One organization is making a true impact on the lives of millions of children all over the world. Operation Christmas Child, an outreach program of Samaritan’s Purse, gives needy children shoeboxes packed with Christmas gifts packed by families in the United States. These boxes are shipped to over 100 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America.
“Since 1993, the Samaritan’s Purse project, Operation Christmas Child, has collected and delivered more than 135 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 150 countries and territories. In 2016, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach another 12 million children,” according to the Samaritan’s Purse website.
People who want to participate in this program start by packing boxes specified for either a boy or girl, and ages 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. Then, the boxes are filled with toys, school supplies, hygiene items, accessories, and craft items. Some of the most cherished gifts received are stuffed animals, coloring books, and candy. Additionally, families can enclose a personal note introducing themselves to the child before they wrap their box. If the family orders the box online, they can track where their box goes along its journey, and where it ultimately ends up. There is a special barcode that is connected to the person’s email, and then they are emailed updates.
Next, the families drop off their boxes at local drop-off points such as churches, schools, YMCA’s, and even Chick-fil-a. If a person brings a box to a local Chick-fil-a, they receive a free meal this year! The boxes are collected the third week of November to be sorted and shipped out before Christmas.
After the boxes have been collected by donation centers, they are sent to large collection centers in Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, Colorado, Texas, Minnesota, and California. There, thousands of volunteers sort through the boxes and pack online orders. In each box, they put a copy of The Greatest Gift in their native language. The boxes are then wrapped to prevent them from opening during transit. Every hour, works stops so that all the volunteers can pray over the boxes that they have packed.
Then, the boxes are shipped to the countries and distributed to children eagerly awaiting their gifts. Months before the boxes arrive, community pastors are trained with the gospel to help all of the children who have questions. Once the boxes arrive, they are best equipped to disciple the children about Jesus and Christianity.
In each box is enclosed a small book called The Greatest Gift in which the gospel message is presented in their native language. After the students read The Greatest Gift, they have the option to enroll in a twelve-week Bible study called The Greatest Journey. This teaches the children solid biblical truths and grows their faith in Christ. At the end of the program at graduation, the students are able to share the gospel with their family and friends.
Without the generous gifts provided by Operation Christmas Child, many children around the world would not receive any Christmas presents or hear the good news of Jesus in their language. This ministry brings much joy to the families who pack the boxes, as well as the children receiving the gifts.
If you would like to get involved with this ministry, OCC holds year-round packing events to help children around the world. For more information about these events, go to www.samaritanspurse.org.
By: Carolyn Deal