The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary partnered with Operation Christmas Child to prepare presents for more than 6,000 children in the nation.
"In addition to the shoebox which contains items such as toys, soap, a toothbrush, clothes and school supplies, the children are given a Gospel tract in their language called, 'The Greatest Gift of All.' It's about Jesus," said Lloyd Harsch, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary faculty member responsible for establishing the seminary as an OCC collection site. "Most of them have never had gifts, and here is a Christian presenting them with a gift celebrating the birth of Jesus."
The joint effort began in 2003 when LifeWay Christian Stores nationwide began participating in programs with Samaritan Purse, the sponsor of the Operation Christmas Child effort. The stores distributed information about the program and many served as collection sites for the shoeboxes.
"Last year was the first year NOBTS was a collection site, and we collected just under 4,400 shoeboxes. This year, we set a goal of 6,000 shoeboxes, and we collected 6,037," Harsch reported.
"When I moved to New Orleans a couple of years ago, I learned that there was no collection site in the entire city," Harsch said. "I went to [NOBTS President] Dr. [Chuck] Kelley and Chris Friedmann [associate vice president of operations] with this request and they gave us space and logistical support for the collection center. Faculty, staff and students all pitched in to help. I'm very grateful for the cooperation and help I've gotten from our administration for housing an OCC collection center."
NOBTS faculty, staff, students and homeschooled children participated in the program, Harsch said. Many New Orleans-area churches packed shoeboxes as well.
In 2002, over 6 million shoe boxes were collected worldwide and distributed to children in about 95 countries.