Christmas giving starts early at Garner church

Posted November 11, 2012 9:35 p.m. EST
Updated November 11, 2012 11:33 p.m. EST

— Even before sitting down to a Thanksgiving turkey, members of a Garner church are getting into the Christmas spirit of giving.

The congregation of the First Baptist Church of Garner spent Sunday packing hundreds of shoe boxes with holiday gifts for children around the world.

"It's an opportunity for us as a church family to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ," Pastor Travis Tobin said.

The church is one of an estimated 70,000 working with Boone-based relief organization Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child. The project sends up to 6 million shoe boxes, packed with toys, candy, school supplies and hygiene supplies, to children in 130 countries.

"We're expecting our 100 millionth shoe box to be collected" this year, said Chris Shelton, regional manager for the Carolinas Region of Samaritan's Purse.

Izabella McMillion, a Durham school teacher, knows what the impact that these gifts can have on children.

As a 13-year-old in communist Romania, "I learned how to pray and started to pray for snow," McMillion said. That year, more than two decades ago, she received a shoe box from Operation Christmas Child.

"In my shoe box, I found this snow globe, and for me, that snow globe was the snow that God had given," she said.

Now, McMillion hopes that the shoe boxes she helped pack will show other children that they are loved.

"You never know how you're going to touch a life," she said.