Global connection: Local family meets recipient of Operation Christmas boxWORTHINGTON — Since Operation Christmas Child was introduced to the local community 17 years ago, many area families have made it part of their holiday tradition to pack up a shoebox gift to be sent to a child in need in a far-off country.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Since Operation Christmas Child was introduced to the local community 17 years ago, many area families have made it part of their holiday tradition to pack up a shoebox gift to be sent to a child in need in a far-off country.
Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse started by evangelist Franklin Graham, through which needy children around the world receive shoebox gifts. The gifts serve as a way to demonstrate God’s love, while the ministry also utilizes local churches to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with their recipients.
Last year, more than 8.5 million children received a shoebox gift, and more than 6,000 of those were processed through Worthington’s American Reformed Church, which serves as a regional collection point.
For one Worthington family, the importance of Operation Christmas Child became very personal when they had the opportunity to meet one of the recipients of their shoebox gifts this past summer. George and Paula Wolyniec and their sons, Patrick and Oliver, were visiting relatives in Poland and made a side trip to Estonia.
“When Oliver was 6, both he and Patrick packed boxes to be sent overseas, and I included pictures of the boys with our address on the backs,” explained Paula Wolyniec about how the relationship began. “The following March, Oliver received a thank-you from an 8-year-old boy in Estonia, one of the Baltic republics of the former Soviet Union. We were puzzled at first, because we didn’t immediately make the connection, but when we figured out what Raul had thanked Oliver for, we were amazed and excited to find out who had gotten the box.”
Oliver wrote back to Raul, starting a pen-pal relationship that has continued for more than seven years.
“The boys have sent letters, pictures and gifts back and forth during all this time, and several years ago, when we started to talk about going back to Poland to see George’s family, Raul and his mother, Anne, invited us to come and visit them,” Paula said.
The opportunity to make the direct connection came when the “Amazing” Worthington City Band — of which Patrick and Oliver are members — planned a July trip to sister city Crailsheim, Germany.
“At the end of that stay, the boys and I traveled to Poland by train, where we met George and had a wonderful time with his mother,” Paula detailed. “Then, because we were only 500 miles away, we flew to Estonia, where we were warmly met by Raul and his mother. Because of the correspondence between the boys, we felt very at home with them, and now we feel as though we have family in Estonia.
“They were very grateful for the original Christmas box, and we’re all very grateful for what has transpired since then,” added Paula, who also said that her family has been “blessed by the opportunity to participate in Operation Christmas Child.”
A single shoebox gift impacted the Wolyniec family and a boy and his mother more than 4,000 miles away from Worthington. Organizers of the local effort would love to see more such global connections forged as they begin to collect shoeboxes for this year’s drive. This year, they hope to collect more than 6,500 gifts from throughout the region.
Tracking technology will allow donors to “follow” their box to its destination country, where it will be hand-delivered by volunteers from Samaritan’s Purse or its partners. This year, boxes are slated to go to more than 100 countries on six continents.
Operation Christmas Child collection week has been designated for Nov. 14-21. Boxes can be dropped off at American Reformed Church, 1720 N. Burlington Ave., from noon to 6 p.m. daily, or by appointment.
Detailed information about what should be put inside the boxes, along with the boxes themselves, are available at the church, or on the Samaritan’s Purse website: www.samaritanspurse.org.
For more information about the local effort, contact Joyce Klosterbuer, 376-6753.