Each year, Samaritan’s Purse uses the Christmas season to share the Good News of Jesus Christ through their ministry, Operation Christmas Child. As part of the Samaritan’s Purse National Collection Week, East Texas Baptist University Tiger Athletics held the fourth annual Operation Christmas Child Wrapping Party on Monday, Nov. 18.

Together, Tiger Athletics collected more than 200 gift boxes for boys and girls through donations from more than 400 student-athletes.

“These wrapped shoeboxes full of gifts will be sent to children all over the world. They will hear the story of Christ and learn about the true meaning of Christmas,” Vice President for Athletics Ryan Erwin said. “I truly appreciate our Tiger student-athletes as they continue to exhibit a giving and serving spirit, as we strive to transform the world for Christ.”

Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Operation Christmas Child, just one of their many outreach programs, is a resource for evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication. Ministry partners around the world are trained to host shoebox outreach events, at which the Gospel is presented, boxes are distributed and children are invited to participate in a follow-up discipleship program called The Greatest Journey. With every box, there is an opportunity for students to receive the Good News of Christ.

“It’s incredible to see the difference a simple shoebox gift can make in the life of a child. They bring the message of unconditional love and forgiveness found only in Jesus Christ,” Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham said. “There’s still nothing like seeing how one gift can impact the eternal destiny of a child.”

The event was an opportunity for the athletic teams to serve and fellowship with one another, as all of ETBU’s 16 NCAA Division III and five club sports participated by donating toys and various personal care items for children ages 2 to 14. Many athletes came dressed in Christmas pajamas and sweaters as they worked as a team to wrap hundreds of boxes.

“Operation Christmas Child is an opportunity for our teams to serve together by giving,” ETBU senior Women’s Tennis player Ashley Schenck said. “Watching the entire Athletics Department stack boxes several feet high was an amazing sight. The gym was filled with holiday cheer as we wrapped the gifts. As athletes for ETBU, we strive to represent our school by letting the light of Christ shine through us on and off the court or field. Participating in service projects like Operation Christmas Child re-enforces why we really do this.”