utilizing the church’s curbside, touchless system instead of coming inside the building.
“We missed our donors coming into our life center and praying with us over their boxes one more time before they were packed for shipment. COVID took the personal touch out of it this year like it has so many other things, but I am thankful that a way was made for us to be able to do it at all,” Graham said.
In Prattville, First Baptist Church representative Candyce DeKruyff said their shoebox collection numbers were down only slightly from last year. Pandemic-related restrictions kept the church from hosting their usual packing party, but it didn’t keep 100-year-old Gertrude Chandler of First, Prattville, from crocheting festive borders for shoebox washcloths as she has done for the past four years, DeKruyff said.
Many FBC Prattville members also took advantage of the touchless collection system, DeKruyff said, where volunteers from the church gathered boxes from automobile trunks, leaving a thank you note behind. For those who were comfortable handing their boxes out of car windows or coming into the church, volunteers prayed with them over the boxes, as they have done in previous years.
DeKruyff said some church members used OCC’s online packing option, which allowed donors to virtually pack a shoebox, an option that is still open to those who wish to participate.
“In the year of COVID, where we are trying to make things as accessible as possible, we added and promoted that (online) option,” DeKruyff said. “Some people wanted to be hands-on but there are others who weren’t able or weren’t comfortable helping in person. We wanted to offer all options.”
The church collected 1,533 shoeboxes and served as a regional collection site, shipping out more than 9,500 boxes to OCC’s Atlanta processing center.
Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Gordo, did not send anyone to the Atlanta processing center this year as it has in years past, but the church did reach a milestone this year—25 years as a regional drop-off location in West Alabama.
Mount Pleasant packed 614 shoeboxes and collected a total of 2,239 shoeboxes from other churches and individuals.
Children on mission
“The children from North River Christian Academy in Tuscaloosa came over on Friday of collection week and brought their 76 boxes,” said Melba Moss, who coordinates OCC efforts at Mount Pleasant. “The students prayed over their boxes, watched an OCC video and toured our OCC room at Mount Pleasant where we collect items all year long for our boxes.”
Amid the global pandemic, Ider Baptist’s Graham said people wondered at first if they would have time or resources to fill shoeboxes. By October, those doubts had changed to praises to God for providing more than enough for the shoeboxes, Graham said. She uses shoeboxes to teach her daughters how to give to others and also the importance of the Great Commission.
“Not everyone is called to be a missionary,” she said, “but we can help by giving them tools to help open doors for others to learn about Jesus.
For more information about this year’s Operation Christmas Child collection effort, go to the OCC website.
Share with others: