This year, Operation Christmas Child will hand-deliver approximately 8 million gift-filled shoe boxes to children in more than 100 countries impacted by war, terrorism, disease, natural disasters, famine and poverty.
A portion of the boxes are distributed during international Festivals, where Franklin Graham can deliver the gifts in person and spend time with the children.
“Over the past 16 years,” Franklin wrote in a Samaritan’s Purse newsletter, “I’ve had the opportunity to hand out Christmas gifts to hurting children all over the world and to tell them the story of the Savior who came from heaven to rescue us from sin and death. Nothing brings it all together–the joy of Christmas with the power of the Gospel–quite like Operation Christmas Child.”
These are special times, when staff from the BGEA and OCC work together to create a memorable experience for kids who may be orphaned or abandoned. For many of these children, the shoe box will be the first gift they have ever received.
In 2009, shoe box gifts were distributed at Franklin Graham Festivals in Montevideo, Uruguay; Tallinn, Estonia; and Bogotá, Colombia. Check out the videos throughout this article to see the excitement of children in those countries. One of these boxes may just be yours!
From March 19-21, 2009, close to 8,300 people made decisions for Christ and approximately 71,000 attended the Festival de Esperanza. Considering that Uruguay is sometimes called “one of the most secular and atheistic nations in the Americas,” God was clearly at work.
During the Festival, Franklin Graham and a group of volunteers visited the Body of Christ Church to distribute boxes to approximately 100 kids between the ages of 5 and 14. Most were street kids, children who were abandoned, or kids of single moms.
Thousands of Estonians found fresh fire at the Franklin Graham Festival of Hope – or Lootuse Festival – May 29-31, 2009. On Thursday of that week, Franklin Graham and teams from OCC and BGEA visited a Tallinn school to distribute gifts.
Named after one of the Estonian presidents, the Tallinna Konstantin Patsi Vabavhukorek serves both underprivileged kids and some who are struggling with health problems. Many board there during the week because their parents are too poor to support them. Dedicated in 1935, it served as a military hospital during World War II and also as a school for children with tuberculosis.
“We are here because He gave us His greatest gift,” Franklin told the children. “God loves each and every one of you and He cares about your lives.”
Franklin also explained that the people who gave the gifts “love Jesus” and “they are giving this to you in the name of Jesus. These shoe boxes come with a lot of love.”
On a sunny Saturday morning in Bogotá, more than 80,000 attended Festiñinos, and approximately 7,200 kids gave their lives to Christ! There were thousands in overflow for the largest kid’s event in the history of Franklin Graham Festivals.
Many of those children came to Festiñinos after getting an invitation along with their OCC shoe box gift. Earlier this year, 90,000 shoebox gifts were distributed; 70,000 on July 4.
During the Festival de Esperanza, August 27-29, Franklin Graham and special guest Matthew West handed out gifts to 120 local children in the courtyard setting of small church. There was a Gospel Presentation of both music and a Christ-centered drama.
If you want to know where your shoe box gift will be distributed, you can donate through EZ Give. This option generates a barcode that enables OCC to track each box. You will receive an e-mail telling you the destination of your gift, along with information about Operation Christmas Child in that country.
Please pray for Operation Christmas Child in the weeks ahead as staff deal with the extraordinarily complicated task of collecting, processing, and shipping millions of gifts. This is the largest Christmas gift project in the world, and it is possible only through God’s power and grace.