In the course of 20 years Operation Christmas Child has given away over 100 million shoeboxes to children in 100 different countries who would have never received the resources without the project
Created by Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child provides international relief to countries experiencing poverty, famine, disease, natural disasters and whose people are victims of war. Samaritan’s Purse currently provides aid, such as food, shelter and water to those fleeing ISIS.
Last Saturday Samaritan’s Purse conducted a workshop demonstrating the process and explaining how churches and individuals can involve themselves in the ministry.
The process begins when churches or individuals take empty shoeboxes and fill them with items to wear, to wash with, to learn with, to eat with and something to love such as a stuffed animal.
The boxes are then collected and taken through to a relay center, a collection center and finally to a processing center where everything is checked for quality to ensure every shoebox meets the customs requirement. The last step takes place when the shoeboxes are sent to countries all over the globe.
Distribution teams set up camps and help local pastors and leaders pass out the shoeboxes. With each shoebox a child receives a pamphlet titled “The Greatest Gift,” which tells the story of Christ. After receiving their shoeboxes, the children enroll in a 12-week discipleship program called, “The Greatest Journey” in which children study the Bible and learn how to live as disciples of Christ. The program ends with a ceremony in which children are given graduation gowns, certificates and copies of the New Testament in their own language.
The shoeboxes allow Samaritan’s Purse access within closed communities. With that access they can provide healthcare, food, clean water wells and openings for local pastors and missionaries. The contents of the shoeboxes help children gain a skill to prevent them from following the paths of their parents.
One volunteer shared the story of Juliette, a young girl destined to become a prostitute. Juliette’s mom was a prostitute, her neighbors were prostitutes and pimps ruled the community in which she lived. Everyone assumed that she, too would take up prostitution.
At the beginning of Samaritan’s Purse’s journey Juliette and other children would not let the volunteers touch them because of how inappropriate adults had already treated them. Yet by the end of the trip the children were running to hug her, swinging on her arms and shaking her hand. Johnson showed Juliette that there are adults who sincerely care about her and a God who loves her.
The project tends to create a generational effect on its recipients. Many adults who received Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes as children now work with the project to ensure more kids are reached.
Regional Manager Stephanie Olsen shared the story of a Filipino woman named Rizza who as a child received a shoebox full of gifts and accepted Christ in the process. To show her gratitude Rizza now works with Operation Christmas Child to pull children off the streets and introduce them to Christ. Olsen remembered watching Rizza during her recent visit to the Philippines dancing, singing and teaching children about the love of God.
Oslen challenged college students to join the ministry by building their own shoeboxes, encouraging students to get together with friends to make shoeboxes or initiate friendly competitions between dormitories to see who can fill the most boxes. Another convenient option is to go online and build a box, which cost only $ 25.00. Olsen said it is an easy and beneficial sacrifice.
“It as simple as saving the money from buying that Starbucks drink,” Olsen said.
Operation Christmas Child will conduct a Family Fun Fest October 12, 2014 at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale from 12:30-3:30 p.m., where they will distribute more information concerning how to get involved in the program, as well as free food, crafts, bounce houses and live music.