As we look forward to celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Operation Christmas Child is also marking a birthday. This year marks 30 years since Samaritan’s Purse began collecting shoeboxes filled with gifts for hurting children around the world.
In 1993, a man in England asked us to collect Christmas gifts for children in war-torn Bosnia. I called a church in Charlotte, where Pastor Ross Rhoads invited his congregation to fill shoeboxes with children’s gifts, and they overwhelmed us with 11 thousand boxes—so many that the church ran out of room to store them. I’ll never forget Ross telling me, “Franklin, this is obviously something the Lord has blessed.”
From the start, Operation Christmas Child has always been dedicated to sharing the Gospel, and the Lord has blessed us with an abundance of gift boxes — 209 million over 30 years.
Around the world, a whole generation of children have grown up after coming to know Jesus through Operation Christmas Child. Let me tell you about a couple of examples.
Decades ago, a 13-year-old boy named Manar in a Middle Eastern country opened a shoebox and could not believe how many gifts were packed inside. “The toy store came to me!” he said. “I felt the love of Jesus through the shoebox. It taught me how God is great, that God thought about me and sent me that gift.”
All these years later, Manar has kept several of his dearest gifts, including a stuffed bear in a red sweater, a monkey-shaped keychain, and an Etch-a-Sketch that he called “my iPad.” He’ll never forget the letter he found inside the box that said: “Jesus loves you and I’m praying for you.”
Today, Manar is a doctor who has settled in the United States and coordinates shoebox collections at his church—demonstrating God’s love to hurting and impoverished children around the world.
If you have been packing shoebox gifts for years, maybe you packed the gifts that warmed the heart of Manar. Or if this is your first time getting involved in Operation Christmas Child, know that you will be blessing the life of a child. Now is the time to get started, as our National Collection Week will be the week before Thanksgiving, Nov. 13-20. Have fun!
It is always exciting to hear how the Lord uses shoebox gifts to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. On the island of Madagascar, a retiring pastor heard God calling him to one final mission—bringing the Gospel to 15 notorious villages that are home to bandits. Government authorities do not dare go there. One village ran off their pastor seven years ago and burned down the church building.
Working through village schools, the pastor brought in hundreds of shoebox gifts and boldy shared the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior. He knew the risk of being violently rejected, yet 75 percent of the crowd—adults as well as children—responded “yes” to Jesus. In another village, people asked for a church, and a young pastor has answered the call to live in these villages and disciple new believers.
The spirit of evil was so heavy that children used to play games by throwing rocks at each other. Now, they play together with soccer balls and other toys from their shoeboxes. Many were excited to get school supplies so they can get an education. The pastor asked us to thank you for gifts that will transform a generation of the Bara people.
As the Lord provides, we are planning to ship 11 million shoebox gifts this year. Praise God, we’ve come a long way from 11 thousand that first year. On behalf of children around the world, thank you for your prayers and generosity.
Individuals, families, and groups still have time to transform empty shoeboxes into fun gifts. Volunteers are preparing to collect shoebox gifts during National Collection Week, November 15 – 22. Participants can find the nearest drop-off location and more information on how to pack their shoebox at www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/
Read more articles by Franklin Graham at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/franklin-graham/