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Following an Operation Christmas Child shoebox to its journey's end

Riverside, Calif. (March 8, 2016) – It took two hours by car, boat and then by foot to reach their destination in Guyana, South America. The prize they sought was the joy in the schoolchildren's eyes as they received shoeboxes filled with gifts. The sacrifices on the journey were made in an effort to spread the Gospel message and it was worth the trip, said Julie Dobbins, assistant director of chapel and compassion ministries at California Baptist University.

Dobbins was given an opportunity to travel to Guyana to deliver shoeboxes with Operation Christmas Child (OCC) last month. Her team of 10 people handed out about 220 boxes at three schools. Dobbins saw firsthand that the kids loved balls and that toy cars with big wheels work better on dirt.

The local OCC volunteers "view this as a gospel opportunity. It's worth it, to do the work, to raise the money," Dobbins said. "It gives them an avenue into people's lives to be able to share the Gospel with them." 

Dobbins has been involved with Operation Christmas Child (OCC) since California Baptist University started participating in OCC's shoebox drive four years ago. She has coordinated efforts with other departments on campus, sought donations for the shoeboxes and organized the packing parties that have resulted in more than 1,700 shoeboxes being packed to date at CBU. 

Her trip to Guyana gave her a fresh perspective on all the labor of love that goes into a successful delivery, she said.

Despite its name, the shoeboxes are usually not handed out at Christmas time. Some countries do get them closer to the holiday, but some countries do not celebrate Christmas, Dobbins said. The main reason for the delay is logistics. The shoeboxes are counted and then run through a quality check process to ensure they contain certain items such as hygiene products, school supplies, a candy and a toy.  Additionally, OCC volunteers in Guyana coordinate and raise money for such things as renting storage space at the port and paying taxes.  

Dobbins said she was grateful for the opportunity to go to Guyana and witness people around the world who love the Lord.

"That was so humbling and really encouraging," she said. "It reminds you to be grateful for what you have and to be really intentional with how you participate with (OCC)."