By Sharon Mager and Shelley Mahoney
Dunkirk, Md. — Friendship Community Baptist Church (FCBC), in Dunkirk, Maryland, may not be the largest church in the state, but they have a ministry that reaches to the ends of the earth through their major contributions to Operation Christmas Child (OCC). FCBC, a church of about 200 members, shipped 6208 boxes for OCC in 2019, at a total cost of nearly $100,000.
This number of Gospel Opportunity — or “GO Boxes” — has grown exponentially each year at the church.
When church members Kip Sanborn and his wife, Staci, first took over the ministry in 2015 (after participation for many previous years), the church was sending a little less than 200 boxes per year. Through a great deal of prayer and reliance upon the Lord, the congregation set progressively higher goals to send more and more boxes all over the world. They were amazed when they were able to send 3000 in 2018. It was an incredible blessing to double that amount in 2019.
“When we came on board, we prayed that God would use this ministry however He wanted to,” says Kip. “We prayed that He would use it in more amazing ways than we thought possible.”
He adds, “It always works out better when you allow God to use you as a vessel instead of relying on your own strength. He makes us depend on Him, but He always provides just a little bit more than what we need.”
Today, Kip is excited to tell you that God has used their church far beyond what they are capable of and that He has also expanded the ministry beyond their church to include many members of the community. In addition to being an outreach through the boxes themselves, the church is able to share the Gospel with their neighborhood.
Soccer teams, softball teams, youth groups, Girl Scout troops, local churches, families, and individuals from the Sykesville area have joined together with members of FBC to donate supplies and help pack boxes. Kip estimates that around 50% of the people who participate in the packing process are from outside the church — and many of them are unsaved.
“A short time after we took on this ministry at the church, Jesus blessed us with a house that had a large attached garage,” Kip says. “We have been able to turn that into a packing facility. People can come anytime throughout the year to help with packing boxes.”
The church hosts “packing parties” and meets beforehand to pray for everyone who will be involved in the process. They share information about Samaritan’s Purse, including a Gospel presentation, in hopes that they can plant the seeds of the Gospel in the hearts of those who participate.
Although the packing parties occur towards the end of the year (and sometimes involve packing up to 2000 boxes in one “party” between services), the church works year-round on preparing and packing boxes. The church carefully monitors not only the number of boxes, but the quality of boxes as well, ensuring that boxes are “fluffy” (hard to close, but not bursting at the seams) as Samaritan’s Purse encourages.
The logistics of all this could be daunting, but the church has worked out the details to make the whole process into a well-oiled machine.
“When you’re doing thousands and thousands of boxes, you have to make sure you inventory everything very carefully,” says Fred Noble, director of ministries at Friendship Baptist Church.
Noble has worked with the ministry since he came on board a year and a half ago. He says that his final “interview” for the job involved coming to a box-packing party.
As the ministry has grown, it has also evolved. It was in 2019 that Friendship Church first shipped a large number of “sensitive” boxes to closed countries. This was a tremendous blessing, but it also opened the door for spiritual warfare in the church.
“We received warnings that we would experience spiritual warfare when we sent boxes to closed countries,” Fred says. “These warnings were correct. It was such an uphill battle, but it was so cool to see the team remain so faithful … as we all relied on the Holy Spirit to see us through.”
“When we heard about the spiritual warfare that could occur, we received encouragement to appoint people in advance to pray about this,” says Kip. “We learned that we would be shipping boxes to the darkest corners of the world and that Satan would always attack that.”
The church pays $30,000 toward the cost of filling and shipping the boxes. They travel to another church in Pennsylvania that sells items for the shoeboxes at a very reduced rate. Rather than buy the small items individually, church members sponsor the boxes and then work to fill them. The church then raises the additional funds through donations and fundraisers.
“We put change containers in our church lobby so children can contribute,” Kip said. They also hang postcards with pictures of children who may receive boxes around the church, so that families can take postcards home to pray over them and consider donating. They also use social media to raise money and Fred coordinates fundraising and makes donation requests from large companies.
This year, the church is rejoicing in the receipt of grants from a local Walmart, and a Strengthening Churches Grant from the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
The church has not set their 2020 goal at this time, but they are excited and prayerfully waiting to see what God leads them to do next.
In addition to the OCC ministry at FBC, Kip also works in a corporate job, owns his own business, and has three children. He is thankful that his wife, Staci, is able to stay home with the children and be available to facilitate ministry in their garage throughout the year.
Senior Pastor Robert Kendall summarizes the ministry by saying “the biggest thing [about this ministry] is seeing how God has provided. I would think ‘wow, that’s a big number,’ but God kept providing. The numbers that once seemed big now seem small.”