After years of praying for an opening to reach the children in his country with the message of Jesus Christ’s offer of salvation, a Child Evangelism worker from Macedonia was invited into the public schools where he was allowed to distribute over 80,000 shoeboxes filled with clothes, toys and school supplies. What an open door to ministry!
I heard this amazing story from one of the students attending TCMI’s training program while I served at Haus Edelweiss in Austria. For several years, I’ve heard of the Operation Christmas Child work done by Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse Ministry. I’m enthusiastic about this wonderful service project opportunity that reaches world wide to needy children.
As I browsed the website of Operation Christmas Child, two facts impressed me. First, the items to be collected are easy things. This is a tailor made project for kids, families, or youth groups. Second, this is a program that doesn’t just provide material items for needy children. According to the website, follow up in the form of discipleship programs is done with the children who have received the boxes.
You can mail your shoeboxes or there are drop-off points throughout the United States. Samaritan’s Purse asks that donors include a check inside each shoebox to pay for international shipping; however, this can also be done online. When you opt for the E-Z Give method, they’ll email you a bar code where you can track the destination of your particular shoebox. If this is a project you want to do this Christmas, be aware that the National Collection Week is November 16-23.
Operation Christmas Child would be a great family service project. I challenge you however to think big. Remember the 80,000 boxes delivered to Macedonian public schools. If your entire church did this project, just visualize the multiple effect you could have. Imagine this. Ask your older adult class to take up an offering to buy the supplies needed for each shoebox. Ask another class to donate the shoeboxes. Then pair up each child in your youth program with an adult. Take everyone to your local dollar or discount store. Give each pair five or ten dollars, a shoebox and a list of suggested items (free materials on putting together a Shoebox are on the website). The adult helps the child “spend” the money to fill the shoebox. Have another group get the boxes ready for mailing or drop-off, following the instructions from the Operation Christmas Child website.
You could customize this program by doing it for local families or homeless shelters. But I challenge you. As big as needs may seem in the States, conditions in the rest of the world are exponentially worse. Here, even those who don’t attend church have ready access to the Gospel; this is not so in other countries. When you reach beyond your own boundaries with a shoebox full of kindness, you are opening a door for the Gospel to enter the heart and mind of a child and his or her family. We like to stay close because we want to see the results; however, the very essence of faith is reaching beyond what is seen (Hebrews 11:1, 2 Corinthians 4:18).
How many shoeboxes can your children’s ministry fill? For some of you, ten shoeboxes may be a stretch of faith; for others, 1,000 might seem like as easy goal. Pray about it.