Most will happen in living rooms or around kitchen tables. Others may take place in garages or at a local business or church.
But regardless of the exact location, some 15,000-20,000 gatherings across America will take place to pack shoeboxes full of toys for kids around the world.
It’s Operation Christmas Child season and as just as the temperature starts turning cold, packing parties are heating up.
Only this year, there’s one additional guest invited:
“It’s a great new twist,” said Randy Riddle, U.S. director for Operation Christmas Child (OCC). “A great new ministry we’ve never had before.”
A new message from Billy Graham to America has been filmed over the past year at the 94-year-old evangelist’s home in North Carolina. The video will be shown in living rooms across North America as part of the My Hope America with Billy Graham program.
Packing party participants are encouraged to use one of three 30-minute video programs, featuring a Gospel message from Mr. Graham woven together with life-changing stories from individuals overcoming immense life struggles.
“Defining Moments” and “Lose to Gain” — two programs already released by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association are available via DVD and online streaming (click here for details).
The third program called “The Cross” features a new message from Mr. Graham, as well as Lecrae and Lacey Sturm (formerly of “Flyleaf”) and will be aired nationwide on Fox News and in all 50 states on network TV from Nov. 7-10 (check here for TV listings).
“An Operation Christmas Child packing party is already a fun event with a great mission and a great purpose,” Riddle said. “But now, infusing My Hope into these events gives people a reason to share why they participate in Operation Christmas Child. They can share their own story.”
Riddle also thinks the setting for most OCC packing parties — the home — is the perfect non-threatening environment to share a My Hope video along with a short testimony, inviting those who haven’t made a decision to follow Christ to do so.
“It’s a natural fit to partner OCC packing parties with My Hope because it’s already designed to be an in-home event,” Riddle said. “This is a terrific partnership of ministry.”
Earlier this year, Operation Christmas Child celebrated its 100 millionth shoebox over the past 20 years. This year, an estimated 9 million shoeboxes will be shipped to children around the globe, with an estimated 7.2 million shoeboxes sent from the U.S. You can now track which of more than 100 countries your individual shoebox gets delivered to.
With more than 4,000 dropoff locations around the country, participating in OCC is as easy as ever and there’s still plenty of time with national collection week still a few weeks away (Nov. 18-25). But Riddle wants to encourage all who are thinking of joining OCC this year to consider teaming with My Hope with Billy Graham to spread the Gospel message.
After all, each shoebox delivered to children contains the Good News of the Gospel so it just makes sense to give those giving the gifts a chance to receive the ultimate gift—salvation through Jesus Christ.
“It’s a terrific opportunity,” Riddle said, “for those who have a heart for evangelism, not only to reach children on the other side of the world, but also reach people in their own backyard.”