Said Freeman: "These children in the orphanages are so thankful for what they get. Even the wrapping paper does not go to waste but is taped around their beds to prolong the sparkle of the moment."

Operation Christmas Child's goal is to provide more than 8 million shoe boxes to hurting children in 100 countries around the world this season. Since it's inception in 1993 to help children in Bosnia, the program has handed out more than 38 million shoeboxes. But the shoeboxes bring more than just temporary smiles and joy. They have a lasting eternal purpose and act as emissaries of peace and goodwill in countries where the preaching of the Gospel is difficult, sometimes because of religious persecution. 

One such story comes out of Kazakhstan where the population is 50 percent Muslim. "Svetlana" was a young girl from a large family and the only one who believed in Jesus. Members of Svetlana's church visited with her family, telling them about Jesus, and inviting all of the children to come to a special distribution of Operation Christmas Child gifts made just for them by American boys and girls. The children and the parents in the family were deeply touched by this kind of love by people who didn't even know them. The following Sunday, the entire family was in church and came to receive Christ as Lord.

 

Sometimes the simplest things can become opportunities to share the Gospel message and can transfom entire families and communities.

"This is a true testament of what the shoeboxes are all about," said Freeman. "The shoeboxes are a tool used by pastors and missionaries and national leadership to share the Gospel of Jesus and to open the door. The Holy Spirit does the rest." 

For more information on packing shoe boxes for children overseas, visit http://www.samaritanspurse.org/ and get free materials to start the project in your own family, church, or group. National Collection Week is Nov. 16-23, 2009.

 

Article originally posted November 8, 2005 and modified to reflect information for the 2009 Christmas season.

Rebekah Montgomery is the editor of Right to the Heart of Women e-zine, a publisher at Jubilant Press, and the author of numerous books on spiritual growth. She can be contacted for comments or speaking engagements at rebekahmontgomery.com