This week is the National Collection week for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child. Samaritan’s Purse works with local churches and ministry partners to deliver shoeboxes filled with simple gifts and share the life-changing Good News of Jesus Christ.
Brad and I have packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child for the last nine years. When our boys were big enough to “help” shop and pick out gifts to pack in the shoeboxes, we began including them in this project telling him, “We are giving this shoebox to a little boy or girl who doesn’t have the nice things we have.” We kept it simple.
Over the past couple years, we have expounded on who these shoebox gifts are going to and why we chose the items we did. Each year their understanding deepens a little. Last year was the first time Connor and Dylan packed the items we purchased into the shoeboxes themselves. They got great joy in putting together this gift for another child and they seemed to grasp the concept more as their hands busily worked at packaging this present.
Yesterday Connor and I ran to the store to purchase the last couple of items for our boxes. As we were picking out toothbrushes, Connor asked me, “Mommy, if the kids don’t have clean water, how do they brush their teeth? Do they brush them with muddy water?”
Connor was referencing the story we told him about our sponsor child, Nyandwi. We explained that Nyandwi did not have running water in his house. That then prompted questions on how he gets water. We explained that he has to walk to get water. We continued by sharing that the water he gets isn’t even clean water. People and animals use it to bathe in and it probably looks muddy.
This was Connor’s point of reference when asking about the recipient of the Operation Christmas Child shoebox. He was also very curious as to how our shoeboxes would get to the kids. I explained to Connor and Dylan the process involved to deliver our boxes of gifts. They were very intrigued.
So yesterday, after Brad got home from work, we sat down as a family and packed the 5 boxes we were donating (4 boys & 1 girl – just like our family). The boys worked with happy hands and carefully listened to instructions so all the items would fit in their boxes.
I then paid the $7 shipping cost per box online. By paying online, you can track where your boxes go! Seeing as the boys were especially interested in the transportation of the boxes, I thought this would be a fun way to see how our giving can impact the world.
One last thing needed to be done before we left the house to deliver the boxes… pray over them and the children they would be going to. I gave us each a box and we sat on the floor together, our hands on top our box. And we prayed that our shoebox would encourage the child receiving it. That they would know the love that went into the box, but most of all that they would know God’s love and would accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior upon hearing the gospel that Samaritan’s Purse brings them with the shoebox. I will admit that I choked up while praying as I watched my boys lay their little hands on these boxes and whose hearts were genuinely praying this prayer with me.
Finally, we were off to deliver our boxes. Previously, we would drop our boxes off at church (ours just happened to be an Operation Christmas Child drop-off location). However, I had heard on K-Love (a national Christian radio station), that a local Chick-Fil-A was hosting an Operation Christmas Child packing party. It was great fun! Since our boxes were pre-packed, we walked them straight to the Operation Christmas Child trailer that was being loaded with shoeboxes. Inside Chick-Fil-A, long tables were set up for families to bring their items and pack boxes there, the Chick-Fil-A cow was making his rounds greeting everyone, and K-Love’s broadcast table filled the air with positive, encouraging music. The atmosphere was teeming with enthusiasm as people came to help people.
Last week I caught part of an interview Franklin Graham, the founder of Samaritan’s Purse, was doing with K-Love. Something he said really stuck with me… “For most of these kids, this shoebox is the only gift they have ever received. Many of them, when you hand them the box, will open it, take out one item and hand the box back. They don’t understand that the whole box is for them to keep.”
I shared this with Connor and Dylan and asked, “Can you imagine if you had never gotten a Christmas present and never had a birthday present before? How would that make you feel?”
They both answered, “Sad.”
“Do you know our shoebox is the only gift these kids will get for Christmas? It may be the only gift they ever get.”
Both boys were wide-eyed and thoughtful.
It is hard to imagine the impact one shoebox full of art supplies, hygiene items, and a couple little toys might make to a child. All I know is that God is doing a great work through Samaritan’s Purse and I am so thankful we can contribute to that.
Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week is November 18-25. You still have time to get your family involved in this simple service project! Check out their website for complete details and drop-off locations.
Also, Chick-Fil-A has many family fun nights (and service nights) planned for each location. Look up the Chick-Fil-A nearest you, then go to their events calendar to find family-friendly happenings!