Illinois Volunteers Celebrate the Ways God Is Using Their Operation Christmas Child Team

January 26, 2017 • Worldwide
Operation Christmas Child year-round volunteers
Sue and Jeff McMahon serve as area coordinators for the Upper Illinois Area Team of Operation Christmas Child.

Year-round volunteers see 41 percent increase in shoebox gifts after area team is established.

Within a couple of years of retiring from government jobs, Jeff and Sue McMahon of Moline, Illinois, were approached about serving with Operation Christmas Child in 2013. Willing to be part of a team, they thought they might serve as year-round volunteers in church relations. At the close of the required interview, though, Operation Christmas Child leadership asked them to consider serving as area coordinators.

“I don’t even know what an area coordinator is,” Jeff replied.

Operation Christmas Child year-round volunteers

Jeff and Sue McMahon pause for some fun at a volunteer training event.

Jeff and Sue were familiar with the Samaritan’s Purse project, but Sue admitted, “We’d never even built a shoebox.”

But God took their volunteer leadership experience with another nonprofit and used it to start the Upper Illinois Area Team, serving in part the Quad Cities of Davenport, Iowa; Bettendorf, Iowa; Moline, Illinois; and Rock Island, Illinois. With Jeff and Sue at the helm, the team began with just four other volunteers in the area who used to serve on the Peoria, Illinois, volunteer team. Just by having a team concentrated on upper Illinois, the number of shoeboxes they collected grew by 41 percent their first year.

Today the team is 30 people strong. But their task of expanding and strengthening a project that spreads the Gospel around the world puts them under spiritual attack.

“It seemed like the minute we brought one member on the team, her ceiling fell down,” Sue said. “Their kitchen was like a ‘haz-mat’ area.”

“We honestly believe that Satan attacks people who are making a difference for the Kingdom,” Jeff said.

“Satan attacks people who are making a difference for the Kingdom.”

Regardless, the couple celebrates the way God is using their team. During the 2016 shoebox season, the local Moody Radio affiliate in their area brought in almost 500 shoeboxes from their listeners. People at a packing party at First Evangelical Free Church in Moline completed more than 1,000 boxes—a first for their area. In addition, 30 new churches got involved in the project. All this led to a 2 percent increase in shoebox gifts collected in 2016.

Whether in the good or the bad, they count it a privilege to serve with Operation Christmas Child.

“My red hot why is to bring the word of God to people who might not have the chance to hear it otherwise,” Jeff said.

“Jesus will not return until every tribe and tongue and nation has heard the name of Jesus Christ,” Sue said. “How better can you facilitate that?”