One hundred million shoe boxes. From Uganda to Indonesia, from Ecuador to the refugee camps in the mountains of Iraq, 100 million children received a gift of love in the form of a shoe box in the last two decades. To some of these children, the small shoe box contained the first gifts they have ever received. To others, the box contained essentials that they had never owned before. To children whose lives were forever changed as their families fled to the mountains from the terror of Isis, this small token brought them a ray of hope and joy to their fear-stricken days. When Greta Van Susteren took a holiday vacation last year, she joined Franklin Graham from Samaritan’s Purse International to deliver boxes to children working on a landfill in Ecuador. While delivering the boxes, she asked one little girl what her favorite item was. “A toothbrush!” the small child happily said. A toothbrush! An item that we are able to buy by the pack at any value store in America, is pure luxury to millions of people across the world.
My family and I have been packing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child for a decade. Since our oldest was a little toddler, the Christmas shoe boxes have become a holiday tradition at our house. Sometime in October, I take our girls shopping for children around their age, and we pack the boxes with toys and some essential items like toothbrushes, toothpaste and hair brushes. I watch them pack them, their eyes sparkling with excitement. As we close the boxes, we pray for the children who will receive them, and include a letter with our address and pictures, just in case they decide to write to us one day. At a time when our society tries to shift our attention from the true meaning of Christmas, I find it important to point my children’s hearts to the truth: We give, because God gave himself for us. We celebrate, because love came down and brought us true hope. And we wish to share it with the world.
There are several organizations offering special projects during the holidays, but there is a very specific reason why I wholeheartedly support Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child. This group doesn’t end their operation with the delivery of Christmas gifts to children. They stay. They have programs following their shoe box deliveries, where they share about Jesus and the love of God with the children and their families. Their projects include, among others, disaster relief and adoption support programs, and I have been privileged to hear several stories of children from all over the world who were adopted by American families following the delivery of a shoe box. It’s one small, inexpensive gesture that has been changing people’s lives and eternity for decades, by sharing God’s love and the hope that remains. That’s the intangible, however true gift, packed inside that small box.
The contents of those shoe boxes, as exciting as they may be, will perish, break, or empty out over time. But the message within remains forever: there is a God who sees your pain and suffering. He hasn’t forgotten you. And he put in the hearts of millions of Americans the desire to send you a little bit of love packed inside one small shoe box.
The world is indeed filled with hatred, wars and persecution. But it fills my heart with hope for tomorrow when I think that God’s love still shines through the good deeds of mankind. Join the Operation Christmas Child movement by going to www.samaritanspurse.org and find out how you can get involved.