East Texas Baptist University participated in its fifth annual Operation Christmas Child, an outreach program organized by Samaritan’s Purse.

Although the event looked a little different this year, the heart behind it remained the same.

The ministry involves filling shoeboxes with small toys, school supplies, and other items that are sent to children all over the world as a Christmas gift and a tangible reminder of God’s love for them.

“In the past, the Tiger student-athletes would stuff their boxes and write notes all together, but with COVID protocols in place, each team was given a time slot to participate safely while enjoying cookies and Christmas music,” ETBU Vice President for Student Engagement and Athletics Ryan Erwin said. “We hope that our students will truly understand the importance of this ministry, as they share their faith and make an impact in the lives of total strangers through these Christmas gifts.”

This year, ETBU Residence Life joined in the festivities, with each residence hall contributing shoeboxes to the cause. ETBU collected more than 300 boxes, a record for the University.

“Participating in Operation Christmas Child is a rewarding experience, especially during the holidays when it is a time of giving,” ETBU senior speech communication major and tennis player Syvoney Ybarra said. “Not only is it a time to give, but it’s also a time to serve the Lord and others. It is important for the University to find ways to serve, especially in light of the pandemic and not being able to go into the community to serve during these tough times. This is a time when we need to be there for others.”

Students from ETBU’s freshman Learning and Leading seminar also spread holiday cheer by creating gifts of thanksgiving and appreciation for all of Marshall ISD’s K-12 administrators, teachers, and staff.

Though the students typically host fall festivals at various MISD elementary schools, the pandemic made that an impossibility this year.

“As part of a unit on learning to collaborate, each class determined what they most valued about the MISD teachers and worked together to thank them for what they have done for their students, especially during this particularly challenging semester,” ETBU Associate Provost Emily Prevost said. “The classes then planned their project to create thank-you gifts, including identifying needed supplies, working within a budget, and assigning tasks for completion.”

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