By Sharon Chandler
It is amazing what a small church can do when members come together to complete a mission project.
Preparing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child was initially a mission project of one Mount Zion United Methodist Church member, Lois Egner Bomar, a woman well known in the church and local community of Central. Bomar was born in Bergen County, New Jersey, and graduated from Furman University with a bachelor’s degree in special education. She went on to earn her master’s degree from Clemson University and was a special education teacher for more than 30 years, teaching in schools in both Mount Pleasant and Central. An active church member for 32 years at Mount Zion UMC, Bomar sang in the choir, served in many leadership positions in the church and was an officer and an active member of the United Methodist Women.
When Bomar passed away in 2012, her fellow members and friends in the United Methodist Women decided to pick up her mantle and make Operation Christmas Child their main project for 2013. To honor her memory, it was decided that they would prepare 50 shoeboxes (25 for girls and 25 for boys).
The UMW ordered the preprinted cardboard shoeboxes and had their “first” packing party filling the boxes with school supplies, hygiene items, and small toys. That first year they packed the 50 boxes, and five more were given by church members, for a total of 55 that the UMW delivered to the Operation Christmas Child processing center in Boone, North Carolina. Not only did Mount Zion participate, but members were able to see the processing center firsthand and become inspired by it.
In 2014, the UMW decided to challenge Mount Zion church members to match their donation. To make it easier for the church members, the Mount Zion UMW decided to purchase the preprinted boxes. The UMW ordered 100 boxes in September, assembled them at their regular October meeting and made them available in a convenient location in the sanctuary for members to pick up.
Their efforts were rewarded, as in 2014 they collected more than 100 boxes. They have been able to inspire the church to keep its total number of shoeboxes at more than 100 ever since.
During the course of small group meetings after the arrival of the church’s new pastor this year, they set goals that included reaching out to others in the community and especially the members of nearby Central UMC. Their pastor, the Rev. Alfred Wright, has been encouraging their women members to become active again in United Methodist Women.
At the annual Anderson District UMW meeting at St. Mark’s UMC in September, Sharon Chandler, one of Mount Zion UMC’s UMW members, sat down next to Aubrey Coffee, one of Central UMC’s UMW members, and an instant friendship formed. The two ladies agreed that this instant bonding was provided directly by the love and grace of God.
From this friendship, invitations were extended by each to help with projects both at Central UMC and Mount Zion. In October, two members from Central UMC’s newly formed UMW attended Mount Zion’s October meeting and helped them assemble 100 preprinted cardboard flat panels into the familiar red and green Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. These same ladies returned in November to help pack the shoeboxes, which were carried upstairs to the sanctuary.
On Nov. 17, Mount Zion UMC had its annual Blessing of the Shoeboxes during Sunday morning worship service. Mount Zion’s pastor, the Rev. Jonathan Harris, blessed 120 shoeboxes, the people who packed them, and those children who will be receiving them.
Members believe they are living proof that a small church, with the help of members from another small church. can accomplish a great deal for God’s kingdom when they work together for a common goal. This mission project, led by the ladies of the UMW, has become an evolving tradition of which they are very proud.