Can a gift change a life?
I recently watched several of the videos on the Operation Christmas Child website showing joyful children all over the world receiving Christmas gifts in shoeboxes. They are amazing!! In one of these videos titled “Blessing Children and Churches in Sudan” something said by James Abdella in Lainya, Southern Sudan caught my attention. He said:
“A child, from America, or Canada or somewhere, sending a box to a specific child in Sudan and [the children] pray for him. That is a turning point in the life of that child. That child will never be the same. That’s why it’s not just a gift. It is changing the lives of the children.”
I stopped to think about this some. I thought about the shoeboxes we sent last year, one from my then 6-year-old son to a boy in his age category one from my then 3-year-old daughter, to a girl in her age category. We had filled those boxes with markers and crayons, soap and toothbrushes, candy, and a few new small toys like slinkies and kazoos. Surely, the children that received those shoeboxes must have been thrilled, especially considering those were probably the only gifts they received at Christmas. But could those gifts have changed their lives?
In pondering this question I was instantly reminded of a time that I too was a child in need when seemingly out of the blue, I received an amazing gift. My need was not the same need as an impoverished child living in difficult circumstances, but life certainly felt pretty dark and without much hope at times. The gift I received was from someone I thought was a stranger but who, in reality, had been loving me my entire life, I just didn’t know it. When I think about the Lord’s grace, really think about it, it is entirely upending to me – generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved. And for a needy child, isn’t it possible that their perspective and openness to being loved could also be completely altered when they receive a shoebox gift from a complete stranger?
Also, wherever appropriate, the children receiving shoeboxes are offered a copy of “The Greatest Gift of All” booklet in their own language by local churches and ministry partners. Thus, OCC is not just providing shoebox gifts for children living in dire circumstances, but is a tangible expression of Jesus’ love and an opportunity to tell children we have never met that Jesus is their Lord and Savior. Will you join me in sending some more shoeboxes this year?
Mt. Olivet is serving as the OCC shoebox relay center for our area and has asked for volunteers during collection week – Nov. 14 through Nov. 21. If interested, you can sign up here.
Packing a Shoebox:
1) Use an empty shoe box (standard size) or a plastic container about the same size. You can gift wrap the box (lid separately), but wrapping is not required.
2) Use the label from the Operation Christmas Child brochure (on the table in the back of the church) or print out a label from Operation Christmas Child’s website. You can also print a label after making your online donation ($7 per box). Using this latter option will enable you to “Follow Your Box” (or find out where your shoebox was delivered).
3) Once you have your label, determine whether your gift will be for a boy or a girl, and the child’s age category: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. Mark the correct age category on the label, and tape the label to the top of your box.
4) Fill the box with a variety of gifts that will bring delight to a child. Need ideas? Check here.
5) If you did not use the “Follow Your Box” online donation option, please write a $7 check to Samaritan’s Purse (note “OCC” on memo line) and place it in an envelope on top of the gift items inside your box. If you or your family are preparing more than one shoebox, please make one combined donation.
6) Place a rubber band around each closed shoe box and drop off at Restoration this Sunday, Nov. 20. We will deliver them for you!
Have questions? Please send me a note at cara.voth[at]gmail[dot]com
– Cara Voth