The shopping is done; the gifts are wrapped and the boxes have started their journey.
Operation Christmas Child was a success in Thomson this year with 1288 shoeboxes packed for children in third-world countries.
"I feel really good about it, and I'm already ready for next year," Jo Montgomery, who coordinated the project in Thomson, said.
First Baptist Church of Thomson served as the collection point for Operation Christmas Child.
Area churches participating in the program brought their boxes to First Baptist, where Mrs. Montgomery and other volunteers organized and packed them and delivered them to Augusta, the first stage of their journey overseas.
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan's Relief, headed by Evangelist Franklin Graham. Each year, the project delivers gift-filled shoeboxes to needy children in third-world countries.
Participants fill shoeboxes with school supplies, toys, necessity items and hard candy. Operation Christmas Child delivers them to countries suffering from natural disaster, war, terrorism, disease, famine and poverty.
Samaritan's Relief adds to the box a Bible story book or literature in the language of the country of destination. Participants may enclose a letter in the box they send, if so desired.
Mrs. Montgomery said Morgan Sherrer at First Baptist received a reply a week ago to a letter she put in a box last year. The letter, dated June 11, came from India and is written in broken English. Mrs. Montgomery requested the writer's name not be published to protect his identity in the hostile environment where he lives.
"...My village is located in Hills place. Our peoples will do the agriculture labour work, behave and looking rude. They don't have peace in their lives and getting sins to kill animals. And they don't know about the real and Savior God. They can pray to trees and rocks and sacrifices the animals before them," the letter says.
The man goes on in the letter to tell his story of how he found God, got an education and started a ministry in his village, which includes a church body, orphanage, school and home for widows. He included several pictures of the villagers.
"Now in our village, every one has changed and accepted our Lord Jesus Christ is the real God, He saves us and He forgives our sins," the letter continues. "Every week, we gather under a tree and pray for all whom having problems. They got peace in their life and came to God's way. It was a great revolution and miracle happened in my life. ... So, please pray for all my church believers and children. We will pray for you and your works."
Mrs. Montgomery said not many people receive a reply to their letters, but she knows of a few.
She said reading the replies makes the program "personal and real."
"That's why we encourage people to put letters in their box," she said.
This year's collection from Thomson had 218 more boxes than were sent last year -- something Mrs. Montgomery had been praying for. In an earlier interview, Mrs. Montgomery said she'd heard from a man who had served on a distribution team last year.
The man said at each location, there was always children waiting outside the building who never got in to receive a box because there was not enough.
After learning that, Mrs. Montgomery put out a plea for everyone participating to "pack just one more box."
For more information on the Operation Christmas Child program, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.