It’s exciting to watch a child’s eyes as she opens an Operation Christmas Child gift box and discovers treasures she never dreamed she would own: a toothbrush, small toys, candy, school supplies, and more. What’s even more gratifying is that the box contains the book The Greatest Journey, a 12-lesson Bible study course prepared by OCC for a local church to use to teach the recipient what it means to follow Jesus.
Last week I was blessed to take a media vision trip on behalf of American Family Radio to the island of Grenada with OCC, an outreach of Samaritan’s Purse. Most of us know OCC from the shoeboxes that are packed annually for kids across the world.
Grenada is a small Caribbean island with a population of roughly 100,000. The country is semi-developed, but poverty and unemployment affect nearly 50% of the population. This trip consisted of about 15 people from different Christian media outlets across the U.S., most of which sponsor or help OCC in some capacity. The purpose of this trip was to give the participants a glimpse into what it's like for the children to receive a box and the logistics that are involved.
What is presented to the children?
We visited four distribution sites. At each site the children were presented with three things: the gospel, a shoebox packed by a church or family in the U.S., and The Greatest Journey Bible study. If the child wishes to participate in TGJ, the local church will host the discipleship class weekly, and at the end of 12 weeks, students receive a graduation certificate.
Where did we distribute?
The first site we visited was a private Christian school with nearly 400 students from kindergarten to high school age. Second was a rural church that consisted of about 100 children, most of whom don't attend church on a regular basis. The next morning we visited a third distribution site, a private Christian school of nearly 150 students under a sixth grade level. The last site we visited was one of the poorest in the country. This was a small schoolhouse on a Grenada hillside overlooking the ocean.
How is the local church involved?
In each distribution country, OCC has organized a national leadership team comprised of local citizens and pastors who work as liaisons between OCC and local schools and churches. Each team member is trained in how to present the gospel in a simple and consistent way. This ensures that the gospel is presented to each shoebox recipient.
How are the recipients impacted?
Devon, a local pastor and OCC’s Grenada national coordinator, led our team. At lunch on the second day of our trip we were able to hear his testimony. Devon received a shoebox when he was a child. Being raised by a single mother and living in poverty, Devon said the box was the first gift he received during his childhood. He recalled how he later came to know Christ and began serving in his local church. At age 22 he became the youngest serving senator in the Grenada Parliament. After a couple of years in the Senate, Devon felt called to the ministry. Now at age 30 he pastors a local church.
What did I take away from the trip?
Operation Christmas Child is running a highly effective ministry across the world. This is a Gospel-centered program that focuses on providing shoeboxes and discipleship to millions of children annually. I'd give OCC an A++, if there were such a thing. I encourage families across the country to pack a shoebox this year for a child. National collection week is November 16-23. To learn more or to make a contribution, visit Samaritan’s Purse.