Mark Watkins, a parishioner at St George’s Catholic church in Norwich and his wife Debra who attends Servants Church, are Church Relations and Community Relations team members with Operation Christmas Child.
They are calling on churches and families in the Norfolk area to pack more shoebox gifts than ever before for the Samaritan’s Purse project, which is committed to its mission of reaching millions of children across the globe with hope. Mark said: “The campaign seeks 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.”
Operation Christmas Child (OCC) has been collecting and delivering shoebox gifts—filled with school supplies, hygiene items and fun toys—to children worldwide for three decades. Since 1990, the project has collected and delivered more than 200 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories. Last year alone Samaritan’s Purse UK was able to gift 252,000 shoeboxes to needy children around the world.
“To support this ministry to collect shoeboxes,” Mark explained, “in Norfolk we have what are called Drop of Locations and Church Collection Centres. We are fortunate to have in Norfolk a number of Drop of Locations which have their doors open to the public to receive filled shoe boxes.”
Mark and Debra have also been looking to find more church collection centres in Norfolk; “The role is to also receive shoeboxes; to represent Samaritans Purse/ Operation Christmas Child, for which they are given more information and support in doing this,” said Mark. “This is a great opportunity for the Church to share with the community all that they do and their heart to witness to the Gospel in a real and tangible way.
Servant’s church in Norwich has recently agreed to partner with Samaritans Purse and become a Church Collection Centre. Servants Church has services both at at City Academy School, Bluebell Rd Sunday 10:30am and Hillcrest Chapel Weston Wood Road 4pm.
John Brown trustee and staff elder, said: “At the heart of their Church is to serve as Christ would serve and in partnering with this ministry it just simple opens up another door to live out the Gospel message.”
Mark and Debra attended their Church services on Sunday September 24 and, along with Annie, a member of the church, who has taken on the role of project leader, showed a video and outlined how central this ministry is to share the Gospel and give children hope, by interrupting their brokenness.
Mark said: “The Church gave such a positive response and it highlighted how much this church has a heart to share God’s love.” The Hillcrest Chapel will be the Church Collection Centre that shoeboxes can be dropped off to in the Thorpe St Andrew area. The Collection week this year is from the November 13- 20 when boxes can be dropped off at locations throughout Norfolk, see website below.
“Your shoebox gifts give an opportunity for the local church in the receiving countries to share the good news of Jesus,” said Trish Ellse, Regional Manager for Operation Christmas Child, East England. “Children are invited after receiving their shoebox gift to the local church to learn more about Jesus through The Greatest Journey Discipleship Programme, a fun and interactive 12-week Bible course.”
Those interested in more information on Operation Christmas Child for your church, school, group or business can contact Mark and Debra Watkins at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured above are Debra, Mark, Annie and John at Servants Church.