I learned about Operation Christmas Child 15 years ago. I was at McDonald’s with my cousin’s wife, Lisa. Our boys were playing on the red and yellow plastic slides and she took the Happy Meal doll and said she was going to put it in the box for “her” girl.
Knowing she had three busy boys (at that time 7, 6, & 4) I asked her what she meant and she explained the idea behind the Samaritan’s Purse ministry, Operation Christmas Child. I loved the idea! What a great thing for Gabriel and I to do together – buying small toys and sending them to a child who would otherwise have nothing to open! Including a Gospel tract in their language!
For several years Gabriel and I packed shoeboxes for children we’d never meet, in countries we had never been to, praying these small gifts would bring them joy and into a relationship with their Savior. Later, as I worked with teen girls, we included them on shopping and packing expeditions too. At the time I saw it as a fun project that hopefully introduced children to Jesus.
Then I was invited to hear a guest speaker at the Operation Christmas Child “Kick-Off”… and it changed the way I viewed the ministry completely! The speaker's name was Nadia, and she was from Russia. She described life in the Russian orphanage as bleak, lonely, and at times horrific. The workers, she said, would force the children to fight each other and place wages on who would win. She was unloved, uncared for, and saw no future for herself.
But then one day, a woman showed up with shoeboxes filled with gifts! Nadia couldn’t believe it! Pencils, hair clips, toys, all for her? But what was most important to her was a toothbrush. She finally had her own toothbrush, one she didn’t have to share! After the woman left, the workers took the nicer things from the children, but Nadia hid her toothbrush.
Even more importantly, the workers couldn’t take from her the realization that there was someone on this planet who actually cared about her.
Why would someone care about her? Nadia was perplexed.
And it was at that time that she read the Gospel and learned about the Savior that loved her and that His love was so overpowering that it changed everything!
Like her, He had been beaten, abused, and abandoned. But He forgave and she needed to forgive, and the Holy Spirit brought life to her!
We all were weeping by the time she finished.
I wept for the neglect and pain; I wept for a glorious God who intervened.
After hearing Nadia I wanted to be a part of this in a way that I never had before. This was no longer just a fun, teachable moment; there is a real Gospel opportunity here.
Now, I don’t know about you, but a toothbrush is a really easy thing for me to come by. I have one to clean jewelry, one to scrub tile, and seem to acquire them. The practical thing that changed about my shoeboxes was that now every single one of them has a toothbrush, and when I have packing parties, every shoebox has to have one. It’s an iron-clad rule.
But even more so, now we pray before we shop. We pray as we pack. I pray throughout the year for who may have received the box. We include notes in the box – notes of love, hope, encouragement, and of course, Scripture.
It seems so small – just a shoebox filled with small toys and sent with a prayer - we may not know on this side of eternity whose hands He places them in – but I know He hears prayer and I know He is able to take a toothbrush and transform lives.
Click here to learn more about Operation Christmas Child. MCC will have shoeboxes available the next two Sunday's in-between services! Pick one up, fill it, pray over it and return it to the church by Sunday, November 5th and we will deliver it to a dropoff location!