TRIMONT - Taryn Tumbleson has been packing shoeboxes for Operation: Christmas Child since she was 4 years old. A few weeks ago, she got the opportunity to see the looks on the children's faces when they opened those boxes.
Tumbleson recently went on a missions trip to Mania, Philippines.
"I wanted to see the full circle of it," said Tumbleson, a junior at Martin County West. "We've worked at the collections and processing center in Minneapolis; one of the five processing centers in the country."
Taryn Tumbleson holds a girl, Elaine, who became a friend during her recent mission trip to the Philippines.
Tumbleson applied with a video application to be a part of a missions trip to the Philippines, and it took about four months before she and 18 other youths ages 16 to 20 from all over the country were headed overseas.
"They wanted people that were involved with Operation: Christmas Child," Tumbleson said. "I was sponsored through fundraising and donations; it cost about $4,000. Fairmont Methodist Church and First Lutheran Church of Trimont helped, along with my church, Trimont Methodist Church."
Tumbleson's trip lasted from July 20-27.
"We had eight distributions," she said. "Each group knew they were invited to a gospel session. The Philippino leaders would tell stories to them ... The shoeboxes were handed out at the end, and they prayed for what was in the box, and then they counted down to open them. Many of these children had never gotten a gift before, so some didn't even want to open the boxes because they didn't know what to do. And when they saw what was inside, all they knew was that it was a gift from God, and it had been sent to them by someone overseas. They'd see paper and pencils, and knew they could go to school."
Tumbleson was moved by those children she encountered.
"There was this little girl whose arm was injured," she recalled. "She ended up falling asleep on my lap. They were so trusting ... The hospitality was great. I wish that everyone in Operation: Christmas Child could have this experience. I am definitely going to re-apply next year."
The trip also made her more aware of the need.
"We can always use more shoeboxes," she said. "Instead of loading up one box, spread it out between two or three. Put a letter with your photo in there. I know I took some photos of the children with their boxes, so the people who sent them could see where their boxes ended up."
Collection for Operation: Christmas Child will be from Nov. 18-25 this year.
For more information, log on to www.samaritanspurse.org