The power of a simple gift

Published 10:35 pm Friday, November 11, 2011

All it takes is a gift-filled shoebox to bring some joy to a child this Christmas season.

I’ve been participating in Operation Christmas Child off and on since I was a child. The past four years, however, there’s been no off and on — just all on.

For those who don’t know about Operation Christmas Child, it’s a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse — an organization run by the famous Billy Graham family — that collects millions of shoeboxes from America, Australia, England and other countries and distributes them to impoverished children all throughout the world.

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The shoeboxes are filled with school supplies, personal hygiene products and toys that will bring delight to children ages 2-14 somewhere in the world. Many times, this is the only Christmas gift the child will ever receive. Some come from war-torn countries, areas ripped apart by famine or natural disaster, or nations governed with an iron fist by dictators who keep their people in poverty. Some of the children are living in orphanages after having lost both of their parents, and others live in families so large they have nothing to call their own.

The shoebox gifts are distributed with a pamphlet called “The Greatest Gift” that tells them the Christmas story in their own language. Children who choose to do so can participate in a follow-up program called “The Greatest Journey,” which allows the children to learn more about what it means to be a Christian. Children who complete the program get their very own New Testament in their own language — oftentimes the first Bible, or book of any sort, in the household.

Looking back on the last four years of my participation in Operation Christmas Child, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I have been blessed by packing the boxes far more than the children who have received them. I enjoy the process so much that I buy some things for the boxes all year long, practically whenever I’m in a department store or drugstore.

Needless to say, I always wind up with too many things, so the most fun part for me is figuring out how to strategically pack the items so that they all fit.

I’ve never had the joy of receiving a letter back from the children who receive my boxes. Some people do, but after all, these children likely don’t have the money for postage, or perhaps even a post office nearby.

Samaritan’s Purse even offers a box-tracking feature on its website that allows box givers to see where their box goes. In past years, my boxes have gone to places such as Peru, the Baltics and Balkans, Panama, Southwest Asia and Central African Republic.

National Collection Week for the boxes is Nov. 14-21, so if you’ve got some shoeboxes lying around, why not put them to good use? After you fill them, you can drop them off at Nansemond River Baptist Church or Southside Baptist Church.

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