Local effort supports Operation Christmas Child
WORTHINGTON — Taryn Tumbleson began packing shoebox gifts for Operation Christmas Child when she was just 4 years old. This past summer, the Martin County West student had the opportunity to deliver such gifts in person.
Taryn was one of 18 individuals selected to travel to the Philippines to participate in an Operation Christmas Child distribution.
“My mom heard about Operation Christmas Child from a friend, and we started doing it as a family,” explained Taryn, who lives in Trimont. “We brought the idea to our church, which eventually became a relay center. We’ve had packing parties. I’ve worked in a distribution center. I’ve done absolutely everything with Operation Christmas Child. The final step for me was going to the Philippines.”
Operation Christmas Child, the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, was started in 1993 by Samaritan’s Purse, a non-denominational evangelical Christian relief organization founded by Franklin Graham to provide spiritual and physical aid to hurting people. The project uses shoebox gifts as a way to “demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world.” The boxes are filled by individuals, families and groups with toys, school supplies, hygiene items and notes of encouragement and are collected in mid-November and then distributed in subsequent months in more than 100 countries on six continents.
Participating in a distribution was a dream come true for Taryn.
“You go through a long application process,” she explained. “You send in a video, and then they select 18 individuals from ages 16 to 21 from across the United States. I was kind of prepared to not be able to go, so when I got accepted, I was so excited.”
Taryn and her fellow Operation Christmas Child representatives traveled to Manila from July 20-27 and handed out shoeboxes to children in several locations, mostly schools.
“The children were invited to come to a Gospel session, and they didn’t know they were going to get the boxes,” related Taryn. “So they were excited to just come and learn about God. … These kids had never received a gift before. Some of them would open it up, look at what was on top, then close it and keep it on their lap. They were just so happy that somebody loved them enough to send them something like that.”
One of the boxes that Taryn personally delivered had an address on it from Hawaii, and she went out of her way to have a picture taken with the recipient so she could send the person a note saying “I got to be there when your box was opened.”
As the boxes were opened, Taryn took note of some of the favorite items found inside.
“They really liked the candy. It was gone by the time we left,” she said. “Socks, soap — so they could have their own hygiene items — Slinkys and suckers, pencils and pens and things to draw on. … I think some of the most important things to put in a box are a prayer, a note and a picture of you.”
Now several months removed from the trip, Taryn still deeply feels the impact of everything she witnessed during her Operation Christmas Child experience.
“It just makes Operation Christmas Child so much more personal for me,” she said. “It was really humbling for me to come back to the United States. It’s made me a lot more grateful for everything I have. I wanted to come home and say thank you to everyone who has done an Operation Christmas Child box. … It’s really an opportunity to reach more children and spread the good word of the Lord Jesus Christ to people around the world and build up that Christian army. With each box, the word of God will spread.”
This year marks the 20th year for Operation Christmas Child with more than 100 million boxes distributed since its inception. Boxes packed this year will go to Madagascar, Zambia, Kenya and India.
National Operation Christmas Child collection week is Nov. 18-25. In Worthington, the American Reformed Church, 1720 N. Burlington Ave., serves as a collection and regional distribution center. Preprinted boxes are available at the church. Shoebox drop-off times are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 18-23; noon to 6 p.m. Nov. 24; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 25. Boxes should be labeled for a boy or girl and the age group: 2 to 4; 5 to 9; and 10 to 14.
For more information about Operation Christmas Child or how to pack a shoebox gift, go to http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/.