What I Saw in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox
- Lori Hatcher Author
- 2014 29 Dec
Ever wonder what happens to the Operation Christmas Child shoebox your family fills every year? Many families donate boxes full of toys, candy, and personal items to Franklin Graham’s ministry to children in impoverished or war-torn areas. They seldom think about what happens next. My visit to the giant OCC warehouse in Charlotte, North Carolina enlightened me. Every year, thousands of volunteers help inspect and process the shoeboxes for distribution. Recently my husband led a team from his youth ministry, and I went along.
In 2013, our guide told us, the Charlotte campus of OCC hopes to send out 2.9 million boxes. By 2 p.m. on the day our team arrived, they had already processed 109,000—a remarkable feat considering that every box must be hand-inspected by volunteers and prepared for travel.
Stationed on a long assembly line, my job was to open each box and remove the seven-dollar shipping donation. As the first to handle each box, I was the first to peek inside. It was like Christmas morning a thousand times over.
As I carefully raised the lid, mindful of the fact that a check could be taped to the inside or resting on top, I couldn’t help but imagine how the little child who will ultimately receive this box might feel.
Two types of boxes were particularly moving.
The boxes designated for little girls made me smile. Many included soft stuffed animals, hair bows and brushes, and pretty pens and paper. I imagined the girls’ delight when they fingered the faux pearls, sniffed the scented soap, or hugged the black-eyed teddy bears. My favorite box of all contained an entire fairy outfit, complete with a sparkly wand and a pink tutu.
The boys’ boxes were equally exciting, according to my husband. They held flashlights with extra batteries, ball caps, and tools like hammers and screwdrivers. Candy filled the corners and the token toothbrush and toothpaste balanced out the equation. Some were packed so tightly and filled so full we had a hard time closing the lids.
Every now and then, however, I’d open a different type of box. Sparsely filled, sometimes with items that were second hand or functional, these country cousins couldn’t compete with their overweight city relatives. They were usually smaller, almost apologetic in their presentation, and seldom wrapped in pretty paper. One had a photo of a little old lady on a couch with a bug-eyed Chihuahua beside her. “Jesus loves you,” she had written. “I hope you come to love him, too.”
Thankfully, due to the added generosity of individuals and businesses, we supplemented boxes like these with filler items. We’d tuck toys, school supplies, or toiletry items into the empty spaces and pray a blessing on the giver who’d obviously had a generous heart but an impoverished pocketbook.
The full boxes made my heart happy, because they demonstrated the generosity of God’s people toward those less fortunate than themselves. They gave me hope that although our world seems to be increasingly selfish and self-centered, people are still listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit’s nudge to give.
The half-empty boxes made my heart happy, too. Like the widow’s mite, they demonstrated the desire of God’s people to give sacrificially. Both boxes, I believe, made God’s heart happy.
Perhaps some of the shoeboxes you’ve donated over the years have been filled with gracious plenty. Others, maybe not so much. Even if all you could give was a partially filled shoebox, rest in the knowledge that God multiplied your gift and sent it on.
And he’s smiling—just like the little boy or girl on the other side of the world when they opened their boxes this Christmas.
SEE ALSO: 7 Tips for Talking Money with Friends
Do you have an Operation Christmas Child story to share? I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment below.
Lori Hatcher is the author of the newly-released Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. Like a spiritual power bar, Hungry for God is the nutrition women need to get through the day.
Lori knows what it’s like to be busy. And what it’s like to struggle to make time for God. Her passion is helping women connect with God in the craziness of everyday life. A Yankee transplant living in Columbia, South Carolina, Lori uses her speaking and writing ministry to equip and empower women. She’d love to connect with you on her blog, on Facebook, and Twitter (@lorihatcher2).
Publication date: December 29, 2014