Fifty years ago Barbara Lanctot of Wilmington prayed to serve God by ministering to children in Africa. her prayer was answered is June when she traveled to Tanzania with a group of volunteers to distribute Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts to children in and around the capital city of Arusha.
Lanctot, who serves as area coordinator for the South Central Ohio team of Operation Christmas Child volunteers, which includes Highland County, considered it a privilege to meet thes children and personally hand them a simple shoebox gift filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items. For many of them, she said, it was the first gift they ever received.
The neighborhoods her team visited were some of the poorest of the poor, according to local pastors.
“There was no electricity or plumbing,” Lanctot said. “Many homes did not have window panes or doors. At one distribution event, the temperature was only 50 degrees and some children didn’t have warm clothes. Parents do their best there to provide warm clothes; however, they don’t have much money. One mother said, ‘I have to decide between food, clothing or school supplies. It’s hard. Because of these gifts, all of my children can attend school. I’m praising God for sending you here from America to our humble neighborhood. Please continue to pray for us as we will be praising God for you.’”
A simple shoebox gift or, as the Tanzanian parents called them, an “enormous” gift, according to Lanctot, brings smiles, laughter, joy and hope to millions of children, families and communities each year. She said each gift is a tangible example of God’s love, and anyone can be part of the ministry by packing a shoebox.
During Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week from Nov. 18-25, local residents can drop off gift-filled shoeboxes at multiple locations across southwest Ohio, including the Hillsboro First United Methodist Church, 133 E. Walnut St. The location’s hours of operation will be announced nearer to National Collection Week.
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. The mission of Operation Christmas Child, according to a news release, is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 168 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories.
For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, contact Lanctot at 937-218-1964 or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ.