Christmas project now ongoing mission for Rockford’s Sardiscomment (0)
November 15, 2012
By Neisha Fuson
"This might work for us.”
Shelia Hardy put down her Dec. 22, 2011, copy of The Alabama Baptist newspaper and decided to present a new idea to the leadership at Sardis Baptist Church, Rockford: yearlong Operation Christmas Child (OCC) collection.
Hardy and her husband, Pastor Jeff Hardy, began to lead Sardis Baptist in 2004 and have seen the church of about 70 participate in OCC every year, donating around 30 shoeboxes filled with toys and other items for needy children worldwide. OCC is a Samaritan’s Purse ministry that seeks to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way through the global distribution of donated gift-filled shoeboxes.
Each Christmas season, leadership at the Central Baptist Association church shared promotional videos and material and reminded everyone how to donate the items, Shelia Hardy said, but the church was “basically doing [OCC] but not really changing anything” in order to expand.
She read about a Bibb Baptist Association church in the paper (see story at www.thealabamabaptist.org/print-edition-article-detail.php?id_art=21760) that collected items throughout the year and as a result more than doubled its number of donated boxes.
After reading the article, she said, “It just kind of jumped out at me that something like that may be something our church could do.
“I talked [with leadership at Sardis] to see what they thought and they all liked the idea,” she said.
Shelia Hardy took the sample schedule found in the article and changed a few items to fit Sardis’ needs. In January 2012, the church started collecting items month by month, she said.
A large box was placed in the foyer of the church to collect the donations. In January, for example, Sardis collected toothbrushes and toothpaste. In July plastic boxes were collected. Donations for shipping the boxes, which costs approximately $7 per box, were collected during the first two weeks of November.
On Oct. 9, several church members of all ages gathered at the church to begin packing the items into the already collected plastic shoebox containers: a total of 60. But they’re not done yet.
This year, instead of the usual 30 boxes, Shelia Hardy anticipates about 65 boxes.
Donna Miller, missions coordinator at Sardis, said everyone was excited to begin packing the boxes.
“We worked together [on Oct. 9] and it wasn’t just like a machine just putting things in a box,” Miller said. “We all thought about [each box and item] a lot before we finished up packing [each one]. … It was fun.”
The 60 completed boxes currently reside in the foyer at the church for people to see a physical example of the work they were a part of.
Miller said the new way of collecting for OCC has been “a wonderful undertaking” and “God has blessed through it because so many people are so excited about [OCC].”
Both women hope “other churches in the state can [also be inspired]” and donate more through OCC, just as they were after reading the 2011 article about a small church “making a big impact on children around the world.”
Pastor Jeff Hardy said he thinks the yearlong collection worked well. He also said he heard positive feedback about how collecting throughout the year relieved a financial burden around the Christmas season.
Shelia Hardy said her family, who usually gives three boxes to OCC each year (one from each child in the family), probably gave much more than usual in 2012 because the collection was spread out over 10 to 11 months.
Sardis delivered the packed boxes to Thelma Baptist Church, Wetumpka, the closest collection center, in time for Thelma Baptist to transport them to OCC’s Southeast Region Processing Center in Atlanta for National Collection Week on Nov. 12–19.
And Miller is excited to see what happens in the future at Sardis because she said this year’s OCC project really “helped the kids [at Sardis].”
“[The kids] are inspired now and understand missions even better. They know that the [OCC] box is the only Christmas that some children get in another country and that really gets them excited to help those who are less fortunate. It makes the kids appreciate where [they] live and the life that [they] are blessed with.”
For more information on OCC, visit www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/occ/.