IN THE SPIRIT COLUMN: Don't forget global kids at Christmas
Moldavia is the major grain-producing province of Romania, nestled between the Prut River and the Carpathian Mountains. It was from there, earlier this year, that a letter came to Haleigh and Chelsa Haaland of Reynolds, N.D., written by a teen na...
Moldavia is the major grain-producing province of Romania, nestled between the Prut River and the Carpathian Mountains. It was from there, earlier this year, that a letter came to Haleigh and Chelsa Haaland of Reynolds, N.D., written by a teen named Alina, 14, and her 15-year-old sister.
Haleigh and Chelsa were thrilled.
"They thanked us for the gifts and said they were having a splendid spring, warm and sunny," Haleigh says. "Alina said her favorite subjects are English, Romanian and math and that they have two cats, Tom and Senya, and three dogs."
This was not the first time Haleigh and Chelsa have heard from someone from a distant land. Haleigh doesn't recall what country their very first letter came from, but she does remembers this: "The little girl lived on Cha Cha Cha Lane," she says.
The "gifts" the Haaland sisters are thanked for are the ones they pack into their Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes each year. Haleigh, who is "almost 14," says she's been doing this "for as long as I can remember."
Chelsa, 16, says, "I like to send them to people who don't have as much as I do. They put Christian literature in the boxes, and the children get the greatest gift ever in their own language. They will have a chance to go to heaven to be with God if they accept Jesus Christ into their hearts."
With Operation Christmas Child's shoebox National Collection Week just around the corner, on Nov. 13-20, Haleigh and Chelsa have this year's packages nearly ready to go.
"Haleigh and I always have done our boxes together," Chelsa says. "We still need to get toothpaste, soap and hard candy."
One can only imagine the delight felt by those on the receiving end of these brightly wrapped boxes filled with all sorts of goodies.
Since Operation Christmas Child began in 1993 as a program of Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief organization, millions upon millions of shoeboxes filled with gifts have been delivered to children in all parts of the world.
OCC's purpose isn't just to reach children with everything from harmonics to hard candy. As Chelsa Haaland mentioned, it also shares the Gospel message by placing Christian literature and Bible stores in the boxes.
Based in Boone, N.C., and headed by Franklin Graham, son of Billy and Ruth Graham, Samaritan's Purse works in more than 100 countries. It has been recognized by SmartMoney magazine as the most efficient religious charity in the United States.
Back in 1998, Samaritan's Purse contacted Hope Evangelical Covenant Church, Grand Forks, to see if it would be a collection center for this area. Hope said "yes" then and continues to be the place where shoeboxes are dropped off every year.
In November 2005, 6,540 boxes from both northern North Dakota and northern Minnesota left Hope by truck for the distribution center in the Twin Cities. From there, the boxes are shipped to every corner of the world.
"It just keeps growing," says Barb Hanson, Hope's coordinator. "Smaller churches brought more boxes last year than the year before, and they were excited they could do more."
Maybe you've never packed a shoebox. If not, I can assure it's a very gratifying thing to do when you realize it goes to a child whose life is not filled with much hope and joy.
Here's what to do:
Use an empty standard sized shoebox. You can wrap it, lid separately, with colorful Christmas paper if you wish. Decide if your gift will be for a boy or a girl, and also determine the child's age category: 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14. You can pick up a brochure in Hope Covenant Church that will include labels you need.
Fill the box with small cars, dolls, balls, stuffed animals, yo-yos, toys that make noise (with extra batteries), pens, pencils, paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books. You can include toothbrushes, toothpaste, bar soap, combs, hard candy, gum, T-shirts, socks, caps or jewelry.
It's fun to use your imagination, but please do not include used or damaged items, anything related to war (toy guns, knives), food, liquids, medications or anything that's glass or in an aerosol can.
Include $7 with each box to help with shipping and other project costs.
Then, sometime between Nov. 13-20, drop off your parcels in Hope Covenant in the Grand Cities Mall. You'll be amazed at the mountain of colorful boxes you see. Call (701) 772-1884 with questions.
One more thing . . .
If you missed Job Christenson's inspirational concert last week, please don't do so again.
I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it was when he sang in The Federated Church, where he grew up, accompanied by Marlys Murphy.
My friend, Esther Blecha, and I wiped a tear or two as he sang such old favorites as "I Love To Tell the Story," "Softly and Tenderly," "Precious Lord Take My Hand" and "You Raise Me Up."
In between the songs, Job spoke about his faith and how in his darkest hours, music speaks to him.
"Music is a part of the ministry I do every day," said Job, who is artistic director of the North Dakota Ballet Company Apprentice School.
Well, Job and Marlys will replay the concert live, of course in Marlys' church, St. Timothy's Catholic, Manvel, N.D., at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
I wrote about Job's talents when he was a student at Central High School. Now, he's in his early 30s. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, he went to New York and secured a role in "Cats" on Broadway.
From there, he joined a traveling troupe doing "Ragtime." When living in Chicago, Job came back to help Central High students with choreography for their musicals. A few years ago, he decided to return home permanently, as he loves being near family and people he knows.
I promise you'll enjoy every minute.
One more thing
OK, just one more thing: In June I wrote about my granddaughter Elyn's treadmill accident in her Savage, Minn., home. Elyn, 4 this month, had burns all over her body, one of which required two skin graft surgeries.
A producer from the Montel Williams show in New York read that column online and in September, son Troy, daughter-in-law Sheri, Elyn and her brother, Ethan, were flown to New York to be featured on a show Williams was doing on home safety. The show is to air Tuesday. Elyn is one of two survivors of the five stories to be told.
Unfortunately, the Montel Williams show is not seen in our area, but check the Web site, www.montelshow.com , to see if it can be viewed online.
Thanks to all of you who have asked about Elyn. She's back in swimming and gymnastics and doing wonderfully.
Dunavan is a Herald columnist. Reach her at (218) 773-9521 or email@example.com .