TAMPA – More than 60 children in far-off lands will enjoy a brighter Christmas because their counterparts at Wellspring UMC put Christian love in a shoebox.
The outreach ministry started during a church summer camp session with a Christmas theme, said Macie Jones, administrative assistant at Wellspring.
Under the direction of Wellspring children’s ministry director Melissa Hernandez, children participating in the camp collected toys and other items to fill about a half-dozen boxes, but they wanted to do more.
|Melissa Hernandez, children's ministry director, helps instill a passion for mission in youngsters at Wellspring UMC, Tampa, by encouraging participation in Operation Christmas Child. Photo from Wellspring UMC.|
“So we decided to bring it to the church [at large], and they really got behind it,” Jones said.
Volunteers at Wellspring UMC, a church of about 200 worshipers, packed and prayed over 66 shoeboxes destined to brighten the holiday season for youngsters across the world through Operation Christmas Child.
The program, a ministry of North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse, collects shoeboxes filled with toys and hygiene supplies for distribution to children in more than 100 countries, according to the organization’s website. The children also receive an evangelistic booklet titled “The Greatest Gift,” available in 65 languages.
Donors select an age and gender and pack their shoebox with appropriate gifts. Ages range from 2 to 14.
Jones said the congregation likely will participate in the ministry again next year.
“It was a joy to fill the boxes with everything from dolls to soccer balls, toothbrushes and hair accessories and so much more.”
– Susan Green is the Florida Conference managing editor.