My husband and I first heard of the Operation Christmas Child shoe box collection nine years ago. We were fresh-faced twenty-somethings joining a church that had a heart for missions. The church had a long-standing tradition of packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child, an outreach of Samaritan’s Purse. When my husband and I heard of the ministry, we thought it was wonderful and couldn’t wait to jump in and participate.
We packed a few shoe boxes ourselves, organized the youth group to assist others in packing their shoe boxes, and dropped off the shoe boxes during Collection Week. For a few years, we took the student group to Boone, NC, as processing center volunteers.
But, as time went on, I began to question the effectiveness of the shoe box donation. I heard murmurs of criticism of the program online and in real life. I noticed that I was packing cheap items in my the shoe boxes that I wouldn’t even put in my own kids’ stockings. Family asked why we were sending shoe boxes overseas when so many children at home needed help.
When our Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes arrived at our church this year, I hesitated to even pick up one. My daughter, excited over the idea of packing a shoe box for another child, grabbed one. I promised her that we would pack it. Probably.
The box remained where all items that are in limbo go in our home– the top of the dryer. I told myself that I would pack it “soon.” I didn’t feel inspired to pack it. I questioned that my gift may be used better elsewhere.
One Wednesday evening, our church had a special speaker at a dinner. My ears perked up when I heard that an Operation Shoe Box recipient would be sharing her story with us. A gracious lady with an accent gave us a glimpse into her life as a child. She shared that she had never received a gift in her life until she received a shoe box. She shared how her family had been praying for a radio and God provided a radio for her family through her shoe box. While I can’t remember the exact gifts that I received for any Christmas in my childhood, she recalled the precise contents of her box from all those years ago.
And that is when, like a lightning bolt from the sky delivered in a small voice, it hit me:
Who am I to say how God can and will use what I offer to Him? How arrogant am I to consider that I know what tools are effective or useful when it comes to benefiting His Kingdom?
God convicted my heart, and my daughter and I packed our shoe box with gusto this year. Rather than packing it with the cheapest items possible, we packed it with hygiene items and higher quality toys/art supplies. We laid our hands on the box and prayed for it to be a true blessing wherever it would go.
If you are inspired to pack a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child this year, here are a few things to remember:
- Do NOT pack the following items in the box: Candy; toothpaste; used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures; chocolate or food; seeds; fruit rolls or other fruit snacks; drink mixes (powdered or liquid); liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.
- Refrain from packing books or items in English. Many of the boxes go to children in countries who are not English speaking. Samaritan’s Purse adds ministry materials in the child’s language to accompany the boxes. Children are presented the Gospel along with the shoe box.
- Part of the shoe box packing is covering the shipping expense. This is a slight increase to $9 this year. It also helps to cover ministry materials.
- Many shoe box participants like to utilize a plastic bin so that the shoe box recipient can re-use it for themselves or their family. Operation Christmas Child now offers plastic shoe boxes. I’ve heard that some Hobby Lobby stores have theses boxes.
- Collection week is typically in November. Check the website to find a drop off location and to see exact dates.
- If you would like to know where your box is headed, pay online and use the Follow Your Box Tool.
This post isn’t a sponsored post. It’s not a guilt trip into packing a shoe box or supporting Operation Christmas Child. It is an encouragement to anyone out there who feels as if their contributions are not effective or significant. How many times in the Bible did God use seemingly small acts to make a big impact? Remember that only He is able to truly count the cost of a gift, no matter what that gift may be.
That’s my Operation Christmas Child shoe box story. What’s yours?