The joy of Christmas morning is something that is often taken for granted. Most of us enjoy a day off with friends and family, good food and an exchange of gifts. To imagine a Christmas without any of these things is nearly beyond our understanding, but in places all over the world it is a reality.
Samaritan’s Purse, a humanitarian aid organization, aims to change this reality through its program — Operation Christmas Child. Operation Christmas Child enlists the help of volunteers all across the North America, Australia, Europe and Asia. This program allows even the smallest towns to make a big difference.
“I think it’s just community coming together, we don’t look at who we are, what church we come from, what organization we’re serving, we just want to make a child happy,” Southeast Ohio Coordinator Virginia Cook said.
Since Operation Christmas Child began in 1993, the organization has delivered over 135 million shoe boxes to over 150 countries.
Shoebox drop-off location coordinator for Nauvoo Methodist church, Trish Shaffer says that she is thankful to have the opportunity to be a part of something making such a wide impact.
“Many times we feel like, how can we do anything to take the word of God into the world,” Shaffer said. “We can’t all be missionaries, we aren’t all called to go somewhere other than where we are. This is a way we can reach the world from a simple shoebox and it’s amazing because some of the things are basic needs that the children here would not even think that they were valuable.”
Anyone can participate in Operation Christmas Child by simply putting hygiene items, school supplies, and a few toys into a shoebox and dropping it off at a nearby drop-off location. Most of the children who receive the boxes have never been given a gift before. This past April, Cook and Shaffer had the opportunity to attend an Operation Christmas Child conference where they heard stories from adults who had received a box as a child.
“There was one girl who shared with us at the conference who said the thing that she was most excited about in her shoebox was her toothbrush, and it was because she lived in an orphanage and had to share a toothbrush with ten other girls,” Shaffer said. “A toothbrush, and that’s very humbling.”
Cook says that Operation Christmas Child is different from any other charity because supporters know exactly where their money is going.
“You just can’t believe the individuals who pack shoeboxes and they get so excited because they know it goes directly to the child, what money you spend is going directly to the child, it’s going to impact that child’s life,” Cook said.
After the children are given their shoeboxes, they can take a class through local churches in their area that introduces them to God. Shaffer heard of one village where after the children took the class, their parents wanted to take a class to learn about God as well.
The pastor ended up having a class for them as well,” Shaffer said. “So now in that village where there was no church, now there is a church, and it’s all because someone somewhere else in the world packed a shoebox and sent it out.”
Cook says that it is special for her to see our community, and others, come together to support children in need.
“And I think that you see the community coming together and they don’t think about the boundaries, they are coming together to show a child a love they’ve never known, it’s overwhelming to see that,” Cook said.
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