Monday, November 12, 2001

Aileen Locquiao, Luika Lee, Jasmin Lafradez and Virginia Lee,
from left, looked over some donated articles yesterday that will
be wrapped and sent to children in 100 countries. In the
background was Heidi Hester, intern pastor at St. John
Lutheran Church in Kailua.

Hawaii youth groups
join global gift drive

Church groups help ensure needy
children experience Christmas

By Rosemarie Bernardo

Teenagers Luika Lee and Jasmin Lafradez competed yesterday with the Rev. Ruth Peterson at St. John's Lutheran Church to see how many shoe boxes they could wrap in two hours.

But the competition was not exactly equal.

"There are two of you and one of me," Peterson said as the two worked together to wrap the boxes in Christmas paper.

"One person does the top while the other does the bottom. It's quicker," said Lee as both grabbed a third shoe box.

With the teamwork of pastors and 40 youth group members from five Lutheran churches on Oahu, a mountain of empty, dull shoe boxes was transformed into colorful gifts filled with toys, school supplies and hygienic items.

The project was part of Operation Christmas Child, an annual outreach of Samaritan's Purse that was founded by the Rev. Franklin Graham. Each year, thousands of boxes are delivered to needy children around the world who have been afflicted by war, poverty, disease and disaster.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, youth members asked how they could help, Peterson said.

Members filled 105 shoe boxes in 212 hours.

"These boxes are going to children who otherwise would receive nothing," Peterson said.

Last year, Samaritan's Purse collected more than 4.1 million gift-filled shoe boxes in Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States. More than 800 boxes were shipped from Hawaii.

This year, Peterson anticipates about 2,000 shoe boxes to be shipped from Hawaii to children in the United States as well as other countries.

Five youth groups from the Chinese Lutheran Church of Honolulu, Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church in Aina Haina, Christ Lutheran Church of Mililani, Joy of Christ Lutheran Church of Pearl City and St. John's Lutheran Church participated.

After the boxes were wrapped, youth members tagged them to indicate which gender and age group the gift was for. Members created an assembly line to fill each box with items that included miniature race cars, dolls, pencils, crayons, notebooks, soap, toothbrushes and T-shirts.

Kathleen Zeri of Joy of Christ Lutheran Church of Pearl City said: "This could be the only thing they ever get. It's very humbling."

Operation Christmas Child began in England in 1990 to help needy children in Romania celebrate Christmas. After Samaritan's Purse adopted the program in 1993, Operation Christmas Child has distributed more than 13 million filled shoe boxes worldwide.

The smallest things to some children could be the biggest gifts in the world to others, said Andy Biz, youth leader of Christ Lutheran Church of Mililani.

The shoe boxes are delivered to the children through local churches and Christian ministries.

Those interested in donating a gift box can deliver it to the Joy of Christ Lutheran Church at 784 Kamehameha Hwy. by Sunday.

Those interested in helping with shipping costs can mail a $5 check to Samaritan's Purse at 801 Bamboo Rd., P.O. Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607.

E-mail to City Desk

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