Woman reflects on mission trip

Published 5:58 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Courtney Brackin distributes shoeboxes filled with gifts to Ugandan children during a Samaritan's Purse youth team trip for Operation Christmas Child in July 2011.

By Rubin E. Grant

It’s been more than a year since Clanton resident Courtney Brackin and a team of youths from throughout the United States went to Uganda to deliver shoeboxes filled with gifts for Operation Christmas Child.

The memory of the experience remains fresh and perhaps etched forever in Brackin’s mind.

She talked about it at length during an OCC Birmingham Area kickoff event at the Mountain Brook Community Church UCF House on Sunday, Oct. 14.

The countdown event was held in preparation for the 2012 collection season. The OCC National Collection Week is scheduled for Nov. 12–19.

Brackin, a 21-year-old college student, was 19 when she was selected to go on the trip in July 2011 as part of Samaritan’s Purse’s youth team.

She was among hundreds of applicants nationwide and one of 20 chosen for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hand-deliver shoebox gifts with OCC, a project of Samaritan’s Purse.

It was the final year of eligibility for Brackin to accompany Samaritan’s Purse’s youth team to distribute the gifts.

“Operation Christmas Child is a part of who I am. I completely support it,” said Brackin, who has been packing shoebox gifts of her own for 10 years. “If it wasn’t for God, I wouldn’t have gotten to go. When I found out I was going, I danced in my house.”

Brackin estimates that it took nearly 24 hours to fly to Uganda, and once she and her group arrived, they found thousands of children at schools, churches, and orphanages in Kampala and Masaka, eager to receive their shoebox gifts.

“At the first distribution church, we gave out almost 1,000 shoeboxes,” Brackin said. “We ran out of shoeboxes, but when we went to the other places, we had some left over, so we went back to the first church and handed out shoeboxes to ones who didn’t receive one the first time.”

Brackin said she and her team members would count down from five before they gave out the gifts to the smiling, laughing children.

“One girl had a letter in her box, and we sat on the ground, in the dirt in the school yard with bugs crawling on us, and she read the entire thing to me,” Brackin said. “We talked about Jesus. Every conversation we had with them was about Jesus. We began to sing ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ and that really touched my heart.”