Operation Christmas Child is one of the many programs and activities done by Samaritan’s Purse, which also has year round disaster and relief programs. Every year prior to Christmas, churches, individuals and groups throughout the United States, Canada and the Western world donate over 11 million shoeboxes that are gathered and transported to Third World countries and areas hard hit by natural disasters or war.
Window of opportunity
This time of year many of us are thinking about our plans for the holidays and planning our Thanksgiving activities, as well as getting ready for Christmas and New Year’s. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of these events and to forget that the deadline for giving our shoeboxes always comes earlier than we think. It takes weeks to assemble all of the shoeboxes, ship them to third world countries, transport them to distribution centers and to hand carry them to needy children worldwide. All of the drop off locations in South Florida will accept shoeboxes the week of November 13-20, 2017. Check with your local church (or www.samaritanspurse.org) to find your closest drop off site.
Local drop-off sites
Local sites in South Florida include:
- Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale
- Calvary Chapel Plantation
- First Baptist Church of Weston
- Grace Baptist Church, Pompano Beach
- Iglesia Cristiana Confraternidad, Coral Springs
- Grace Community Church, Boca Raton
- Spanish River Church, Boca Raton
- Hollywood Community Church
- Oasis Church, Pembroke Pines
- Lake Worth Christian School, Boynton Beach
Long before shoeboxes arrive in more than 100 countries, volunteer National Leadership Teams train pastors and community leaders who want to share the message of the Gospel and bless children. The leaders learn how to host child-friendly outreach events and how to implement the 12-week follow-up discipleship program, The Greatest Journey.
Pastors around the world host shoebox distributions in places where people may not know Christ and invite them to follow Him. Other churches use the boxes as resources for outreach in orphanages and other at-risk areas. In many places, they also offer The Greatest Gift, a Gospel story booklet Samaritan’s Purse developed for shoebox recipients. These colorful pamphlets are written in over 70 different languages and are culturally sensitive. These Gospel booklets have been documented to be passed on to an average of 27 additional readers. Therefore if you give, for example, two shoeboxes, you are reaching at least 54 persons with the Gospel message, not including immediate family members.
Discipleship and multiplication
After receiving shoebox gifts, boys and girls are invited to enroll in The Greatest Journey, a 12 lesson discipleship program. They learn from trained local volunteers what it means to faithfully follow Christ and share their faith with others. As a result of what they learn in The Greatest Journey, boys and girls grow in Christ and share with friends and family. The students also invite others to their graduations where the Gospel is shared. This often brings parents, siblings and friends to accept Christ and become active members in the local church. Families are reached, churches grow, new churches are started and communities are transformed. Of the children who attend the outreaches in the target countries, one in three accept Christ as their savior in these gatherings, and many churches have been planted as a result of this program.
Find a shoebox
Start with an average-size cardboard or plastic shoebox. If you want to wrap it, cover the box and lid separately. From children to seniors, people pack shoebox gifts each year to bless children in need around the world. Parents often use the project to teach their kids about giving. Decide whether you will pack a box for a girl or a boy, and the age category: 2–4, 5–9 or 10–14.
Fill with gifts
Select a medium to large item to serve as your “wow” item in the shoebox. Perhaps a soccer ball with pump or stuffed animal, then fill with other fun toys, hygiene items and school supplies. Most importantly, pray for the child who will receive your gift. You can also include a personal note and photo. Donate $9 online and receive a tracking label to Follow Your Box and discover the destination of your shoebox gift. Take your shoebox gift to a local drop-off location during National Collection Week, November 13–20.
About Samaritan’s Purse
Samaritan’s Purse stands ready to respond at a moment’s notice whenever and wherever disaster strikes. They specialize in meeting critical needs for victims of conflict, disaster, famine and epidemics throughout the world, often working through ministry partners on the ground. They provide food, water, shelter, medicine and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ.
Robert Woods has worked as an engineer at Skanska USA Civil, AECOM Technical Services and HBC Engineering Company, and is a published Christian author. He can be reached at [email protected].