Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has been the mainstay of the organization Samaritan's Purse. They have delivered 178 million shoeboxes to 170 countries and territories in that time. Every shoebox contains gifts and a few essentials for day-to-day life. Most important, however, is the telling of the Gospel to the children who receive the boxes. Each child is invited to participate in discipleship classes called "The Greatest Journey."
A pastor in Guam told those who visited his island with shoeboxes, "We're seeing salvation come not just to one or two children, but to families through Operation Christmas Child." Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:16-17) God knew that the joy and faith of children would have an impact on those around them. So, these boxes given to children have the potential to transform entire families. Here is another exciting fact written about in the newsletter: "Over the past two years, God has used this project to plant more than 2,000 churches in 73 countries." Wow!!
The focus of this month's newsletter from Samaritan's Purse is testimonies of children and adults who received or gave shoeboxes. One young man from a kingdom in southern Africa called Lesotho lost both his parents and grandmother by the time he was 11 years old. This sad and lonely little boy was encouraged through receiving the gift of a shoebox and by hearing the Gospel at a local church. Years later he reports that he still carries the comb that was in his shoebox. Here is his testimony: "It is a reminder that God knows my needs. Even the little things can bring joy. God used the shoebox to give me hope and to fill my brokenness. I had a desire to know Him more, and I surrendered my life to Him. Today, I have eternal life in Christ because of His love for me."
There is a 24-year old woman named Amanda in Pennsylvania who is packing almost 1,000 shoeboxes this year. The number of boxes is amazing in itself, but what is more amazing is that she packs the boxes from her wheelchair. She believes in prayer and prays for each child who will receive a gift from her. She said, "I want them to feel loved and know that Jesus is the reason we packed them."
From the impoverished nation of Burundi came a thank you note sent by one of the church workers: "As I think of those who are packing the boxes, frankly I have tears in my eyes. How can someone from a different continent think of someone on another continent in Africa? All I can do is pray for them, that the Lord will continue to cover them with His love—each one who packs boxes. Some day we will all rejoice together when one day the Lord says, 'Well done, my faithful servant.' That will be you, that will be me, and we will rejoice in this work."
Franklin Graham, the organization's leader, says, "Many are desperately looking for comfort and peace, and we want to do all we can to help them find eternal hope in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I'm thankful that God has given us a simple yet powerful way to do this—by packing shoebox gifts for Operation Christmas Child, sending them overseas in the name of Jesus, and handing them out to millions of children through our global church network." "Shoebox gifts can go to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8)—even places that missionaries can't reach right now. Operation Christmas Child is a global missions opportunity that can be done safely at home...I hope that you and your church have already started packing shoebox gifts this year. Remember that the most important thing you can put into a shoebox is your prayers."
More details about this vital ministry can be found on their website at samaritanspurse.org/occ. Why not help by packing a shoebox, donating money and/or praying?
Joan E. Mathias