Christmas cheer comes in a shoebox for many children living in impoverished areas of the world. Thanks to Operation Christmas Children’s yearly endeavor to ship containers filled with goodies to countries where children are often orphaned and lacking in basic necessities, let alone pleasure items that bring smiles to young faces, the love and joy of Christmas spreads to those who may otherwise have none. Churches across the country partner with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian humanitarian relief organization founded by Franklin Graham to pack, collect and ship the boxes where they are most needed. Those who participate often find they receive as much or more blessing from being a part of the outpouring of love than the children do upon receiving their gift boxes.
Samaritan’s Purse (SP) defines itself as “a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization” with the goal to help hurting people worldwide and to serve the global church by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those they touch. Franklin Graham, son of renowned evangelist, Billy Graham, has been leading Samaritan’s Purse since 1978, striving to set an example of what it looks like to live out the parable of the Good Samaritan in daily service around the world. They not only fill emergency needs but walk with the victims of famine, earthquakes, hurricanes and more to help in the recovery process and providing hope by teaching them how to stand on their own two feet and introducing them to Jesus Christ, the Author of hope.
SP provides participating organizations with red and green shoebox size containers, but participating families can pack and wrap their own shoeboxes if they choose, tagging each one as appropriate for a boy or girl and the age range. Many families substitute inexpensive plastic boxes with lids the same size as a shoebox for the cardboard versions as the container itself holds great value in the impoverished areas where the boxes end up in the hands of waiting children in time for Christmas.
The shoeboxes are stuffed full of toys, clothes, school supplies, hygiene materials, many wrapped and decorated to add a little Christmas excitement and cheer. The colorful pens, pencils, crayons, markers, colored paper, dolls, stuffed animals, toy cars balls, jump ropes, flashlights and batteries, t-shirts, socks, jewelry, toothbrushes, soap, wash cloths and more go a long way for SP toward connecting with the young recipients and opening their eyes to the hope and the possibilities in Jesus Christ.
Food, medicine, war-related toys, chocolate, liquids, lotions and breakable items are forbidden. For a complete list of banned and allowable items, visit the Samaritan Purse’s website. SP encourages sending families to include a personal note to the child and family pictures, with a return address in case the recipient would like to write back, as some do. The organization also recommends a $7 donation for each box to help cover the cost of shipping. By paying online, families can track their boxes and find out where in the world it ends up.
The small act of kindness represented by each shoebox package, represents the heart behind Operation Christmas Child that touches the children’s lives with a message of God’s love, letting each young recipient receive a measure of cheer and tangible proof that they are valuable and not forgotten. This notice is invaluable to children whose daily reality is one of extreme poverty. For many, this gift is the first gift they have ever received and the first time they have hygiene items to call their own rather than having to share. Through these small acts of love, Samaritan’s Purse and its partners are rejuvenating the spirit of Christmas with a fitting tribute to the incarnation of love come to Earth as a little baby in a manger 2014 years ago.
by Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Photo courtesy of Randy Chiu – Flickr License