“Every gift which is given, even though it be small, is in reality great, if it is given with affection.”
For the poor and isolated children in underdeveloped nations who receive the gift of a shoebox full of goodies from Operation Christmas Child, they receive more than toys and socks.
They hear the miraculous tale of the Christ child and His holy birth.
Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, an international evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization that provides aid to people in physical need as a key part of Christian missionary work.
Bob Pierce founded Samaritan’s Purse after visiting suffering children on the Korean island of Koje-do. Impassioned prayer guided Pierce as he founded and led the ministry of Samaritan’s Purse in 1970. His mission was “to meet emergency needs in crisis areas through existing evangelical mission agencies and national churches.”
Most recently, the organization sent disaster relief units to hurricane-ravaged areas in Texas and Florida – tractor trailers stocked with equipment and supplies to hard-hit areas – where they set up volunteer centers in partnership with local churches.
As a Christmastime ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child teams of volunteers work all year with community groups, senior homes, private schools and local organizations to collect donated items, as well as monetary donations. The most popular items are handmade gadgets, small toys, socks and slippers, and hygiene products for needy children and other in-need individuals throughout the Third World.
The boxes are available for pickup and drop off at 5,000 locations of Operation Christmas Child nationwide began Monday, Nov. 13 and continued through Nov. 20, explains Sandra Hughes, regional director for Samaritan’s Purse. Starting the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, volunteers at the processing center in Corona off the 91 and 115 freeways processed and shipped the boxes.
“The atmosphere there is like Santa’s workshop, mission style!” she said.
Any time of year interested individuals and organizations can check the website, Samaritanspurse.org, for information on how to fill and send the boxes themselves, Hughes notes.
Some people come up with crafty gifts that use household products to create games and toys, she says. Retailers help out, too. “We have amazing relationships with stores and manufacturers who donate items that would otherwise go to a dollar store,” she explains. “So we can get some pretty awesome gifts into the box for an affordable amount.”
For more information, visit samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child.
One popular item is soap made from leftover slivers of soaps left at motels and hotels, Hughes says, that are made into new bars to extend their usefulness.
“To me, Operation Christmas Child is the true spirit of Christmas,” Hughes says. “On this side of the shoebox we have some kids who know nothing about the true spirit of giving. In our family we thought it was a good lesson for our kids to buy things they wanted for themselves, things they really liked, and give them to children who have no access to things.”
The collected shoeboxes give gifts in two ways, she says. “Operation Christmas Child gives you a way to give to others and you don’t get to know what happens.
“It is truly sacrificial giving: Knowing that the shoebox is a treasure and understanding that the true gift is the knowledge of Jesus.”