The world's largest Christmas project is celebrating the collection of 8 million gift-filled shoe boxes that will be shipped overseas and hand-delivered to needy children around the world.
Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and hand-delivered more than 61 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in some 130 countries. This year's collection of 8 million will go out to more than 100 countries.
"The cool thing about these boxes is that each of these will be filled with toys but they'll also have a gospel tract in the language of the people that will be receiving it," says pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif.
"And you can also put a letter in it if you'd like and even correspond with the people that will receive the box, and many people have written back," he added.
On Tuesday, the Orange County Processing Center for Operation Christmas Child sent off the boxes that it had collected, marking the first send-off of the three scheduled to take place this week. On Wednesday, the Denver Processing Center was scheduled to send off at 10:30 a.m., and on Thursday, the Charlotte Proccessing Center will have its send-off at 10:30 a.m.
"[H]aving been on the receiving side – where we gather the boxes – and the distribution side, I've seen the look of joy that comes in a child's face when they open up that box," Laurie told members of his congregation Sunday before his megachurch dedicated the 8,000 boxes it had collected.
"And it's Christmas for them," he added, noting also that the boxes are distributed all year long.
This year, churches and households across America joined with those in 10 other countries to send gift-filled shoe boxes throughout the world. More than 2,200 collection sites were set up throughout all 50 states in America and more than 130,000 volunteers worldwide – including some 100,000 volunteers in the United States – joined forces to prepare the boxes for transport to distant lands.
Though National Collection Week officially concluded on Nov. 24, shoe box gifts can be mailed to the office of Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, which runs Operation Christmas Child.
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