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DeLand resident Karen Reed recently returned from a trip to South Africa, where she participated in the distribution of gift-filled shoeboxes to children in need, as part of Operation Christmas Child.

The initiative, a project of Samaritan's Purse, makes sure millions of children around the world receive gifts during the holiday season.

Samaritan’s Purse is an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham, son of noted evangelical pastor Billy Graham.

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to “demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world and, together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ,” according to Samaritan’s Purse’s website.

The group does so by collecting and delivering gift-filled shoeboxes to needy children in more than 160 countries and territories around the world.

Since 1993, the group has delivered more than 168 million shoeboxes.

Reed has served for 10 years with the Volusia-Flagler County Area Team of Operation Christmas Child, the last three years in a leadership role as area coordinator.

In June, Reed was part of a team invited to participate in a “Vision Trip” to Durban, South Africa, with Operation Christmas Child.

During that trip, she had the opportunity to visit several churches and observe how children in receiving countries appreciated the prayerfully filled shoeboxes full of gifts and Christian discipleship materials.

“I cannot describe the joy brought to these children by a simple shoebox gift with things like school supplies, stuffed animals, soap, washcloths, flip-flops and the list goes on,” Reed said. “Seeing how engaged they were while listening to the Gospel being presented before ever receiving their shoeboxes was truly a blessing.”

In addition to outreach events where shoebox gifts were distributed, Reed attended a graduation celebration of The Greatest Journey, a follow-up discipleship program designed especially for Operation Christmas Child shoebox recipients.

The 12-lesson Bible study teaches participants how to follow Christ and share Him with others.

“We were able to present the children with their certificates and New Testament Bible in their native language,” Reed said. “The long-term impact of The Greatest Journey leads to evangelism, discipleship and multiplication. New churches are planted around the world as the Gospel reaches more and more children.”

The trip brought new life to Reed’s local ministry.

“I will use this experience to deepen my volunteer role with Operation Christmas Child and will be sharing my testimony of how God is working in South Africa,” she said.

Visit https://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child for more information on the program, including locations where shoeboxes can be dropped off.

— Article submitted by Samaritan’s Purse, with edits and additions by Beacon staff