Students buy gifts, stuff shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child

November 11, 2019

By Naomi Balk

CIU Student Writer

Columbia International University student Ezekiel Helmling, received an Operation Christmas Child (OCC) shoe box in Liberia when he was six or seven years old, which he says gave him “so much joy and happiness.” Now studying Sport Management and playing soccer for the CIU Rams, he recently found himself packing seven OCC shoe boxes at a packing party in the Rossi Student Center. Students packed the shoe boxes, wrote letters to the recipients and prayed over the boxes and the children around the world who would receive them.

As Christmas music played, tables were piled high with gifts that students had purchased during a previous Prayer Day service project, with stationery and markers alongside so students could include a personal note.

“I hope that communities will be impacted with the message of Christ and come to a saving knowledge of Him [through these shoeboxes],” said sophomore Katelyn Nichols, who helped facilitate the campus packing party with junior Kylie Sutton.

Packing an OCC shoe box is only the first step of the journey of sharing the joy of a gift and hope of the gospel message to the recipients who will also have the opportunity to be involved in a discipleship program. 

“[The boxes] are such a good example of joy and the gospel. It doesn’t feel like Christmas without it,” Nichols said. She hopes it brings the “joy of service to campus” as well.    

Each box included a “wow item” such a stuffed animal, a ball or a larger toy. There were also other items for health care and school supplies.

When he received his box as a child, Helmling was waiting to be adopted. A few years later, a woman came to visit the mission agency headquarters that assisted in adoptions. It became known that she was the very same woman who had packed Helmling’s shoebox!

She started the paperwork to adopt Helmling, however a different family in Asheville, North Carolina adopted Helmling when he was nine years old. But he still treasures a stuffed tiger that he got with his shoe box over 13 years ago.

Before the time of prayer, Sutton reminded those packing shoe boxes how this is just a small part of the story, and how God can use these gifts in amazing ways for His purposes. At the end of the night, the students had packed about 100 shoe boxes.

Columbia International University consistently ranks among the Top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report. Excitement is growing on campus with increased enrollment and new academic programs such as the Doctor of Ministerial LeadershipRequest information on enrollment at CIU and Columbia Biblical Seminary or call (800) 777-2227, ext. 5024.