For the last 15 years, Capital City Christian Church has helped show the love of Christ worldwide through its annual participation in Operation Christmas Child. This year, the church collected 3,055 shoe boxes — up 855 boxes from last year.
"Our mission is to be a city on a hill. Matthew 5:14 says as Christians we are the light of the world and anything we can do to help to do that, we want to be apart of," Frank Goehringer, CCCC teaching pastor, said.
Goehringer, Starla and Scott Harper have been involved locally with Operation Christmas Child for the past 10 years. The partners all agree the most rewarding aspect about the program is being able to serve others through Christ. The Harpers serve as team drop-off leaders for the program.
Operation Christmas Child is a mission-based effort through the international Christian relief program, Samaritan's Purse. It ships gifts to children across the world in areas affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine and disease, as well as children living on Native American reservations in the U.S., according to the Samaritan's Purse website.
For a week, ending Monday, the church opened its doors accepting donations such as toys, clothing, crafts and personal hygiene items to be collected and shipped to distribution centers worldwide. The boxes cost $9 and could be purchased locally or online.
Starla said this year the team had 15 old and new volunteers, more than in the past.
"Through this program, we had the opportunity to reach out to people who may not have ever set foot in a church before," Starla said. "Knowing that for every box delivered, the gospel will be delivered is really rewarding."
The Harpers recognized the impact the program could have after a discussion with their young sons about gift giving.
Scott recalled his sons boasting about how the kids would enjoy the presents, because they were the ones who picked everything out. At that moment, Scott said he explained those were the only presents the international kids would get.
"I think it puts a proper perspective on gift giving and on what Americans are privy to compared to others in the world," Scott said. "The goal focus is what we can do for others."
The team leaders said every year they have noticed an uptick in the number of people who participate in this program.
"It's a part of our community Christmas initiatives and the program has not only grown numerically in donations but also in interest," Goehringer said.
Starla said those who have participated want to be a part of Samaritan's Purse on a full-time basis.
She also credited Michelle Hale, Mid-Missouri Operation Christmas Child area coordinator, for her ongoing support and the local Chick-Fil-A, which collected 300 boxes on behalf of the church.
"There is no way we can handle this without the help of our volunteers and those who help to prepare the boxes," Scott said.