On February 5th, a team of 9 women from four East Central Baptist Association (ECBA) churches left Indiana to serve “On Mission” at the Samaritan’s Purse Operational Christmas Child Shoebox Processing Center in Charlotte, NC. These women represented Kingston Ave Baptist Church (Anderson), Redeemer Baptist Church (Anderson), New Day Baptist Church (Alexandria) and New Day Baptist Church (Pendleton). The event was a result of a single meeting in 2022 with ECBA WMU ministry leaders on how to relaunch mission activities in our churches post-Covid. One area of common interest was Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child. “We were brainstorming ideas on how to make disciples of Jesus who live on mission in the post-Covid church. Several of our churches are Shoebox drop off sites and all are involved in building shoeboxes at varying levels,” said Tami Hubler, ECBA WMU Coordinator. “After we met, discussions kept turning to serving at one of the OCC processing centers. We knew that the gospel was shared with each shoebox and there was sufficient interest to pursue the idea further. It made sense to use OCC as the first step in jump-starting missions in our association.”

Partnering with New Day Baptist Church, Tami reached out to OCC and discovered that the Charlotte processing center was in need of volunteers in February to fulfill orders originating from the online Build A Shoebox. ECBA contributed the funds for the rental van and invited each associational church to participate in the trip. The trip was open to both men and women but all available spots were quickly filled by women.

On the first day, the team visited the Billy Graham Library which had just re-opened after extensive renovations. All agreed that the focus on Jesus and the gospel message was the perfect experience to turn the team’s hearts towards Jesus and serving in the week ahead.

The team spent the next three days working at the processing center and walked over 15,000 steps each day (that’s seven miles!) filling shoeboxes with basic hygiene items and toys. Activities also included taping shoeboxes, packing them into large cardboard containers and delivering them to be palletized. While at the processing center, the staff ushered the team into an experience focused solely on the gospel. Multiple prayers were held with hands on the shoeboxes and individuals from around the world were on site to share how the gift of a shoebox and the message of the gospel changed their lives forever.

At the end of the week, the team was exhausted but excited to continue their mission experience. Sheliah Gross (New Day Baptist Church, Alexandria) shared, “I felt the presence of the Lord during the week. If you didn’t, something’s wrong with you. Everyone should go on a mission trip and I’m going back to my church and tell people to get out of their seats, go on mission and share Jesus.”

The 10-hour drive home consisted of brainstorming plans for the next trip which will include men, women and perhaps youth. It’s exciting to see what doors God will open!