Written by Kerrie Alexander
Over the past few months 1750 gift-filled shoeboxes have been donated by caring members of our Fraser Coast Community ready to be sent to needy children overseas this Christmas.
Since 1993, the Christian- based Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child project, has distributed more than 178 million shoeboxes filled with gifts to children in over 160 countries and territories worldwide, who were victims of poverty, natural disasters, famine, disease, war or persecution.
Julie Terry has been the Wide Bay Area Coordinator of this project for over 20 years. She estimates that over the years around 35,000 boxes have been packed with toys, hygiene items, school supplies, and gifts by members of our local community.
Her involvement with children’s and mission work through the Hervey Bay Baptist Church and other organisations over the years has provided her with some amazing opportunities and taken her to some extraordinary places within Australia and overseas.
She has had the opportunity to deliver gift-filled shoeboxes into the hands of needy children in several countries in Asia and the South Pacific.
Talking with Alive, an emotional Julie recalls her life-changing visits to Vanuatu, Cambodia, and Fiji, where seeing the smiles on the children’s faces will be forever etched in her mind.
“In 2016 I led a team of 12 children’s workers to Fiji to present programs to children in village churches and schools and to train children’s workers,” Julie said.
“Cyclone Winston had recently hit the region and our team was invited to visit schools in the area and help to deliver operation Christmas child shoeboxes to children who had lost everything. These visits were so special and greatly impacted our team.
“These simple gifts packed with love by people in other countries brought the children and their teachers happiness, joy and hope, after experiencing such devastation in their communities.
“They were so excited to participate in the children’s programs and receive the Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts.”
The 2020 boxes were filled by caring individuals, local community groups, craft groups, local church congregations, St Stephen’s Hospital staff, local schools including Riverside Christian College, Sandy Straits and Yarrilee State Schools, and Bayside Christian College.
Yarrilee State School students had an extra special reason to get involved and packed over 290 boxes for the cause.
“The school chaplain discovered that Chrean, a year six student, had been a recipient of a shoebox when she was four years old when she was living in the Philippines,” Julie said.
“She still has the soft toy she received in that shoebox.”
Chrean shared her story at a special school assembly recently.
“She gave a talk about when she got the shoebox and the memories associated with it.
“I was sitting listening and felt myself getting very teary. I think having one of their own get up and talk about the difference it made in her life just made the project so real.”
Julie’s work with children and families also extends to over 25 years as children’s and missions pastor at the Hervey Bay Baptist Church, 20 years as a volunteer Religious Instruction Coordinator and Instructor in Fraser Coast schools, involvement with local school P & C’s, a founding member of the local Safety House program, and involvement with state-wide and national Children’s Ministry activities.
She has also held the roles of Secretary and Events Coordinator for the Hervey Bay Christian Ministers’ Association for many years.
For the past seven years she has volunteered to organise the Hervey Bay Carols by Candlelight, which was sadly cancelled this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The teacher, retired pastor, wife, mother-of-two, and grandmother of three, said her work through the church and personally was all about finding meaningful ways connect with children and families and put her Christian faith into action.
“I’ve been just happy to give back, and ministry to children and families has been my passion,” she said.
“Both my husband and I trained as primary teachers and we have always had a heart for working with children and families. We have worked together over the years in leading children’s programs in local churches, schools in our community and beyond.
“We’ve tried to provide children with opportunities to experience child friendly activities and have fun in an environment where they feel safe and cared for.
“It has also been a privilege to help children to understand about God’s love for them and love his plan and purpose for their lives.
“Over the years I have connected with many children and families facing difficulties, and as I have also faced difficulties in my own life, I have been able to relate to what they have been going through and provided encouragement and support when needed.
“I just feel that helping others and giving back to your community is really important and that’s why I love what I do.”
Follow the trail for Christmas adventure
VOLUNTEERS from the Combined Churches of Hervey Bay work hard each year to bring the Hervey Bay Carols by Candlelight to fruition.
Unfortunately, the small team of volunteers were unable to organise the carols in December due to current Covid-safe guidelines however, they have been busy planning an alternative way for residents to still enjoy the spirit of the season.
Families can go on a special Christmas Story Trail adventure the week before Christmas, with up to eight local churches taking part.
Organiser Julie Terry said the Biblical story of Christmas would unfold as families move from one scene to another, starting in Urangan and finishing in Nikenbah.
A map with directions will be available on the Fraser Coast Regional Council and local church websites.
“We came up with this option of a Christmas story trail so people can move from church to church, hop out and walk around or just look from their cars as they drive past, with Covid-safe procedures in place,” Julie said.
Each family will also be given a gift bag at the first display and little Christmas trinkets can added as they go move along the trail, which will run from December 20-23, from 7pm-9pm.