MC student experiences shoebox ministry from beginning to end

MC student experiences shoebox ministry from beginning to end

Nov. 14, 2018

 Maryville College senior Andrew Horton ’19 spent a week in the Philippines last summer, distributing shoeboxes to children as a part of the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child ministry.

The shoeboxes that children receive from Operation Christmas Child every year do not contain sandals, sneakers, boots or any other type of shoe. Rather, they are packed with everyday personal care needs, like toothbrushes and socks, as well as “Wow” items, like stuffed animals or soccer balls with pumps.

Horton has been involved with packing shoeboxes for this ministry since he was as young as the children who receive the boxes. Growing up in a small church in Virginia, he always helped pack boxes for the ministry to distribute. It was not until he made it to a shoe box distribution center himself that he began to receive a broader scope of Operation Christmas Child’s impact.

“There are processing centers throughout the U.S., and as I got older, I got to go to a processing center and volunteer,” Horton said. “They are the last people who get to touch the shoeboxes, so through that, it really sparked a lot of interest. That’s when I wanted to get people excited about packing.”

Last year, Horton, a marketing major at the College, attended a shoebox packing party coordinated by the College’s InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter. At the packing party, Lydia Edrington Harmon ’04, a Maryville College alumna and Operation Christmas Child student relations coordinator for the Knoxville area, recognized Horton’s enthusiasm and asked him if he was interested in seeing an entirely new side of Operation Christmas Child through a week-long Student Vision trip to the Philippines.

He was and soon began preparing for a 20-hour flight in July.

According to Horton, the trip was unlike anything he had ever experienced before. He and the rest of the mission team, none of whom were familiar with one another at the start of the trip, went through a brief training session and bonded quickly. As soon as they connected with one another, they were able to bond with all the children with whom they came into contact.

“We started handing out shoeboxes in different places – we went to churches, we went to a school for kids with special needs, and we got to go to a parking garage in the city,” Horton explained. “We got to hang out with the kids, watch the Gospel be presented to them in their language, help interact by holding up posters, and we got to actually hand the kids the shoeboxes.”

Horton’s time spent in the Philippines allowed him to experience the Operation Christmas Child ministry from beginning to end. He had seen videos of kids receiving their shoeboxes, their faces exuberant, excited and exuding joy, but never before had Horton witnessed, firsthand, the very end of the process.

“I wanted to see the complete circle, what it actually looked like, and I wanted to see them get something that they’ve always wanted,” Horton said. “We would get the shoeboxes ready, hand them to the kids and play with their new toys with them. I saw the full, complete image and got to be a part of watching these kids express happiness and joy.”

After his Student Vision trip to the Philippines was over and his vision of the ministry had come full-circle, Horton decided to become a year-round volunteer with Operation Christmas Child. He currently works with various student organizations, helping them pack shoeboxes to be distributed all around the world.

At this year’s recent InterVarsity shoebox packing party in Bartlett Hall, Horton, Harmon and 10 other Maryville College students packed 35 shoeboxes as Horton recounted his “Wow” shoebox experience and the harmonious effect that Operation Christmas Child has on families both nationally and internationally.

“It’s so great to see the enthusiasm that somebody like Andrew has and is able to pass on to others through this ministry,” Harmon said.

National Collection Week for the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child ministry is Nov. 12-19.

Written by Jared Crain for Maryville College.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2018 semester is 1,154.