The Objective: 600 Backpacks For Needy Children

Posted on May 5, 2010

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By David Ettinger

To John Helton, there is no difference between the students right across the street from First Orlando and the people of Porto Seguro, Brazil, located more than 4,000 miles away. “The Gospel is specific — Christians have a duty to share Jesus all over the world,” said John, First Orlando’s Local Missions Pastor. “That includes our own backyard.”

The comparison between the two locations is fitting for John, considering he recently returned from First Orlando’s mission trip to Porto Seguro from July 27 through August 4, 2009. But now that he’s back, his focus is on Richmond Heights Elementary, located just across from First Orlando on Bruton Street. “I believe we [Christians] have a duty every day to impact the people around us,” he said. “We are supposed to be an influence for Christ on all who come across our path. In other words, the people in our own neighborhood should be just as much a priority as those on the other side of the world.”

With this in mind, John is spearheading Operation Education, First Orlando’s backpack and school supply drive. This year’s push is calling upon the generous people of First Orlando to continue their giving ways. “We’re looking to collect 600 backpacks and as many school supplies as people are willing to give,” John said. “If you really want to be specific about what school supplies to buy, you can find a list at Wal-Mart and Target that will help you. For instance, if you want to buy supplies specifically for a second-grade girl, the list at those stores will tell you exactly what to get. This way, there’s no guessing involved.”

And though Richmond Heights is the only school Operation Education will be donating supplies to, it is not the only recipient of the donations. “We’ll also be giving backpacks and supplies to the children of [First Orlando’s] Pregnancy Center clients,” John explained. “We’re going to divide the backpacks in half, 300 to Richmond and 300 to the Pregnancy Center. And that’s not just a random number. The 300 backpacks will supply every child from both places.”

Besides the good you will be doing for the community, John believes that contributing to Operation Education will help fulfill the vision of First Orlando’s Missions Office, which includes both world and local outreaches. “We are committed to finding places where our people can serve, whether overseas or right here. There are a lot of people who for financial, health or family reasons can’t go a mission trip. That is why we try to provide opportunities to serve the community. Giving a kid a backpack and school supplies is just as important as going across the world and serving.”

According to John, it’s all about exhibiting the love of God. “Everybody within walking distance of our church should know what we do and about the Jesus we love and serve.”

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Posted in: Local Missions