Calgary's Mustard Seed does good deeds, helping Samaritan's Purse with Operation Christmas Child (November 8, 2013)

Written by Damien Wood

Published by Calgary Sun on Friday, November 8, 2013

Toys, toiletries, school supplies and other goodies all packed up, the last thing Mike Pilling stuffs into the shoebox is a hand-scrawled note.

It says, “Merry Christmas, buddy — your friend, Mike Pilling.”

That shoebox will soon be shipped to a country far away, to a little boy Mike’s never met and probably never will.

Mike says he hopes the boy’s reaction when he opens it is to know, “He’s got a friend named Mike, and it’s a small world.”

His eyes water as he says it. He’s just done a good thing. And he was one of dozens of clients at the Mustard Seed in Calgary Friday afternoon, helping pack shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Shoeboxes from Canada will go to children suffering due to poverty, war and natural disasters in Central America, South America and Africa’s west coast.

“Kids are in my prayers every time I pray,” Mike says.

“I have my own children.

“(Doing this) gives me a feeling of happiness ... it’s something good and it’s something positive.”

This is the fourth year the Mustard Seed has been involved with Operation Christmas Child.

That emotion Mike is experiencing isn’t uncommon, explains Operation Christmas Child program development co-ordinator Ben Silcox.

He says back in year one nobody really knew what to expect but it went well, and has continued to go well each year since.

“It’s a powerful thing to be able to give,” he says.

“You make that connection between someone overseas and someone here, and the guests, you see they get that.

“They have a deeper connection ... (they) understand situations some of these kids who are getting these shoeboxes are in.”

Marlow Ramsay, director of basic services at the Mustard Seed in Calgary, says it might seem like a small thing but actually it fits in quite well with what his staff is trying to do.

The Mustard Seed’s goal, ultimately, is to transition its clients to a sustainable lifestyle and this is a step towards that, he says.

“Giving back a little and being part of something, even a little thing, for somebody else ... perhaps that’s a little bit of normalcy for somebody,” he says.

“We want to provide opportunities like that.

“It might encourage them to make a bigger change in their lives.”