KIMBERLING CITY – Setting a goal proved to be inspiring and motivating for FBC Kimberling City in 2016. The congregation set a goal for 3,000 shoebox gifts for Operation Christmas Child (OCC) and they collected more shoeboxes than ever before with a final total of 3,231. Last year, the church collected 2,864.
Senior pastor, Jeff Hardy, was overjoyed with the result. “It was exciting to see the church grab hold of the project and accept the challenge,” he said. “These shoeboxes are one of the most effective ways to reach the world with the gospel. Each box has the capacity to reach seven people, so our boxes alone can reach 21,000 people with the gospel.”
The gospel is presented with each Operation Christmas Child shoebox filled with hygiene items; school supplies; and toys plus small gifts suited to the age and gender of the children aged 2-14. Children are also invited to participate in The Greatest Journey, a twelve-week discipleship program.
Mary Ellen Martens, FBC church member and co-project leader for the church’s collection, agreed that setting the goal was an encouragement. “It is so important for the pastor to promote OCC from the pulpit,” Martens said, “and Pastor Hardy has encouraged us to promote OCC. When we met with him at the beginning of the year, he suggested increasing our goal to 3,000 and to challenge our people.”
Hardy also thought the project leaders did a great job with the project. “They did a good job keeping it fresh and in front of the congregation,” he said. “Each month, they used videos and skits to inspire everyone. Their efforts reflect passion for the ministry.”
“I’m proud of our church,” Hardy said. “They all participated at every age level. One little girl, six or seven, gave up her birthday party for packed shoeboxes. We are a mission-minded church,” he said, “Twenty-one percent of our budget is given to missions and we are involved in planting churches.”
Martens agreed that widespread participation made the collection successful. “Working on the project year-round helped all ages participate. We posted a new item or two each week in the bulletin,” Martens said. “The youth were able to help us pack our first special boxes in August before they started school and got involved in those activities. Another dedicated group of retired people works the third Monday of each month to bag soap and remove the packaging of the items going in the boxes.”
Members were also able to use a ‘personal shopper’ idea to participate. “Several people just gave us money to shop,” Martens said. “They might hand me $20 and tell me to buy crayons for the boxes. We also are able to get 1% back on grocery receipts from a local store, so we collect receipts and cash them in for shopping money.”
According to Martens, a group from the church worked at an OCC processing center and discovered that the age group needing the most boxes was boys 10-14. “We decided that we would pack 1,000 of our boxes for boys in the older age group, so we use some of the shopping money that we get to buy soccer balls and pumps for those boxes.”