First Baptist Church delivers thousands of shoeboxes to Dothan

Published 1:00 pm Thursday, November 23, 2023

Operation Christmas Child has been a tradition in Bainbridge for many years, and continues to be one of the highlights of the holiday season. Every year, churches from around the community collect shoe boxes filled with gifts and packed with prayer to give the gospel out to kids across the world. However, the work does not stop with that. Sue Webb is in charge of managing the boxes’ journey from Bainbridge to Samaritan’s Purse, the founding company. 

“I’ve always loved the units. I’ve been doing it for years, just one box at a time,” Webb said. 

She explained that originally she started training under Sarah Merritt to lead the packing at First Baptist Church in town. Merritt’s sudden passing left Webb to carry on the role. Eventually, she was asked to take over the transportation of the boxes.

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On November 20th, First Baptist Church transported over 4,300 shoe boxes to Dothan where they would then be transported to Atlanta to be approved by Samaritan’s Purse. 

“They go through every box to make sure that there are no unapproved items that we can’t send,” Webb noted, “like candy, any kind of food items, liquid, or anything breakable.”

She explained that the goal is to never take anything out of the box so that the children are able to receive as much as possible.

“Samaritan’s Purse wants to make sure that the box is filled,” she said. “Our slogan is ‘No rattles, no bulges, so when you shake it, we won’t we don’t hear anything rolling around in there. If there are rattles, they’ll take what we call filler toys and put it in that box to stuff it.”

In the past, the problem is often that the box is too full, and some rearranging is required.

“It’s because people are so generous,” Webb continued. “They want the child to have as much as possible, but sometimes they have to do a little bit of work to repack it to get it all in there. So they may have to have two people smash it down and tape it you know, to get it closed but they leave it in there and then send it home.”

A primary way that the boxes are cared for is through prayer. From beginning to end, those involved with delivering the shoe boxes pray that they would have an impact on the life of a child.

“We pray before we start, as we’re packing,” Webb emphasized. “We pray as we load them. We pray as they go off to the processing center. We just pray over them because we know God’s working in their hearts and getting the kids ready for whatever box they’re going to get.”

After the boxes are shipped overseas, volunteers emphasize the message behind the box.

“They talk about the gospel with the children before they ever open the boxes. A lot of these kids have never even heard of Jesus. But after they talk about Christ, then they say, ‘Okay, you can open your boxes.’ Then there’s another step called a 12-week discipleship program. A lot of those kids accept Jesus as their personal Savior after that.”

The children are then able to spread what they have learned to their families and communities.

“They go home, they tell their parents who probably don’t know either, and they become little missionaries or disciples, you know, and then they tell their parents and then it goes out to the community. Sometimes churches are planted. It just keeps going.”

The boxes also bring some of these children to partner with Samaritan’s purse to continue the ministry.

“Many of these children grow up,” Webb said. “They then have this passion and they want to continue this ministry. A lot of them work with Samaritan’s Purse. That’s their job.”

The Samaritan’s Purse ministry works through the many churches who contribute to bring hope to families through the gospel; it would not be possible without the many volunteers from around the states who make it happen.