A boy in India takes home his box and keeps it by the side of his bed for two weeks, opening and closing the lid but never taking out the toys–he cannot believe it is all for him, because this is the first gift he has ever received.
Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, delivers gift-filled shoe boxes to millions of hurting boys and girls in countries around the world. People in North America, Europe and Australia fill shoe boxes with toys, school supplies and other items. Samaritan’s Purse collects the gifts and, with the help of local Christians, distributes them to needy boys and girls who otherwise would receive little or nothing for Christmas.
“Most of the children don’t get any gifts around Christmas,” said a Christian minister in Zambia who helped deliver shoe boxes. “The parents can’t afford it. Maybe the only gift they will ever receive is from Operation Christmas Child. You see their faces light up. One child was asking us, ‘Is this all for me?’ The child couldn’t believe that he was blessed with all of the things in the box. It was exciting.”
Many of the boys and girls receive miracles. A boy who is afraid of the dark receives a flashlight. A girl in threadbare clothes gets a dress that is just the right size. One girl who was suffering from whiplash even received a neck brace.
For children from impoverished backgrounds, the boxes contain untold treasure. But the real treasure is not what is contained in the boxes; Operation Christmas Child uses these simple gifts to demonstrate God’s love and to open doors worldwide to tell children and their families about the greatest Gift, Jesus Christ.
Often, they hear about Jesus at a shoe-box distribution through a presentation by a pastor or a ministry team; by talking to a Christian who hands them a shoe box; or by reading “The Greatest Gift of All,” the Gospel storybook printed in 53 languages that is offered with the gifts. Many boys and girls immediately give their hearts to Jesus.
In India, a boy named Ramakrishna wondered who had sent his gift and why. The woman who had invited him to the distribution explained it to him.
“She told me it’s a gift sent to me by Jesus,” Ramakrishna said. “She told me the greatest Gift of all is Jesus, and He will also come to me if I ask Him. As soon as she said that, I invited Jesus into my heart. I told my parents to also come to the church.”
Sometimes, children learn about Jesus through follow-up Bible study programs.
“I give thanks to God, because through the study of the lessons I received the Lord Jesus as my Savior and I realize that He loves me,” said Dania, an 11-year-old girl in El Salvador. “Thank you very much for helping me to accept Christ.”
Dania is among hundreds of thousands who have accepted Jesus as Savior after enrolling in a Bible study program done in conjunction with The Mailbox Club. However, the true impact of Operation Christmas Child and the follow-up programs can’t be captured by statistics.
“It’s not the numbers; it’s the individuals behind the numbers,” said John Mark Eager, director of The Mailbox Club. “Each number is a family that’s been affected. When you throw 6 million shoe boxes into an ocean of kids, you never see an end to the ripples. The ripple effects are so far-reaching that it’s overwhelming.”
Operation Christmas Child delivered 6.6 million shoe boxes last year and hopes this year to give 7 million gifts to boys and girls in more than 90 countries. The children who receive these gift-filled shoe boxes learn that God loves them, and that He has an even greater Gift for them–a “treasure in heaven,” of infinitely more value than toys and school supplies.
National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child is November 15-22, 2004. For more information, call 1-800-353-5949.