Church extends arms around world for Christmas

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 14, 2004

It was once a humble shoe box, but on Christmas morning, a child somewhere in the world will open it and find a treasure, compliments of local people with very big hearts.

Again this year, members of First Baptist Church of Ironton are preparing shoe boxes full of toys and personal items to send to children overseas as part of Operation Christmas Child.

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of

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The Samaritan's Purse. Founded by the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of

internationally known evangelist, the Rev. Billy Graham, its purpose is to provide physical and as well as spiritual sustenance to poverty-stricken people around the world.

"I was reading Franklin Graham's life story, "Rebel with A Cause" and it talked about Operation Christmas Child," said Janet Stone, who has organized the effort at the church each year for the last six years. "When I put the book down I told my husband 'we've got to do this at our church.'"

Stone had no problem selling her pastor, the Rev. Dennis Strawn, on the idea. "The gospel goes with all of these boxes. The children not only get gifts from us, they get the best gift of all, they're told about Salvation through Jesus Christ," Strawn said, adding that literature about Jesus is included in their shoe box.

Last year the church sent 658 filled shoe boxes to needy children. Stone said she hopes to equal or break that record this year.

And with each box, Stone said she hopes that, more than the toys or the socks or the coloring books, the children will find hope.

"I want them to know that somebody loves them and I hope they come to know God through this," Stone said. "I hope they learn that God loves them."