Every year in September, representatives of Samaritan’s Purse have tea with residents of Holland Christian Homes and members of Heritage Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Brampton, Ontario. But they don’t come just for the tea. They come to gather precious gifts: more than 5,000 knitted hats to be distributed to children around the world as part of Operation Christmas Child.
This year, more than 5,136 hats were put on display at the tea.
The knitters in Brampton call their program Operation Mercy. It was started by Holland Christian Homes resident Jane Douma in 2002. In the winter of 2001, Douma saw a video of a Ukrainian orphanage where children dressed in rags were sleeping on cardboard; the temperature inside the building was just 55 degrees (13 C). “I could not get this out of my mind,” she said. “So I learned to knit hats, and I spoke about it with other women. It just grew on its own, and in three months we had 300 hats.”
In 2004, seeking a more efficient way to distribute the hats, Douma connected with the Calgary office of Samaritan’s Purse. Since then, each year the hats are placed in gift boxes destined for cold countries.
Twelve years and 47,076 hats later, Operation Mercy has grown to include women from other churches. It has become a precious yearly tradition they all look forward to.