WILMINGTON — Fifty years ago, Barbara Lanctot of Wilmington prayed to serve God by ministering to children in Africa.
This June, her prayer was answered as 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, considered it a privilege to meet these precious children and personally hand them a simple shoebox gift filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items.
For many, this 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,” said Lanctot. “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 told Lanctot, “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, brings smiles, laughter, joy and hope to millions of children, families, and communities each year. Each gift is a tangible example of God’s love. Anyone can be part of the ministry by packing a shoebox.
During Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week Nov. 18-25, local residents can drop off gift-filled shoeboxes at multiple locations across southwest Ohio, including Calvary Baptist Church at 1920 State Route 22 West in Wilmington. 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. For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, contact Barb Lanctot at 937-218-1964 or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ.