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Operation Christmas Child: Mission Delivery

POULSBO — Tamara Henry and her family have been filling Operation Christmas Child boxes for 14 years.

Since 2000, she’s coordinated the Poulsbo area collection.

But this year was different.

This year Henry stuffed shoeboxes. This year she loaded them into trucks and shipped them off.

And this year, she delivered them.

For the first time in her involvement with the Samaritan’s Purse organization, Henry was invited to deliver boxes stuffed with treats and basic needs items straight into the hands of inner city kids in Lima, Peru. And it was an experience she won’t soon forget.

“My eyes look the same but they see different,” she said. “I was able to see Operation Christmas Child really at work.”

Last December, the Poulsbo area collection site, which accepts contributions from both the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas, took in 6,510 boxes. While those were sent for distribution in Mexico, Henry was given seven weeks notice that she and a team would be accompanying 200,000 boxes from Indiana and North Carolina to Lima. Though they weren’t the same boxes she packaged and shipped, delivering them was just as touching, she said, and offered a whole new perspective on the boxes packed by Poulsbo residents.

“(The kids) were so touched that somebody would do something like that for them,” she said. “They’re beautiful people. They were very loving, very touching, very into family and music.”

Henry will share a slide show of her trip at the Operation Christmas Child celebration tea and 2008 kickoff at 1 p.m. at St. Charles Church today.

She said the city of Lima, inhabited by 8 million people, often looked war-torn in places where bricks and other homebuilding necessities were scarce. The trip was not always comfortable and often, Henry said, they had to travel with their windows shut for safety.

Still, the kids were grateful and she was surprised by their concern for others. Inner-city dwellers often encouraged her team to help those living in the nearby mountains.

“These were from people that we felt had nothing,” she said.

She said one young boy was so excited with the contents of his box, he began hugging and kissing the items — toothpaste and a wash cloth.

“He was just so excited that it was something for him,” she said. “It was really hard not to cry.”

While the group was in Lima, they pooled together their own funds to help purchase a computer for a school without one.

Operation Christmas Child itself is largely a volunteer-run organization, with only 100 paid staff worldwide. Henry said 94 cents of each dollar donated go straight into the ministry.

She encourages those interested in volunteering to become a part of the organization. For others, she hopes they keep those small but meaningful boxes in mind throughout the year.

Because, she said, packing those simple boxes is a way even for North Enders “to reach beyond.”

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