The year was 1999. My husband was the student pastor at a small rural church in Ohio.
It was a hot, uneventful summer day. The thought of Christmas was nowhere on my agenda! It was, however, the topic at hand. My husband had been approached by a woman in our church about an organization that she hoped we could be a part of…Operation Christmas Child, or “OCC” as she referred to it. As we began our discussion, I had no idea of the journey I was about to undertake, nor the impact that would be made on me, my family, and around the world!
Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is a project of Samaritan’s Purse which provides spiritual and physical aid in times of disaster. OCC collects shoeboxes filled with school supplies, hygiene items, fun toys, and notes of encouragement to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way. But OCC doesn’t stop with the delivery of a simple gift. Each shoebox is given in the name of Jesus Christ, who is the greatest gift of all. The shoeboxes create an opportunity to teach children about God’s amazing love and guide them through what it means to follow Jesus Christ.
Back to the story… OCC sounded like a great opportunity to impact others! With great enthusiasm, our church began collecting shoeboxes and packed them full of simple gifts. My husband and I joined in and packed our first shoebox that year. We were making a difference! We had the opportunity to impact children all around the world who were victims of war, disease, disaster, poverty, famine and persecution. What I didn’t realize was how much this shoebox would impact me!
Earlier that same year I had experienced the tremendous joy of birth and the deep sorrow of death. Our daughter, Victoria Nichole, was born and passed away due to a genetic disorder. She would have been eleven months old at Christmas time. We decided to pack a shoebox for a 2-4 year-old girl, in honor of Nichole. One of the items we chose to pack, was a Winnie-the-Pooh. What child would not want to hug on a Winnie-the-Pooh? As I was packing Winnie-the-Pooh and the other items in the shoebox, I realized something that would change my perspective forever! I couldn’t give to my own daughter this Christmas, but I could share my love to another little girl. A little girl that I might not ever know or meet, but a little girl who was in a desperate place and in desperate need of hope that only comes from knowing God’s love.
That box and the realization that I could change a child’s life forever started a journey that I’ve been on for 17 years! We have packed shoeboxes every year as a family since then. Throughout those years we have received letters back from four different children in four different countries (Jordan, Zambia, Latvia, and Columbia). I have never had the privilege to travel to these countries but the Lord has allowed me to make a substantial impact in those countries. Several years ago I took the step to become a year round volunteer with OCC. Since then I have had incredible opportunities to share the mission of OCC, attend training events, be a part of the processing center (the place where all shoeboxes are prepared for global distribution), and one day I hope to be a part of a distribution event.
Who knew that a simple shoebox gift, that brings joy and hope to a child, could also bring joy, hope and purpose to the one who packed it! So go grab a shoebox. Pack it. Pray over it. Send it on its way to impact a child. Just don’t be surprised if it impacts and takes you on a journey as well! What goes into that shoebox may be a simple gift, but what comes out of that shoebox makes a substantial impact!
Shoeboxes and a list of approved items and packing instructions can be picked up at TrueNorth Church on Sunday mornings. Filled shoeboxes should be turned in by Sunday, November 20.