With the arrival of the holiday season, we reflect on memories of the festivities of Christmas and the feelings of excitement of seeing the tinsel and gifts under the Christmas tree. As a culture and country of abundant material blessings in the United States, we easily forget that there are children across the world who have never received a gift or had a toy to call their own.
As Christians we know that Christmas is about the gift of Jesus Christ, yet a beautiful tangible way to reach the eager and precious children of the world is through kindness of a Christmas gift to call their own. We've found a great way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas by gathering with your loved ones and friends to pack simple gift-filled shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.
The Samaritan’s Purse project Operation Christmas Child collects shoebox gifts—filled with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items—and delivers them to children in need around the world to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way. Anyone can pack a shoebox. Individuals, families, churches and groups fill empty shoeboxes with school supplies, hygiene items and fun toys, such as dolls or soccer balls during National Collection Week (Nov. 13 – 20, 2017) and Samaritan’s Purse will collect the gift-filled shoeboxes at nearly 5,000 drop-off locations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
For many of these children, the gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child, the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, has collected and delivered more than 146 million shoebox gifts to children in more than 160 countries and territories.
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. Samaritan’s Purse currently works in more than 100 countries to provide aid to victims of war, disease, disaster, poverty and famine. In 2017, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach another 12 million children in countries like Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda and Ukraine. Nearly 11.5 million shoebox gifts were collected worldwide in 2016, with more than 9.1 million collected in the U.S.
Delivered into the hands of children through local churches, every shoebox gift is an opportunity to share about Jesus Christ and God’s love. Since 2010, more than 11 million children who have received a shoebox gift have participated in The Greatest Journey—a 12-lesson discipleship program. Children learn from trained, local volunteers what it means to follow Jesus and share their faith with friends and family.
How to Pack a Shoebox
Start with an average-size cardboard or plastic shoebox. If you want to wrap it, cover the box and lid separately. Decide whether you will pack a box for a girl or a boy, and the age category: 2–4, 5–9, or 10–14. Select a medium to large “wow” item such as a soccer ball with pump or stuffed animal, then fill with other fun toys, hygiene items, and school supplies.
Most importantly, pray for the child who will receive your gift. You can also include a personal note and photo. Donate $9 online and receive a tracking label to follow your box and discover the destination of your shoebox gift. If you prefer to download and print basic labels, remember to include your $9 donation per shoebox. Take your shoebox gift to a local drop-off location during National Collection Week, November 13–20.
The profound impact of kindness and love nestled into a shoebox gift will share with children across the globe the hope of Jesus Christ in a beautiful and tangible way. Through service to others, we too find the true meaning and message of Christmas with the gift of hope, mercy and grace that is freely given to us all.
To find various, convenient drop-off locations in Mississippi, visit www.samaritanspurse.org for more information.