Guest column

High schooler believes in power of a simple gift

By LIZ THOMPSON
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She sees God in simple gifts.

"I trust in God more than ever (now) and make my decisions by His word and what He would do rather than what's popular or what I want," Kristina Myers of Grove City said. This year she was coordinator for Operation Christmas Child for her church, St. John's Lutheran in Grove City.

Simple gifts, yes, but not simple decisions or tasks.

Kristina shadowed the coordinator of this project last year and knew that in order to do that job, she had to make some decisions. When she was not able to help as much as she wanted due to marching band competitions, she opted to drop band.

"I was sad to give up marching band, but I knew that this was the plan God had for me," she said.

The Central Crossing High School sophomore chose instead to run cross country. Her coach, Doug Boggs, never blinked an eye when he learned what she was doing at her church.

"God provided me with an awesome coach who totally believes in Operation Christmas Child and putting God first," Kristina said. "I never had to miss a meet but I did have to leave practice early quite a few times for things regarding this project. My coach was always very supportive."

Doug said Kristina is a great person and hard worker, no matter what she's doing.

"It truly has been a blessing to have Kristina and her family become a part of the cross country and track programs. Kristina's mom and dad have been great helping out with the team needs. It's obvious to see where Kristina gets her kind and giving spirit," Boggs said.

This project, founded in 1990, is led by Samaritan's Purse, an organization founded in 1970, to give kids all over the world something they normally wouldn't have -- a Christmas. Kristina said that churches and people across the United States take a simple shoebox, fill it with items that include toys, hygiene items, school supplies, other small items like socks or sunglasses and sometimes a personal note.

"This project is bigger than just shoebox gifts; it's the power of a simple gift. This one shoebox brings the word of God into the life of a child."

The work is done and Kristina Myers can look back with a grateful heart.

"If I had to thank one specific person it would be (one of my youth leaders) Laurie Pecuch or my mom," Kristina said. "Mom taught me to love God, helped with transportation and anything that needed done.

"Laurie was a big help when it came to planning, organizing, getting in touch with others, and making the project something our whole church was excited to participate in."

Pecuch said, "She is devoted to helping children in poverty-stricken countries know first-hand the joy that comes from receiving a gift of love at Christmas. Her devotion, sacrifice, and time spent in leading this project are noteworthy. She collected 169 shoeboxes full of gifts and love."

Although Kristina coordinated these efforts, she said her family and friends provided invaluable support and flexibility. The church's high school and middle school youth shopped and had a packing party. They put donated items and things they purchased with money gifts into the decorated shoe boxes, checking to make sure everything was ready before they were dropped off at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church -- the official drop-off location.

The boxes soon were on their journey to a child somewhere in the world.

The idea that Christmas is a time for giving is nothing new to Americans. Often the gift giving and wish lists get out of hand and we don't worry so much about the national debt as our own debt.

What do we have to sacrifice to buy the gifts on our list? Or should we simply rethink our gift giving and consider the real reason we have Christmas?

Kristina made her choice knowing the recipients will never know her name. She has heard stories how one shoebox changed a child's life.

"I am so blessed to be able to show God's love to others through this project, and tell people I don't even know that I love them and that they have a Father in heaven who loves them even more. This project is life-changing."

That's what Christmas is about.

Grove City resident and author Liz Thompson is a guest columnist for ThisWeek News. Reach her at LizT911@gmail. com.

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