MCPHERSON — It was the story of a little boy and a flashlight that stuck with John Walker, dean of students at Central Christian College of Kansas in McPherson.
“His name was Kululu in Nairobi, Kenya,” Walker said. ”His favorite gift was a flashlight because he was able to find his way home. The other kids followed him. It is amazing, you look at the lives of someone else and the gifts they get. To us we think of a flashlight, and we have that on our phone. To someone in Nairobi, Kenya, they don’t even have electricity or running water. A flashlight is a huge deal.”
According to Samaritan’s Purse, which operates Operation Christmas Child, Kululu today serves as an Operation Christmas Child spokesman. Until that box arrived for him, Christmas was a reminder of what he and his family didn’t have — enough food, new clothes, or sometimes even the acceptance of those around them. The shoe box full of school supplies, hygiene items and toys sent a different message.
Walker brought the idea of the college participating in the effort to the student government and the director of campus life.
“We all got excited about it,” Walker said.
As a result, about 150 students from the small college spent a recent morning packing 108 gift boxes to be shipped overseas for Christmas.
Samaritan’s Purse is an international Christian relief and evangelism organization led by Franklin Graham.
Churches throughout the United States participate in the project, often asking for donated gifts to put in boxes the size of a shoe box. In Central’s case, the school bought all the gifts for 105 boxes, with students packing boxes and adding homemade cards and photos.
“We purchased toothbrushes, water bottles, crayons, little dolls and little animals for the kids to have,” Walker said. “We had a plethora of things that we put in there. We had students write a Christmas card in the box, and we took a Polaroid picture of the group that packed that box, so whoever gets the box gets a picture of people who care for (them).”
Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 168 million shoe boxes to children in over 160 countries and territories. For many of these children, the gift‑filled shoe box is the first gift they have ever received.
“We felt like there was a need to help,” Walker said. “We wanted to get involved in getting out of our comfort zone. Serving others gets the focus off of ourselves and onto others ... This was an opportunity to partner with an organization dedicated to a bigger purpose, something that is bigger than ourselves.”