God Is Using a Small Texas Church to Bless Many Thousands of Children

January 2, 2020 • United States
Cherry and Mark Brumbelow pray over Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes during a service at Grace Baptist Church.
Cherry and Mark Brumbelow pray over Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes during a service at Grace Baptist Church.

A church of just over 50 members continues to pack more Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts every year.

Update (Nov. 4, 2021): Since this article was originally published, Grace Baptist Church of Wild Peach, Texas, has continued to exceed its shoebox-packing goals. In 2020, despite the global outbreak of COVID-19, the church packed 12,617 shoeboxes—117 over their goal.

They also saw God’s provision regarding their $9 donation per shoebox gift that year. “We paid $7,750 over what was needed for our shoeboxes,” said, Cherry. “To me that’s God saying He’s not affected by a pandemic.”

As they entered into 2021, the church felt God gave them the goal of packing 13,000 shoeboxes. This target seemed more ambitious than the previous year not simply because it was a larger number. This year, they knew ahead of time that COVID-19 would create some challenges in their shoebox-packing process. Still, they packed 13,127 shoeboxes and sent over $16,000 more than necessary for the suggested donation per shoebox gift!

“It’s impossible,” Mark said.

“We like it that way,” Cherry added as though she was finishing his sentence. “It ensures that God gets the glory.” She is quick to clarify that a church that packs 100 shoebox gifts can be just as pleasing to Him. “It’s not the numbers that God’s impressed with—it’s the obedience.”

Mark and Cherry Brumbelow have been packing Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts since 2003.

Mark and Cherry Brumbelow have been packing Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts since 2003.

The 51 members of Grace Baptist Church in Wild Peach, Texas, packed 11,139 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in 2019. That equals more than 218 boys and girls per member who will have a chance to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ over the coming months!

Church leadership doesn’t take credit for this incredible work—all the glory goes to God for doing big things with seemingly small resources.

“It’s God doing amazing things. We know it’s not us—it’s the Lord,” said Cherry Brumbelow, whose husband Mark pastors the congregation.

Asking the Wrong Question—At First

When Grace Baptist Church in Wild Peach, Texas, began packing Operation Christmas Child gifts years ago they asked a very practical question: How many shoeboxes can we afford to pack?

The congregation was only 25 members in 2003 and they packed about 20 gift-filled shoeboxes. They continued to pack 10 to 20 boxes each year, reaching a peak of 43 boxes one year.

Edward Graham visited the Brumbelows in Wild Peach in December 2019.

Edward Graham visited the Brumbelows in Wild Peach in December 2019.

But in 2013, after a decade of shoebox packing, God told them to start asking a different question.

“God opened our eyes,” Cherry said. “Instead of asking, ‘What can we afford,’ we asked, ‘God, what do you want us to do?’”

That next year, the church set a goal to pack more than 500 shoebox gifts. It seemed impossible for such a small church, yet they trusted God would provide and ended up packing 532 boxes.

Grace Baptist Church was thrilled with the result, but they knew God wasn’t finished. They felt God leading them to continue trusting Him—trusting that He would make a way for them to pack even more than 500.

They had no idea just how mightily God would work and what He had in store for their congregation. The Lord demonstrated His faithfulness in a tangible way as Grace Baptist sent more than 2,000 shoeboxes to children in need in 2015.

“We asked, ‘God, what do you want us to do?’”

The numbers have increased every year since. Even after Hurricane Harvey flooded the homes of seven church members, the congregation still packed more than 8,000 boxes.

In 2019, they also raised the funds to cover the suggested $9 per shoebox donation—more than $100,000. The church has raised these funds every year, which help to cover processing and shipping costs, as well as Gospel materials that are presented at distributions.

“We haven’t done anything special, but seek to obey God and what He’s told us to do,” Pastor Mark emphasized. “There’s nothing special about Grace Baptist Church or its preacher. But I tell you there’s something mighty special about the God that we serve.”

Looking Forward

Cherry said that a banner hanging in their church with 2 Chronicles 16:9 is a “constant reminder” to keep their focus on the Lord and to never forget that He is working on their behalf:

Cherry and the "Alpaca Shoebox" display outside of Grace Baptist.

Cherry and the “Alpaca Shoebox” display outside of Grace Baptist.

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.”

Grace Baptist is already hard at work packing shoeboxes for the 2020 National Collection Week. They began New Year’s Eve and will continue shopping for gifts and packing boxes throughout the year. The congregation is praying that God will allow them to pack 12,500 gift-filled boxes this year.

“Our confidence is not in ourselves, but in the Lord,” Cherry said. “God knows what He wants to do through you. He will make it happen.”

There’s only one reason that the church continues to participate in Operation Christmas Child year after year—to see children and families come to faith in Jesus Christ.

“Our absolute motivation is to win souls for the Lord,” Cherry said. “The shoeboxes are going with the Gospel message all over the world.”

Family Saved

That powerful Gospel message is not only reaching communities around the world, but it’s also changing lives “on both sides of the box,” Cherry explained. People in the church have accepted Jesus as their Savior as a result of participating in Operation Christmas Child.

Mark Brumbelow

The Brumbelows helped distribute shoeboxes to children in Barbuda after Hurricane Irma.

Cherry’s brother and sister-in-law saw faith in action through the church’s commitment to the Operation Christmas Child project when they came for a visit about a year ago.

Cherry’s brother had never wanted anything to do with God, but when he saw God working through Grace Baptist in ways he couldn’t explain otherwise, he told Cherry he could “no longer deny God.”

Both Cherry’s brother and sister-in-law prayed to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and are now members of a church in Ohio. They’re even leading the Operation Christmas Child project at their church.

“My own family is being saved,” Cherry said. “We could have never imagined that our obedience would bring about all this.”

Coming Full Circle

Cherry and Mark recently participated in the dedication service for the Samaritan’s Purse Southwest Ministry Center in Dallas, which will serve as a permanent Operation Christmas Child processing center and also a base for North American Ministries (which includes U.S. disaster relief operations).

Mark and Cherry participated in a dedication service for the Southwest Ministry Center.

Mark and Cherry participated in a dedication service for the Southwest Ministry Center.

For the Brumbelows, being in Dallas was like coming full circle, since it was in Dallas in 2013— during their first time to process shoeboxes—that they knew God was asking them to increase their shoebox goal and to also serve as year-round Operation Christmas Child volunteers.

“That place is like holy ground. It’s hard to put into words. It is a place of prayer and blessing,” Cherry said.

Cherry served as the community relations coordinator for three counties before stepping into the area coordinator role a few years ago. Mark serves on the church relations team.

The Brumbelows are excited to continue serving in these roles this year and to see what great things God will do in 2020.

“Pray, and then step out in obedience to the Lord,” Cherry said. “When we’re doing what God calls us to do, it’s not a burden—it’s wonderful.”

What can God do through you in 2020?

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.—Ephesians 3:20-21