Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Halloween has passed. And you know what that means? Christmas is basically here. While we may be over a month and a half away, there is no denying that sprinkles of Christmas are popping up in store window fronts. And if I may be direct, I am excited.
This season is always joyous. But I find myself a little giddier than normal for the holidays this year. Why? Because it is my first Christmas as a wife. And with that role, I am looking forward to starting new traditions with my own little family.
We’ve started budgeting, planning, shopping, and dreaming about a tree. But my most favorite tradition has already started – packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child (OCC).
For as long as I can remember, OCC has been a part of the Christmas season in my life. From a young age, my siblings and I packed shoeboxes to send to children across the globe. I remember my mom saying, “This is going to go to some little girl who has never gotten a gift before.” Those words always stuck, but never sank deep. It wasn’t until I started working at AFA that I learned of all of the impactful things OCC does … and that knowledge made me even more excited to participate.
A couple of years ago, an OCC recipient came to AFA to tell her story of how shoeboxes impacted her life. She was a believer who had grown up in an area of the world where Christians were severely persecuted. Her home was small and empty. But with her family by her side and the hope of Jesus in her heart, she knew that she wasn’t hopeless. So, in the middle of chaos, the young child prayed for something that would make her feel valued. However, what she wanted and prayed for most was a way for her family to hear truth.
After traveling to their church, she and her brother received a shoebox gift. Unsure of what the box was, they patiently waited to open it until they walked home. As she and her brother opened the lid, she found many goodies, like a stuffed animal that she could hold, a hairbrush, and pencils. But she also found a radio. Out of all of the boxes out there, she got a radio.
That story really changed how I looked at OCC. It isn’t just sending a gift to someone who has never gotten one. Although a generous thing to do, it is so much more than that. It’s the blessing of getting to be an answered prayer to someone who is in need. On this side of heaven, I won’t know the impact a toothbrush or a doll made on some child in Africa or the Middle East. But I know that the Lord has a plan for each child who will receive the boxes we pack. How can we limit what He can do?
I’ve heard the phrase, “Put God in a box,” in regards to limiting or doubting God will do what He says He will. But when it comes to this project, isn’t it amazing to be His hands and feet? The boxes usually cost less than a fast-food dinner. Yet, we get to fill them with small tangible objects that show how big and good God is. I don’t know about you, but I believe that God is in that box, with that child, and whispering in the ears of those who send shoeboxes. To me, a stuffed animal is just something that clutters up space. Yet, to that child, it can be something that they can hold, hug, and cherish when things don’t look so good.
So, as you get to shopping this season, please know:
- It isn’t just a water bottle, it’s an easy way to carry water.
- It isn’t only a soccer ball, it’s a game-changing gift that will bring joy to all who play.
- It isn’t just a pack of pencils, it’s a tool to help them with their education or creativity.
Very few things leave me with awe and wonder, but OCC is at the top of the list. Every aspect of this ministry bleeds the gospel and the hope of Christ. He is a good God. Not only do we serve a God who makes Himself known not only through creation, but also through a box filled with crayons, radios, stuffed animals, and socks.
One of the other impressive aspects of OCC is “The Greatest Journey” program. After the child receives his or her shoebox, they are invited to participate in OCC’s discipleship curriculum – The Greatest Journey. Through it, children learn key Bible lessons and memorize Scripture. Upon completion of the 12-lesson program, children are able to attend a graduation ceremony and awarded their own Bible.
This Christmas I hope you’ll choose to pack and send your shoebox. I recently heard someone in my church say that the shoebox project is, “a mission trip without a passport.” And he couldn’t be more correct. All it takes is a trip to the store, some Tetris-like stacking skills, prayer, and memories that will last a lifetime for everyone involved.
So, whether you’re single, married, or have a house full of kids, I thoroughly recommend packing a shoebox. Make the most of it! Grab a pizza, shop till you drop, and have fun ministering to the nations!
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15 NIV).
National collection week is November 15-22.