WHITESVILLE—A small country church in western Kentucky is making a global impact in a big way through packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.
Bells Run Baptist Church in Whitesville, which has an average Sunday attendance of 40 to 60 people, collected enough items to fill 763 shoeboxes for the Samaritans Purse project. The boxes are being loaded by the relief organization onto airplanes for delivery to children around the world at Christmastime.
Setting a high goal "builds excitement in a little congregation," Pastor John Cummins said. "We're proud in a good way of what we've been able to accomplish," he added.
"This is the one project we really focus on, other than going on mission trips whenever our congregation can handle it," Cummins explained. "Most everyone can participate in some way."
Bells Run has been packing boxes for about 15 years now. They started by packing about 30 boxes. It took only two or three years for them to pass the 100-box mark, recalled Cummins, who has been pastor there for 19 years.
"Every year, we kept upping the challenge," he said. "Some snickered when our next goal was announced—in a good-natured way." But everyone knew, they'd somehow soon reach it.
Last year, they packed almost 700 boxes. So, topping 760 this year really wasn't all that surprising to them.
"We try to find high quality items to pack—nice things that the children can use," Cummins noted. "We don't want to sacrifice quality for quantity," he added.
Donna Braden, Woman's Missionary Union leader and long-time church member, "does an amazing job" in coordinating the collection effort, which has already started for next year," Cummins said. They're aiming for 1,000 boxes, but it could take a couple of years for them to reach that many—or maybe not.
Church members participate in a year-long collection process where each month they collect a different item to go into the shoeboxes. Items consist of non-liquid toiletries, small toys, clothing items and school supplies that can fit. Sunday School classes and small groups often collect items to go with a certain theme, pack a certain number of boxes, or provide items for a particular age group.
"It's a nice community-building event," Cummins told a reporter for the Owensboro Times. "It allows people to contribute at whatever level they're able. People can donate throughout the year and it's not as stressful."
But Bells Run and other churches participate in Operation Christmas Child because it has a much greater purpose than delivering tens of thousands of shoeboxes filled with small gifts to children of other countries.
"We also know that everyone of those boxes the gospel is going out," Cummins added, noting that an informational tract is placed in each shoebox. "We've heard many stories where entire families have come to know Christ through a shoebox that was given to one of their kids." (WR)