Operation Christmas Child will operate in south-central Missouri Credit: Contributed photo

BY DENISE MUELLER, South Central Missouri Area Team

Franklin Graham, CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, presented a bold vision to the Operation Christmas Team to deliver gift-filled shoeboxes to every child on the 1,000 Pacific islands; this is more than half a million kids! He believes those island nations and the children who live on them have often been forgotten by the world, but he is determined that would not be the case going forward. 

“I want to take a thousand islands in the next five years and reach these forgotten children,” Graham said. “There in the Pacific, people have very little hope. That’s why we intend to go there.”

Graham’s Pacific Island initiative took root at the end of 2018 when he went to the island of Saipan with a Samaritan’s Purse disaster response team after Typhoon Yutu.  He realized that they needed hope and that Operation Christmas Child was the right resource to help tackle the problem. The initiative quickly began with the first shoeboxes, 10,000 in all, that were delivered to Saipan; then more boxes went to the Marshall Islands and Kiribati.

Some communities in the Marshall Islands are so isolated that the only way to reach them is by boat.  On Lib Island, boats can’t even anchor safely due to a dramatic 300-foot drop-off. Lib runs on solar power which means little refrigeration, and cooking must be done over a fire. The island has sparse commerce, as most residents fish or farm coconuts for their oil. Children are not required to attend school, and most stop their education after eighth grade.

The first island visited in Kiribati was Tarawa. The jobs there are hard to come by; parents struggle to provide for their families, and many children on Tarawa live in extreme poverty. Most families dwell in simple one-room, tin or thatched-roof shacks or huts with dirt floors. The population is growing faster than the local economy can keep up. Kids are everywhere. It’s these boys and girls who are being reached through Operation Christmas Child.

You can help these children and many more around the world by supporting the ongoing efforts of Operation Christmas Child. There are many ways to help —  pack a shoebox, order a shoebox online, help a team with a packing party, and/or help during National Collection Week, Nov. 15-20 at a local community drop-off location.

There are also opportunities to work on the 24/7 teams; they work all year long in your area. For more information, go to the website: www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child or contact Area Coordinator Janice Hartinger at 573-368-8736 or email at acjaniceh@gmail.com.

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