Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is an outreach opportunity available through Samaritan’s Purse Ministries that allows kids of all ages the opportunity to tangibly reach around the world.
It’s a chance to say, “Jesus loves you and I care about you” by sending a shoebox that’s filled with Christmas gifts to an otherwise unreached needy child. It’s a chance to stop and consider the blessings of God in your own life and pause in thankful reflection. It’s a chance to serve as a CYT family and also a chance to throw an early Christmas party!
CYT Richmond has taken OCC to our overnight teen camp on two separate occasions and created a wonderful ‘Christmas in August’ event. I’ll just share the highlights from this past summer as the 50+ plastic bins (shoeboxes) currently fill the front lobby desk of our office and its impact is fresh on my mind.
All you need in order to have an Operation Christmas Child service project is the supplies list (found on the Samaritan’s Purse website), Christmas music, boxes to fill (we use $1.00 shoebox sized plastic bins from Walmart), a variety of homemade Christmas cookies (thank you, CYT moms!) and a couple gallons of milk! Oh yeah, and 75 excited teenagers ready to join in on the fun! Of course, the number of teens is only a suggestion…
Our initial goal was to fill 40 boxes. Please keep in mind that Samaritan’s Purse asks for a minimum of $7.00 to be sent for EACH box you fill in order to cover the shipping costs. We plan to raise the shipping money through loose change competitions in the green room during our FALL shows. 40 boxes seemed doable for us.
Wanting to be sure we had what was needed/suggested to fill the bins, my sister and I spent a few hours at Walmart and Target buying ‘forty of this’ and ‘forty of that’. Our shopping list included: toothbrush/paste re-sealable pouches, large plastic cups (for washing or drinking), washcloths, bar soap, Crayola crayons, notepads, pens/pencils, a variety of different toys, socks, hard-candy, etc. We use a portion of our teen camp budget to cover the cost of this activity/service project and also ask the kids to bring supplies to use as well. Plus we add all the extra souvenir items that are leftover from the shows—just a thought on how to come up with some extra toys with sentimental meaning to the CYT teens!
Ok…jump to teen camp.
We’ve got a big room, Christmas decorations and about an hour and a half to get everything ready to host our outreach event. We set up about 3 long tables and FILLED them with supplies (separated by category and gender appropriateness). Imagine the fullest souvenir table you’ve ever seen from a CYT show and you’ll start to get the picture! Then we blew up our trusty inflatable Christmas tree (the best purchase ever made from Oriental Trading), hung strands of lights everywhere, lit candles, set up the cookies/milk tables, cranked the Christmas music and labeled 2 tables each with each team color. Our staff was even dressed in Christmas costumes—with a special appearance from Buddy the Elf!
When the teens arrived we sang some crazy carols and danced around for a little while. Next on the agenda was the cookie tasting and milk guzzling! The campers divided into their teams and found their labeled table. We had already shared the heart behind this project so they knew the reasoning behind what they were doing and the global impact we were making that evening. There was construction paper and markers on all the tables so they could make Christmas cards to accompany their gifts. Each team was instructed to fill 6 boxes. We instructed them on what elements from our ‘souvenir table’ were required items to include but also gave them a lot of freedom to make the box uniquely created by them.
When it was all said and done we had filled over 50 boxes (more than the 40 that we planned!) and had a wonderful time. The evening ended with the singing of traditional Christmas songs (w/piano accompaniment), and an amazing group photo to include in the boxes! Christmas is one of those special days that is worth celebrating twice a year and we’d encourage you to plan this event for your local CYT!
Contributed by Joy Osborne, CYT Richmond Staff