East Texas Baptist University Tiger Athletics held the third annual Operation Christmas Child (OCC) Wrapping Party on Monday, November 12 as a part of the Samaritan’s Purse National Collection Week. Tiger Athletics collected 230 boxes for boys and girls through donations from over 500 student-athletes. Following the event, the boxes were delivered to Summit United Methodist Church in Marshall, Texas.
“The third annual Operation Christmas Child Wrapping Party was once again a great success. The ETBU student-athletes contributed over 230 shoeboxes that are full of gifts and will enable children all over the world to hear the story of Christ and the true meaning of Christmas,” Vice President for Athletics Ryan Erwin said. “I truly appreciate the hearts of our student-athletes as they continually go out of their way to spend their personal time and resources to serve others.”
All of ETBU’s 16 NCAA Division III and five club sports participated by contributing toys and wrapping each box. The event was an opportunity for the teams to serve and fellowship with one another. As a part of the tradition, they listened to Christmas music and enjoyed hot chocolate and Christmas cookies.
“I loved the fellowship that came with the Operation Christmas Child Wrapping Party,” ETBU senior Men’s Basketball player Jordan Gray shared. “Anytime our team gets together outside of basketball to serve the community, it strengthens our relationships and shows us what life is all about. Knowing that a little kid somewhere that usually wouldn’t get much, if anything, is going to be opening up this gift on Christmas morning brings such joy to our team.”
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.
“For me, the most rewarding aspect of participating in OCC was that I was creating a real connection with a child that may not know the true meaning of Christ and Christmas,” ETBU freshman Women’s Soccer player Samantha Martinez explained. “In my box, I included a cheerful letter. It is my prayer that it brings a child joy to know he or she is not forgotten. Wrapping presents and sharing this time with my teammates reminded me of how fortunate we are and how important it is to share God’s love with others. We worked in fellowship and unity of purpose, which are bonds that remain long after the season has passed. I kept thinking about how wonderful it is to attend a Christ-centered university that encourages us to serve.”
In addition to engaging in community service through events such as the OCC Wrapping Party, teams regularly meet for team discipleship. Each team also participates in Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and the Tiger Athletic Mission Experience (TAME). To learn more about the athletic programs at ETBU, visit www.goetbutigers.com.