About a decade ago, a Carlsbad resident heard about Operation Christmas Child through a Bible Study group. Inspired by what she heard, she quickly became an unofficial ambassador for Operation Christmas Child and facilitated her first shoebox drive. She started attending St. Michael’s in 2008, and every October afterward, a card table has quietly appeared in the corner of the Parish Hall with information and supplies for packing shoe boxes.

You may know her. She’s an active member of Daughters of the King and the Altar Guild, and she teaches Bible classes and the occasional Adult Forum. She has also long been a personal inspiration. Phyllis Gilbert has been a blessing to St. Michael’s in many ways during the years she’s been a part of this community; organizing the Operation Christmas Child shoebox drive is just one of them. I recently had a chance to talk to her about her involvement with this outreach project.

Operation Christmas Child was created 26 years ago by Dave and Jill Cooke, a couple in the United Kingdom. Their goal was to provide shoeboxes filled with gifts to children around the world as a way to share the Good News of Christ. Three years later, they formed a partnership with Samaritan’s Purse. Since merging, Operation Christmas Child has delivered over 135 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 150 countries and territories, including the United States.

What makes this project so successful is that it is both enjoyable and simple. Participants choose an age and gender, and fill a shoebox with new toys, hygiene items, and school supplies. Phyllis shares, “Everybody seems to find it a happy thing, especially if you do it with your kids or grandkids.”

It is a meaningful experience for children to choose gifts for another child who is just like them, except that they may look a little different or speak another language…or that they won’t be expecting Christmas gifts.

Operation Christmas Child makes the process more concrete and personal by allowing participants to track their packages to their destinations.  It’s the perfect opportunity to help the children in our lives develop empathy and a more global understanding of the world.

Operation Christmas Child is a simple project that makes a huge impact on communities everywhere, whether they are giving or receiving. We are so grateful that Phyllis introduced St. Michael’s to this outreach opportunity and continues to coordinate our efforts. With dozens of individuals and families contributing 80 boxes last year alone, Operation Christmas Child has definitely made an impact on our parish community!

Help St. Michael’s reach 100 boxes this year! Pick up your official Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in the Parish Hall starting this Sunday. Simply return your filled boxes to the church narthex any time. The boxes will be blessed during the 10:00 am Mass on Sunday, November 20th before sending them on their way!

Written by Becky Gleason, Children’s Minister.