‘Baking a Difference’ for Christ in North Carolina

November 4, 2019 • United States

Children Use Creative Cooking Class to Raise Support for Operation Christmas Child

With some 60 members, Grace Presbyterian Church’s small size is no obstacle to their great desire to share the hope of Jesus Christ around the world. The Franklin, North Carolina, church is one of thousands of small-town churches across the country who are joining together to create a lasting, global impact through Operation Christmas Child.

Patti Huettig helps children create and decorate personal pizzas at an event designed to raise money for Operation Christmas Child.

Recently, as part of our 2019 Shoebox Roadshow, a dozen children raised enough money through a cooking workshop to send their shoebox gifts—packed full of toys, school supplies, and hygiene items—to boys and girls around the world in Jesus’ Name.

Year-round Operation Christmas Child volunteer Patti Huettig has been packing shoeboxes at Grace Presbyterian Church for more than 23 years. Each year, she hopes to pack more shoebox gifts than the last and continues to find unique ways for the younger generation to get involved with the Samaritan’s Purse project.

“Our kids are very excited about Operation Christmas Child—to fill shoeboxes for children who don’t have things,” Patti said. “Last year, the kids packed 45 boxes by themselves—just the kids. And they were so excited to show me, I just stood and cried.”

Inspired by her favorite cooking shows, Patti organized a children’s baking class to raise money for this year’s shoebox gifts. Children spent the day learning how to make pizza dough and apple turnovers from scratch—personalizing and designing their bite-size creations.

The children learn how to make apple turnovers.

“I thought how fun would that be to do with the kids at church—make a mess, teach them to bake something,” Patti said. The class proceeds went directly to cover the requested donation for the 60 shoebox gifts the church plans to pack.

For each shoebox gift, a $9 suggested donation covers the collection, processing, and shipping costs to ensure that millions of boys and girls around the world hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. The donation also covers Gospel materials given to children at shoebox distributions.

“We only have between 50 and 60 church members but if we can pack even ten boxes and one child comes to Christ through that box, then it was all worth it,” Patti said.

An Unexpected Gift

Izabella McMillon, an Operation Christmas Child shoebox recipient, was able to share how that one special gift changed her life forever as the children ate their culinary creations.

Izabella grew up in communist Romania with her parents and older brother. As a result, she spent many days at home—often without food, power, or any form of entertainment.

After they had finished their homework one day after school, Izabella and her brother lifted their living room rug to find a loose floor board and a hidden Bible. They had never seen a Bible before and were fascinated by its stories. When their parents returned, however, they were directed to return the book and never speak of it—Christianity was illegal in Romania and could cost their family their lives. Still, Izabella and her brother found secret opportunities to read the Bible whenever possible.

Izabella McMillon, a past shoebox recipient from Romania, shares the impact that one shoebox gift can have on a child.

Years later, a friend invited Izabella to attend an underground church in the cover of night and she listened as the pastor shared the same stories she had read in the Bible. Eventually, the pastor taught Izabella how to pray and told her that God always answers prayers. With this in mind, she prayed for the thing she wanted most—snow.

After uncharacteristic weeks of no snow, Izabella began to doubt if God answered prayers or if He even existed at all. Her pastor told her something she never forgot: “God can answer prayers but sometimes it’s in different ways than what we think or than we imagine.” When Christmas came, snow had yet to fall.

The day after Christmas, Izabella and her brother ran outside their house and followed a mob of people—as they had been trained to do when food arrived to the grocery store. This time, however, people ran straight past the store to the town square. There, packed in the backs of large trucks was not food, but hundreds of colorful shoeboxes.

Children at Grace Presbyterian Church celebrate after participating in a cooking class to raise money for Operation Christmas Child.

One woman handed Izabella a bright shoebox and she couldn’t believe it was truly hers—nothing in Romania was free. She saw something sparkle in the corner of the box and picked it up, mesmerized by what it could be. As she did, a boy came up to her and shook it—producing a flurry of miniature snow within the snow globe. Immediately, Izabella remembered what her pastor had said about God answering prayers in different ways than expected.

“On that day, I understood that He is a God who knows me and cares for me and who loves me. And that was the day that I decided to follow him for the rest of my life. All of that came to me in the form of a beautiful little colorful shoebox,” Izabella said.

As the children listened, Izabella reiterated the power that just one shoebox gift can have on a child: “Did you know that by being here today, you became missionaries? You were not just cooks—you were missionaries today by raising money for those shoeboxes that are going to go on your behalf to share the Gospel with children all around the world.”

This article and video are part of our 2019 Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Roadshow. For more on this online cross-country journey, including additional short videos, please go to the Roadshow landing page.

Operation Christmas Child National Collection Week is November 18-25. Learn how to pack a shoebox gift!

Operation Christmas Child Through Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan’s Purse is sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with millions of boys and girls in more than 100 countries each year. Many of these children have never before received a present or heard the true meaning of Christmas—until they open a gift-filled shoebox from a person like you. Some people are not able to give the $10 per shoebox we request for shipping and related costs. By adopting a shoebox, you can partner with them to deliver the Gospel and help "bring salvation to the ends of the earth" (Acts 13:47, ESV).

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Adopt a Shoebox: $10 | Adopt a Carton of 15 Boxes: $150