This is a copy of my article for the SEPTEMBER 2014 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’

Some of you may be familiar with the excellent work of Operation Christmas Child (OCC) who send shoeboxes filled with small gifts to less fortunate children than our own across Europe.  I was greatly encouraged, last year, by the way many of you supported our shoebox appeal at Emmanuel (and other churches in town) Billericay shoeboxes were delivered to Belarus.  Many of you suggested that I should have mentioned it sooner last year – so here I am, a month earlier!

Since 1990, over 100 million children and young people, worldwide, have been able to receive a Christmas gift that they would not have received because they live in extreme poverty or because they are orphaned or their parents are just too poor to buy them a Christmas present.  A fantastic achievement from the simple idea of a friend of mine, Dave Cooke, a carpenter from Wrexham who was so deeply moved by the plight and images of children in the orphanages in Romania on TV in 1990 that he decided he had to do something about it. OCC is now the largest children’s charity in the world.

Might I encourage you and your family and/or your place of work, club, organisation, business or school to join in with us this year and collect the following items over the next several weeks?

  • Shoeboxes: We always seem to run out! (Please wrap these in colourful wrapping paper).
  • Toiletries: Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Soap, Flannels, Combs, Brushes.
  • Sweets: Such as Haribo or Boiled Sweets but NOT chocolate!
  • Small Toys: Tennis Balls, Cards, Dominoes, Teddies!
  • Educational Equipment: Pens, Paper, Pencils, Colouring Books, Rubbers, Sharpeners.
  • Woollens: Hats, Scarves, Gloves.

Your contribution, however small, would be greatly appreciated.  You can bring your collected items along to Emmanuel on Friday 14 November from 7.30 pm onwards.  You are also invited to join us for our ‘Shoebox Filling Extravaganza’ at Emmanuel from 10.00 am on Saturday 15 November and our special ‘Shoebox Service’ at 10.30 am on Sunday 16 November (completed shoeboxes can also be brought along on these two days).  Each shoebox costs £3 to send – all donations welcome!

Sending shoeboxes is a very practical way of showing God’s love to others. However, I think it’s worth remembering that shoeboxes have a two-way ministry. I know how much pleasure people get from buying small gifts, knitting scarves and hats to etc., loom bracelets are sure to be the craze this year! Leaflets are available at Emmanuel and you can find out more about OCC at their website here

I have been fortunate to help lead shoebox distribution teams to Belarus, Crimea and the Ukraine and I have seen, at first hand, the joy a simple shoebox ‘filled with love’ can bring.  I’d be happy to come and speak with you about my experiences, tell some stories and show some slides!