Fort Worth girl sees God’s design in fulfilling dream to crochet purses for Operation Christmas Child.
Four years ago, Alathia Purtell formed what even she thought was an impossible dream—to produce 2,000 crocheted purses for Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts.
Alathia, then 12, was visiting her maternal grandparents in Canton, Texas, when she went with her grandmother Sue to her church’s shoebox drop-off location.
There, Alathia saw as many as 4,000 shoebox gifts, estimating that about half of them were for girls.
“I wondered what it would take to make gifts for that many shoeboxes,” Alathia recalled. “I wanted to do something to get involved, and crocheting was something that I could do.”
Girl on a Mission
Sue had taught her granddaughter how to crochet when Alathia was about 5 or 6 and Sue had included crocheted purses in shoebox gifts before, but neither of them had ever tried to produce items in bulk, certainly not in the hundreds or thousands.
“Alathia is amazingly fast at crocheting,” Sue said. “I’ve never seen anyone who can walk and crochet at the same time, not looking down at her stitches.”
Despite Alathia’s nimble crochet speed, the family tried to convince her to adjust her goal of having 2,000 crocheted purses ready for the following year’s National Collection Week. They didn’t want her to be disappointed if she didn’t reach her goal.
“We thought it was going to be impossible to buy that much yarn,” said Alathia’s mother Marci.
But it turns out that Alathia wasn’t meant to reach that goal on her own.
During a Sunday sermon, the family’s pastor asked their Fort Worth congregation if anyone had an unfulfilled dream and wanted prayer for God’s guidance. Alathia raised her hand, joined by her parents and brother, who knew how passionately Alathia felt about her shoebox gift dream. Members of the congregation prayed for their unspoken request.
“I had prayed next to Marci, but I felt the Lord telling me to pray for the little girl,” said fellow church member Laquita. “So after the service, I went over to Alathia and told her what God had laid on my heart—that what she’s doing is no small thing. Not knowing what her request for prayer had been about, I was curious to ask, ‘So, what is it that you’re doing?’”
When Alathia told Laquita that she wanted to fill 2,000 shoebox gifts with crocheted purses, Laquita immediately offered her help.
“That afternoon, I went home and started crocheting,” Laquita recalled. In addition, she recruited neighbors and other friends who knew how to crochet.
The following Sunday and for many Sundays during the year, Alathia left church services with arms full of purses that Laquita and friends had crocheted.
Alathia used money from her allowance to purchase yarn. Then, she started to receive donations for yarn from friends and strangers alike who learned of her shoebox gift goal.
“We began to change our prayer,” Marci said. “Instead of hoping that Alathia would adjust her goal, we began to pray for how God would use this goal to bring glory to Him.”
Helping Children Find True Joy
Alathia took her crochet bag with her wherever she went—crocheting at church, in waiting rooms, and while walking down store aisles. Her favorite place to work was a tree in her backyard.
Alathia ended up crocheting more than 500 purses. When that total was added to the purses done by family and friends, she reached her 2,000-purse goal! After working with Sue to include several hundred of the purses in church shoebox gifts, Alathia and Marci took the remaining purses to the Dallas/Fort Worth shoebox processing center to be used as filler items.
“It’s my first dream, my first big goal, I’ve ever had come true,” Alathia said. “I could just see God through it all. He was right there with me.”
Two years later, 14-year-old Alathia helped her Fort Worth church pursue their first Operation Christmas Child goal of packing 500 shoeboxes—half of them with crocheted purses as gifts for girls.
A Greek word for truth, Alathia’s name refers to John 4:24: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Her full name means true joy, and that’s what Alathia prays that shoebox recipients will experience.
“I hope a girl’s shoebox gift is a part of her most important day—the day she follows the Lord,” Alathia said.
Homeschool families can be a part of blessing children around the world by prayerfully packing a shoebox. National Collection Week is Nov. 16-23, 2020 or you can Build a Shoebox Online by clicking HERE.
Your Family Can Get Involved!!
Teach Them Diligently is excited to partner with Operation Christmas Child throughout the month of October to encourage all our families to pack at least one shoebox to send to a child who needs to hear about Jesus and experience the life change that comes when you meet Him. We would love to see your pictures and hear your stories as we come together for this cause. Please use #TTDShoeboxes to share your shoebox stories!
Did you know that you can pack a shoebox online? Click Here to pack and send a shoebox without having to leave your home.
Samaritans Purse seeks to share the Gospel around the world! You can click HERE to learn more and see what you can safely pack in a shoebox.