ST. LOUIS—Jim McCaughan, minister of missions here at Parker Road Baptist Church, and several other Missouri Baptists have one of the longest running seasons of ministry. For 14 years between Thanksgiving and Christmas, this group has traveled to an Operation Christmas Child Processing Center.
“We started with just a few couples,” McCaughan said, “but this year we have more than 60 people going from three churches.”
The Operation Christmas Child Processing Center is the last stop for the shoeboxes before they depart for the final destination of a child’s hands in a foreign land. Operation Christmas Child has seven processing centers located in Atlanta; Charlotte and Boone, N.C.; Minneapolis; Denver; Orange County, Calif.; and Hawaii.
“We usually go to Charlotte, but this year we are going to Atlanta,” McCaughan added.
Barb Lutz, member of First Baptist Church, Kimberling City, sets up the group reservations for the large group of volunteers.
“This is a time for love and sharing,” she said. “We’re making the final preparations for children to get the best Christmas gift ever. Besides the gifts in the box, the children hear about Jesus.”
First Kimberling City fills a bus with about 30 and then they meet with Parker Road and Calvary of Alton, Ill.
“We’ll meet and then go on to Atlanta together,” she said.
McCaughan described the processing center as a busy hub of activity.
“There are about a dozen workstations on each row and they have about 10 rows,” he said. “A conveyor belt brings the boxes to us and we must inspect each box. We take out the money and replace any items that are not allowed. We can’t include liquids, glass or war toys.”
Other volunteers are placed at individual tables filling bags with candy while others push carts delivering needed supplies to the workstations.
Lutz enjoys working in the Christian atmosphere of this fun toy workplace.
“We know what we are there for and what we are doing,” Lutz said. “We are preparing these gifts of love despite the circumstances of the children. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to share love with a box.”
VICKI STAMPS/contributing writer