The holiday spirit is alive and well in Surry County, if activities at Flat Rock Baptist Church are any indication.
Church members were busy Tuesday afternoon loading a record number of shoe boxes for delivery to children across the world. The work is part of an outreach effort known as Operation Christmas Child.
The program, an outgrowth of Samaritan’s Purse, began in 1993 as a way to spread both a little joy and the gospel to needy children.
“We fix shoe boxes full of gifts, toys, school supplies and personal items,” said organizer Carol Cockerham.
Those shoe boxes are then distributed to children in 130 countries, according to Cockerham, who has been involved with the program nearly since its inception.
And it’s not just about giving children a toy or two at Christmas.
“It’s grown and grown,” Cockerham said. “More and more people became involved because in the end, the result is we’re spreading the gospel because the children not only receive a shoebox, but a brochure written in their native language.”
Children who receive the boxes are invited to return and learn more about Christ.
“That’s what we want,” Cockerham said. “We want the children to have a little joy and receive Christ.”
Flat Rock Baptist has been involved in the program since 1995.
“The numbers have varied over the years, and the largest year we’ve ever had we did about 250 boxes,” said Cockerham.
But this year, members of the congregation opened up their hearts and surpassed efforts in years past, according to the effort’s organizer.
Cockerham said members of the church decided to host a fundraiser to help pay for the program.
“We had a church yard sale with the proceeds going toward the boxes,” she said.
And this past Sunday, the members brought in 365 boxes, a number Cockerham says is a personal record for the church.
“We’re so proud of that because people in the church want to be a part of a missionary effort, not only locally, but world-wide,” she said.
The boxes were being packed up for delivery to Bannertown Baptist Church, the drop-off location for the local effort.
“Monday, a truck will come and collect them and take them to a distribution center,” she said, noting that the boxes could go to any country.
“I don’t know where they will go, but they’ll make 365 children happy and it made us happy to do this,” Cockerham said as she looked at row upon row of neatly-stacked shoe boxes.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.