Mobilizing a volunteer force for Christmas all year round
By Kyle Patterson
Most people hear about the hard work of Samaritan’s Purse through the ministry of Operation Christmas Child every year come November and December. But the truth is, it’s a year long effort, mobilizing 150,000 volunteers in 90,000 churches and groups across the country every single year to reach millions of children with the gospel of Jesus.
As part of the National Volunteer Week (April 23-29), Randy Riddle, Director of the ministry since 1998, wants to make sure the thousands of volunteers who participate each and every year are celebrated. This year, they are celebrating the incredible volunteers that give of themselves tirelessly to the work of the ministry.
“In order to reach 12 million children around the globe with the gospel using a shoebox gift as a platform, that takes a lot of effort, from a lot of people. There are a lot of moving parts to mobilize around the country and around the world,” explained Riddle.
That effort includes the work of about 400 active area teams and 13 regional offices spread around the country to allow the ministry to collect millions of gift-filled shoeboxes and then deliver them to children in need around the world. The regional offices recruit, select, and train volunteers to serve Jesus through Operation Christmas Child. “It comes down to finding likeminded believers who desire to see children come to know Jesus and be discipled in his truth. The training of the volunteers happens through relationship and intentional training,” explained Riddle.
In terms of distribution of about 146 million gifts, the ministry identifies leaders and ministries that they are in relationship with and target churches and ministries to develop a strategy to share the the gospel with Christ with through the platform of a gift filled shoebox.
“When your shoebox gift is delivered through the local church, there is a clear, verbal, no strings attached presentation of the gospel and information about why we celebrate Christmas given to each child. We also print and deliver gospel literature with the boxes, and thirdly many of our children walk through our discipleship program for children that trained church leaders deliver," Riddle explained.
Children are then followed up with and invited to a discipleship program delivered by Samaritan Purse trained and vetted leaders.
“We praise God for his provision of like minded evangelical believers, who are called to see children come to know jesus and serve beside us everyday to make that happen through Operation Christmas Child.
“Any chance to celebrate our volunteers, we want to do that.”
Photo: Samaritan Purse volunteers gather for a recent training and vision casting event