This is a copy of my article for the NOVEMBER 2016 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’

From small beginnings, Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is now the largest children’s charity in the world and shoeboxes have been delivered to 157 countries – and counting. Since 1990, over 124 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, are orphaned or are the victims of war. Sending a shoebox is a very practical way of showing God’s love to others and it’s amazing what a simple gift can do for those who send them as well as those who receive them. I know how much pleasure so many people get from collecting items, knitting scarves and hats and putting a shoebox together.

I’ve been greatly encouraged by the way many individuals, churches and schools have supported OCC since my arrival in Billericay in 2008.  Over 4000 shoeboxes and passed through Emmanuel alone.  Can I say thank you, on behalf of OCC and the children and young people who receive your gifts, for your continued support.  Might I please ask if you and your family, your place of work, club, organisation or business might be able to collect the following items for our 2016 shoebox appeal (A box in the corner for people to throw things into could be a start!)?

  • Something Fun: Small Football; Dominoes; Whistles; Toy Car; Harmonica.
  • Something To Love: Cuddly Toy; Teddies; Barbie Doll; Finger Puppet; Wind Up Toy.
  • Something Creative: Chalk; Crayons; Colouring Books; Play Doh; Small Sewing Kit.
  • Something To Keep Clean: Toothbrushes; Toothpaste; Soap; Flannels; Combs; Brushes.
  • Something To Put On: Hats; Scarves; Gloves; Head Bands; Small Bag.
  • Something To Learn With: Pens; Pencils; Sharpeners; Paper; Solar Calculator.
  • Something Homemade: Letter/Card or Photograph from the person/group who fill the shoebox.
  • Something For Postage: Each shoebox costs £3 to deliver.
  • Something To Put Your Items In: A shoebox wrapped in Christmas Paper.
  • Something NOT to include: Used/damaged items; War related toys; Anything of a Political or Racial nature; Sharp objects; Glass or Fragile items; Liquids; Playing Cards of the 4 suit variety.

Your contribution, however small, is greatly appreciated.  You can bring your collected items along to Emmanuel Church (Laindon Road, CM12 9LD) on Friday 18 November from 7.30 pm or Saturday 19 November from 10.00 and join in our ‘Shoebox Filling Extravaganza.’ We also invite you to our ‘Shoebox Celebration Service’ on Sunday 20 November at 10.30 am.  Leaflets are available from me / Emmanuel and you can find out more about OCC on our website here A poster can be downloaded here and some helpful gift ideas can be found 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 your group about my experiences, show some slides and tell some stories.

This is a prayer we often use at our OCC ‘Shoebox Celebration Service’

Heavenly Father, we thank you for each person here today. We thank you for the fun we’ve had in getting these shoeboxes ready: they are a sign of the many good things you have given us. We offer them to you with our thanks and our love.  Be with the children and young people who receive these gifts.  Shower them with your love; fill their lives with hope; and may the joy of Jesus be made real to them, through the people who work for Operation Christmas Child. In the precious name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.