What do Great Britain, a car dealership, many churches, several schools, and thousands of individuals have in common this month?
They are all packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to ship from local relay centers and join another 12 million boxes traveling to impoverished children throughout the world!
The Samaritan's Purse Christmas ministry - the largest of its kind in the world, headed by Billy Graham's son Franklin Graham, once again grows in reaching children with both Christmas gifts and the message that they are loved by their Creator.
Local efforts are well under way, but there's still time to participate. National Collection Week runs through Nov. 20.
Groups providing free shipping boxes and labels, and then collecting filled boxes are: Grace Community Church and Central Church on Hilton Head Island; Cross School and Stokes Brown Toyota and Community Bible Church in Bluffton; and Great Swamp Baptist Church in Ridgeland.
The organizations request that filled boxes be dropped off by Nov. 19.
An ideal box with have one "wow" toy such as a soccer ball with a pump, a stuffed animal or a doll, or a special game. School supplies and hygiene items make great fillers, as do flip flops, shirts, and socks.
Including a note and pictures in a box creates an extra special gift. Participants are asked to omit items such as toothpaste, candy, and war toys.
Those who would prefer to send their own box separately can find simple step by step instructions at www.samaritanspurse.org.
This year, the requested shipping donation per box is $9. The shipping donations and labels can be done online and will result in participants knowing which country receive their boxes.
The boxes, arriving under the umbrella of a relief organization, find their way into countries where missionaries might not be welcome, making the participation in Operation Christmas Child particularly exciting.
Nearly 8 million children around the globe have participated in the The Greatest Journey, which is the follow-up ministry offered in a growing number of locations for shoebox recipients and their families.
The impact of receiving these gifts, and the only message of hope any of us really have, is lifting men and women and children around the world from a pit of despair - often manifested by broken families - to a place of hope and productivity.
To gauge the true impact of these boxes, watch one of dozens of videos at www.samaritanspurse.org.
For more information about local participation, call area coordinator Debby Noe at 843-422-0130 or this writer at 843-298-7228.
Beth McKinney Striano of Hilton Head has participated in Operation Christmas Child for 20 years.