Shoebox project begins: Operation Christmas Child sends gifts around the world and spreads the GospelWORTHINGTON — When Joyce and Merle Klosterbuer pack up their boxes for Operation Christmas Child this year, they will do so with older recipients in mind. “This year, Merle and I are doing something different,” explained Joyce. “We’re going to do it for ages 10-14 and boys. Those are the ones that get the fewer boxes. Ages 5 to 9 get the most; 10 to 14 get few.”
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — When Joyce and Merle Klosterbuer pack up their boxes for Operation Christmas Child this year, they will do so with older recipients in mind.
“This year, Merle and I are doing something different,” explained Joyce. “We’re going to do it for ages 10-14 and boys. Those are the ones that get the fewer boxes. Ages 5 to 9 get the most; 10 to 14 get few.”
The disparity of gifts between the younger and older children is just one of the things the Klosterbuers learned when they attended an Operation Christmas Child conference in April in Denver. Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse through which needy children around the world receive shoebox gifts, demonstrating God’s love in a tangible way and also utilizing local churches to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Last year, 8 million children around the world received such gifts.
Joyce Klosterbuer and Marian Hayenga head up the local Operation Christmas Child ministry through the American Reformed Church, which serves as a regional collection point. Beginning as a small Vacation Bible School project at the church in 1994, the local effort has grown significantly over the years and become interdenominational, with 5,673 boxes (2,162 local, the rest from relay centers) shipped out from Worthington in 2009.
At the April conference, Joyce soaked up information about how other collection centers are organized, networked with fellow volunteers and listened to stories about how children around the world are impacted by the gifts they receive.
“One speaker at the Operation Christmas Child Conference was a 15- to 16-year-old girl that up until 2008 lived in an orphanage in the Philippines,” recounted Joyce. “When she was 5 years old, she received a shoebox gift. She told us everything that she had received in that box. She especially liked the red hair clips and the candy canes. She had never seen or tasted candy canes before. She was adopted in 2008 and now lives in Colorado Springs. When she came home, she asked her mom if she could look at the picture with the ‘pretty box’ that she had received in the orphanage. It was the red and green OCC box. She encouraged each of us to make more boxes because that was the only gift she had ever received up to the time she was adopted. When she received the box, she did not even know what a present or gift was.”
Along with their gift, many Operation Christmas Child recipients now receive three Bible story workbooks in their own language. When they complete all the lessons in the workbooks, the children are presented with their own copy of the New Testament, again in their own language.
“Last year they started this in the Latin American countries and some African countries,” Joyce said. “This year, they’re going to do the rest of Africa and eastern European countries. Next year will be the Asian countries. They’ll have this in 77 different languages.”
Conference attendees also learned about Samaritan’s Purse efforts to build shelters in Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake and got to see an example of the structures.
“They are 12- by 12-(foot), wrapped in blue tarps, with a slated metal roof with a pipe down from the eaves across the back to collect rain water,” Joyce described. “On one side there are boards that are their beds with a thin mat, like the foam you put under the carpet. At the time of the convention, they were hoping to build 7,500; now they’re hoping to build 10,000. The Haitian people are helping to build them.”
Operation Christmas Child also has a goal to provide 1 million shoebox gifts for the children of Haiti this year. There’s a good chance that gifts given locally will go there, because boxes from this area often go to warmer countries.
“The reason they do that is because our area is the most expensive for transportation,” Joyce said. “We’re so far from any of the oceans, so it’s easier for ours to go by plane to some of the warmer countries.”
That warm destination is something to keep in mind when buying gifts to go inside the shoeboxes; caps and mittens probably won’t be utilized.
Because they are targeting older boys, this year the Klosterbuers plan to include a wind-up flashlight and some tools in each of the boxes they pack.
“I really go for school supplies and personal hygiene,” added Joyce about the items she puts in the boxes. “But they have to have some toys and some candy. … In Africa, they say it’s very important to have school supplies, because parents have trouble affording school supplies, and if they don’t have pencil and paper, they can’t go to school. In Uganda, a person would have to work one day just to buy one pencil.”
Detailed information about what should be put inside the boxes, along with the boxes themselves, are available at American Reformed Church, 1720 N. Burlington Ave., or at the Samaritan’s Purse website: www.samaritanspurse.org.
Collection week for the boxes will be Nov. 15-22. Hours will be from noon to 6 p.m. each day or by appointment; contact Klosterbuer, 376-6753.