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Operation collects and delivers gifts to foreign children
Collection begins this week across North Georgia
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Operation Christmas Child drop-off times and locations

Times: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today through Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, 1-7 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 25

Where: North Georgia locations:

Lakewood Baptist Church, 2235 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville;

Bethel United Methodist, 100 Lumpkin Campground Road S., Dawsonville;

CrossView Church, 1219 Ga. 124, Hoschton;

First Baptist Church Buford, 4550 Hamilton Mill Road, Buford;

The Church at Dahlonega, 1312 S. Chestatee St., Dahlonega;

Cleveland First Baptist Church, 25 Church St. Cleveland;

North Lanier Baptist Church, 829 Atlanta Highway, Cumming;

First Baptist Church, 325 Oak St., Cornelia

For tips, gift suggestions or to know how to pack a shoebox, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.

Supplying needy children across the globe with Christmas gifts is an admirable goal, but Gainesville resident Jim Lee wants to offer foreign kids more than tangible items. He wants to offer them the gift of Christian faith.

Therefore, each holiday season the pilot volunteers his time with Operation Christmas Child, which not only gives foreign children a Christmas but an introduction to Christ.

“For me personally, giving them an understanding knowledge of grace and forgiveness is something they will have forever,” Lee said.

Operation Christian Children is a mission of Samaritan’s Purse International Relief in which shoeboxes filled with a variety of items are collected from all across the United States and shipped to children in third-world countries. The items inside the box range from soap and toothpaste to a small toy such as a car or stuffed animal. A personal note or message can also be in the shoebox.

“Then Operation Christmas Child encloses in each box in the native language the story of Jesus and why we celebrate Christmas,” said Daina Durham, area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in North Georgia. “From that, (the children) can do the greatest journey, which is a 12-week discipleship program.”

Lee heard about the program 10 years ago while on a mission trip in North Carolina. He and a friend worked at a Operation Christmas Child sorting center.

“I saw how (the gifts) were processed through, and I got the bug after that,” he said.

He returned to Gainesville and started the program at his church, Lakewood Baptist Church. Now the church acts as a collection center and Lee is the collection center coordinator.

“I’ve been doing it for five years,” he said. “Before that I was involved in packing shoeboxes."

But packing a shoebox is a very personal deal, Lee explained.

“You are packing a box for an individual kid,” the 49-year-old pilot said. “You put a note and picture in the box if you want. And it’s not just one gift. It’s personal things and you get to decide what you want to put it in the box. It’s personalized. You kind of make it a little different.”

To pack a box or to find the nearest collection center, Durham advises visiting their website at www.samaritanspurse.org. It also provides instructions on how to pack and build a shoebox or go so far as track it.

And the impact of the child who receives the box can be a life-changing event, Durham said.

She said last week a man from Ecuador shared a story about two little girls who received Christmas boxes last year.

“They got the opportunity to come back and attend the discipleship,” she said. “One of the girls said she wouldn’t go unless her mom came, too.”

At some point after the program, the mother was injured in an accident after leaving a club, Durham said.

“She came back to discipleship program after she’d been healed and gave her life to Christ,” she said. “She was able to work regularly because of things like that.”

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