by Sally Matheny
|Love in a Shoebox (Photo courtesy of Samaritan's Purse)|
Since its beginning in 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered 146 million shoebox gifts to children in more than 180 countries and territories. Twelve million shoeboxes are needed to meet the goal for 2017. Who knew so many children would first experience the love of Jesus from a shoebox?
Our family has participated in this ministry of Samaritan’s Purse for several years. However, I recently learned some things that may be new to you as well.
Did you know other countries help pack shoeboxes? I thought only America packed shoeboxes, but caring folks from these countries pack shoeboxes for the ministry as well:
Germany, Japan, Australia, Canada, the U.K., Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Spain, and New Zealand
Every year, around 500,000 people around the world volunteer their time to collect, ship, and distribute the shoebox gifts. Talk about uniting for a great cause!
You may already know that Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, oversees Samaritan’s Purse, which is an international Christian relief and evangelism organization. The Operation Christmas Child shoebox ministry is a project of Samaritan’s Purse.
Whether you’ve packed a shoebox of gifts before or not, there are some changes this year. Increased customs regulations prevent the delivery of toothpaste, candy or food of any kind.
However, there are TONS of things you can send. You can find a complete list here. Small toys, craft supplies, clothes, picture books, personal hygiene items, and even small toolkits are welcome.
In most countries, children have the opportunity to hear the gospel message when they receive their shoeboxes.
If the country allows it, Samaritan’s Purse includes a booklet, The Greatest Gift, which shares the scripture and good news of Jesus Christ. Also, an optional follow-up discipleship program is offered to each child. Children learn from trained, local volunteers what it means to follow Jesus. Each student is given a copy of the New Testament and selected passages from the Old Testament. When they complete the program, they invite their family and friends to a special service where the gospel is shared again.
So many wonderful testimonies have blossomed from this ministry—from those who give and from those who receive the boxes. God is working miracles through these little shoeboxes. Lives are affected—from the volunteers to the people in the villages.
One of my favorite stories is about 101-year-old, Ms. Eve Bossenberger. She said she felt called to do one “small” thing for the shoeboxes. God took her small offering and multiplied it.
Ms. Bossenberger gets up before sunrise to sew cute, little smock dresses to go in the shoeboxes for girls. Samaritan’s Purse filmed a short clip of her story. The video has over 9 million views so far, and God is using it to touch a multitude of lives.
Humbled by the great response, the seamstress said,
“The Lord gave me hands with no arthritis. I’m doing what the Lord has asked me to do. . . I hope it brings a lot of people to the Lord.”
I have two, precious videos of sweet, Ms. Bossenberger that I wanted to include here. However, even though they are only a few minutes long, they were taking too long transferring to the blog. They loaded quickly to my facebook page if you'd like to view them there. I promise it's worth the hop over but before you go. . .