AP NEWS

Local church selected as Operation Christmas Child site

November 16, 2017

The Word of Hope World Outreach Church in New Iberia has been packing up and sending out boxes of children’s toys around Christmas for more than a decade. But this year, they’ll be sending way more boxes.

The project, called Operation Christmas Child, is run in conjunction with Samaritan’s Purse, the evangelical Christian international relief organization run by Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham.

The organization, based in North Carolina, designates drop-off locations throughout the country — usually churches — that families and individuals can go to stuff shoeboxes full of donated items, then have the organization come collect them and ship them out to children all across the world.

“We’ve participated as long as I can remember,” said Kristin Mitchell, the Operation Christmas Child project coordinator for Word of Hope. “Our members bring in items, and we take them to Lafayette,” which, she said, was often the main drop-off point in Acadiana.

But in July of this year, Kevin Brown, the regional director for Operation Christmas Child, called Mitchell and asked if Word of Hope would be interested in becoming a drop-off location. The church jumped at the chance.

“Now we’re a designated drop off point, so anyone in the area can come here,” Mitchell said. Word of Hope is now the only Samaritan’s Purse drop-off location in New Iberia.

Mitchell said that Word of Hope is a non-denominational Full Gospel church with an outward-looking mission. It is led by the Rev. Zak Mitchell, who is Kristin Mitchell’s father-in-law. Kristin and her husband, Zak Mitchell Jr., are both youth ministers at the church.

“We are world-focused, and we support mission work, so this really makes sense for us to be doing,” she said. “It’s an easy way to show the love of Jesus to them, to children all over the world.”

The church has been accepting drop-off donations since August, but things really ramped up on Monday, which marked the beginning of Operation Christmas Child’s national collection week.

Beginning then and running until this coming Monday, Nov. 20, anybody is able to visit the church at 705 W. Admiral Doyle Drive and fill up a green and red-colored shoebox to be sent off to children in need. There is also a kids station with coloring sheets and activities, where visiting children can receive a “certificate of completion.” There is also a photo booth.

Packages are age specific, with boxes separated into donations for ages two to four, five to nine and 10 to 14. While the Christmas-themed Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes are available on site, donors are welcome to bring their own boxes as well. All of the filled boxes are then transferred to large carts from Samaritan’s Purse, which then ship out from Christ Church in Lafayette at the end of national collection week.

“They go everywhere,” Mitchell said. “They’re going to children in South America, Africa, Asia — you name it.” A suggested $9 donation covers shipping costs but is not required. The donation includes a tracking label, to let donors watch where their package ends up.

“This started as another way to get involved in something international. We had missions then, but not everyone is called to do that. Here is an opportunity locally to help children internationally,” the Rev. Zak Mitchell said, standing by a full cart of donations already sealed up and ready to go to Lafayette by Tuesday afternoon. “The first year we had maybe 50, and it’s just grown from there. But this year is really a paramount year.”

He said there is no capacity limit for the amount of donations they’re able to accept.

“We’ll put boxes wherever we can,” he said. “We can take as many trips to Lafayette as we need to.”

Contact Kristin Mitchell at 365-5651 for more information.