Did you ever stumble upon something you never heard of, only to discover that this something was huge and you wonder how you could have missed it? That’s what happened with me and Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse. I never heard about this project until I attended my current church where each year people fill empty shoeboxes with gifts of toys, school supplies, and hygiene items. The boxes then travel overseas to children where there is poverty, war, famine, or persecution. Many of these little ones never received a present in their lives! And so it became a yearly ritual for my husband and me, in late fall, to fill two boxes — one for a boy and one for a girl. It became an annual task to be scratched off our endless “to do” list.
Then this summer a friend, who is the Operation Christmas Child area coordinator, asked me if I would like to write all year round for Operation Christmas Child. I couldn’t say yes fast enough and so began my education about this amazing project.
I had no idea that there existed a huge international Christian relief organization called Samaritan’s Purse. It is headed by Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, and besides running Operation Christmas Child, it also provides crisis response anywhere in the world, provides U.S. disaster relief, has a World Medical Mission, runs Operation Heal our Patriots and 16 other wonderful ministry projects. In 1993, Samaritan’s Purse took on this project to send Christmas gifts to children in need and since then, over 135 million gift-filled shoeboxes have been sent to children in more than 150 countries and territories.
The best gift of all is the love that bathes each box. As people pray for the child as they fill each box, the contents are considered unique and only inappropriate items like war toys, or things that would not be allowed entry into a foreign county, are removed. There have been so many stories about the contents of a box being exactly what a particular child needed, it makes me wonder if there has not been a Godly finger involved with each shoebox. A boy whose feet had been so badly burned that walking was painful received a box full of soft socks — lots of them.
The children get the message someone loves them. Because Samaritan’s Purse collaborates with local churches to distribute the boxes, they learn that Jesus loves them too, and they have the opportunity to learn more about him. Often parents become involved in the lessons and by extension, even villages.
Every year, Operation Christmas Child sends more shoeboxes around our fractured, hurting world. It is the gentle but persistent beat of the heart of God driving through walls of hate to reach his precious little ones.
For more information about filling and donating these shoeboxes, even virtual shoeboxes, go to https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/