Not long ago, I was able to help celebrate the journey to 100 million shoeboxes with Operation Christmas Child. This number is significant because it represents 100 million chances for underprivileged children around the world to hear about how much God, the creator of the universe, loves them and gave his life up for them. Many of these children have never received any kind of gift, nor do they own anything new. This small shoebox – stuffed with toys, personal items, and often school supplies – is a tangible representation of hope for those who are suffering around the world.
Each Christmas season, hundreds of volunteers gather in processing centers around the country to make sure that each shoebox is ready to ship. And, each Christmas season, every processing center holds a community day where a celebration is held to share with all who want to rejoice over all that God has done with this ministry.
I was privileged to be able to attend the community day in the processing center in Boone, North Carolina, which is also Operation Christmas Child’s home office. The community day party opened with a bag as the crowd sang and clapped along with the Tommy Coomes Band as they led in singing beautiful Christmas songs.
After the band got the crowd going a little bit, a sweet 12 -year-old, Evelyn Pinnow “the shoebox ambassador” stood up and shared about the exciting news of taking the 100 millionth shoebox to a special child. In each processing center around the country, Evelyn placed a significant item in the shoebox to take to a very special girl in the Dominican Republic.
Franklin Graham, the CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, also made an appearance to share about the sweet beginnings of Operation Christmas Child when, years ago, a local man called and asked Mr. Graham to help him gather shoeboxes for children overseas. Since then, the ministry has exploded as individuals from all walks of life have packed shoeboxes to bless boys and girls across the ocean. As always, Mr. Graham strives to make it clear that these children are need of knowing that there is a God who loves them, and THAT is the main purpose of packing a shoebox.
As an added bonus, we heard from Elena Hagemeier, a Russian girl who was blessed with a shoebox as a young child. She grew up with alcoholic parents who didn’t take care of their children. Elena lived in a home with broken windows, hardly any food to eat, and never even had new items in her home. Later adopted to an American family Elena shared about how she knew she was loved for the first time after she received her shoebox.
Christmas is almost here, but it isn’t too late to pack a shoebox! Have fun building-a-box as your drink your morning coffee or in the evening when your children get home from school by going to the Operation Christmas Child website. Right from your personal computer, you can add items in your box, a letter, and upload a photo. Volunteers will pack your box for you and ship it to a child in need!