Every year at this time my children and I prepare shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. It’s a family tradition and a wonderful way to introduce the Advent season. This year preparing the boxes has brought a flood of emotions within me. I seem to be overwhelmed by these simple boxes and I am going to do my best here to explain why.
I have been preparing shoeboxes with my children for about 10 years now. The ministry of OCC is an extension of Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse organization. Samaritan’s Purse ministers worldwide by providing relief in both physical and spiritual aid to victims of poverty, war and natural disasters. Operation Christmas Child is dedicated entirely to children by collecting shoeboxes filled with toys, gifts and the message of Jesus Christ to needy children all around the world during the Christmas season. I recently read Franklin Graham’s book about the story of these simple gifts. It is a simple book with simple stories but I was overwhelmed with emotion over the power of a shoebox.
Alex from Rwanda who lost both his mother and father to Aids. He witnessed unbelievable violence by militia against his relatives and found himself orphaned and alone. Then a simple shoebox gave him hope because someone cared enough to give him a gift.
Mehi was a boy from Romania who couldn’t attend school because he had to provide his own school supplies. The shoebox that he received was packed with a notebook, pencil and markers. It was just what he needed to be able to attend school. A provision that the packer of that box would have no way of knowing how timely and needed those simple gifts would be.
The boy from Kosovo whose box was without toys but instead a shirt and a coat. He was the only boy in the crowd of children without a coat and by God’s unbelievable mercy he happened to open the box that provided exactly what he needed.
The child who was blinded by shrapnel and was lying in a hospital bed in Zagreb. The shoebox delivered by his bedside had earphones attached to a Walkman with music. The boy found joy from a gift that found its way to meet his specific circumstance.
Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered over 100 million boxes to children all around the world. I am just so humbled by the fact that in our world that is growing increasingly hostile to the message of Jesus Christ and the power of salvation that God is using cardboard boxes to not only meet the needs of the neediest in our world but sharing the love of Christ in places that reject the message of the cross.
I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to be able to provide these shoebox gifts. We are so unbelievably blessed in this country. Even the poorest among us are rich in relation to the poverty in our world. My children and I don’t see the devastation that many children around the world live in. However, we can buy supplies and gifts, pack them in a shoebox and that box will bring a little hope. It might even change the life of that child through the simple story book of Christ’s love packed by OCC inside the gifts we’ve chosen to give them.
I was moved by the countless stories of how my family’s simple tradition is used mightily by the hand of God. However, I think for some reason this year, I am overwhelmed at the love God has for me through those boxes. The shoebox is used by OCC as a tangible means to share the message of Jesus Christ but it’s a spiritual revelation to me. I too received that gift. It wasn’t in a form of a shoebox but it was free and it has brought me indescribable joy and hope. There was nothing I could do to earn it and I am undeserving of it but Christ died for me. That tangible box is God’s revelation in my own life.
Isn’t that just like God? He uses the simplest gift to teach the most important Truth. This year my heart is overwhelmed that the giver of the ultimate gift is using my family and countless others to share the message of the cross and the love of Christ around the world through a shoebox.