Samaritan’s Purse shoe box ministry known as Operation Christmas Child has been a valued tradition in our family since its inception. This ministry sends over seven million shoe boxes full of essentials and small gifts to under-privileged children worldwide. The first time our church introduced it, we knew it would be a great way to get our four children to learn about giving to those less fortunate. My husband and I were eager to find ways to help our children put less emphasis on the gift-receiving aspect of Christmas, and this fit the bill.
We began the tradition of having each of our children put together a shoe box for some unknown recipient in another part of the world. Each child chose which gender and age group to buy for. A trip to the store would follow, where each one would meticulously work his or her way down the list of items to include in the shoe box. Having filled an entire shopping cart, we’d head home with our purchases.
The rustling of wrapping paper and the sounds of scissors cutting and tape unraveling from its dispenser filled our living room as each child carefully wrapped a shoe box and lid. I watched as their hands tenderly set all of the small gifts into their shoe boxes, finding just the right arrangement to make it all fit. Next, our children sat and wrote notes to their unknown children and enclosed a photo of themselves. This done, the boxes were closed up and taken to church.
Year after year, our family held fast to this tradition. I think it became one of our favorite events as a family. Despite the varying ages, stages, and moods of our kids, they always welcomed the trip to the store and the whole process of putting together these boxes of love. Each shoebox was assembled with care, for children they had not met, knowing they would not receive anything in return.
One warm spring night, while sitting at the dinner table together, the doorbell rang. I could see through our window that two women were at our doorstep. I hesitated, not wanting our dinner hour disturbed. The bell rang again. I got up and answered the door to two sweet, polite Hispanic women. They explained they were here from Mexico to see Daniel, our youngest son, then nine years old. Seeing my confusion, one of the women went on to say that she wanted to thank Daniel for a gift he had sent to her grandson for Christmas.
A blank look appeared on every face at the dinner table. What gift could Daniel have sent that we weren’t aware of? "It was a box full of so many things...soap, brush, wash cloth, candies, toys..." the woman continued.
We all smiled, realizing she meant a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child. The woman told us how excited her grandson was by all of his gifts. "It was his only Christmas present. It meant so much to him...and to us." Tears welled up in both women’s eyes as well as my own.
"I am visiting relatives a few miles away from here. I told them I must go to Daniel’s house to thank him personally." And she did. Daniel was speechless. We all were.
"Daniel, I keep your picture in my Bible. I want you to know that I look at it everyday and pray for you." Now we were the recipients of a precious gift. Humbled beyond words, we saw the biblical truth lived out right before our eyes. It is more blessed to give than to receive. And when you give with an open heart, God gives back in ways we can never imagine.
A few small items in a simple shoe box...a treasured gift for a small boy who has so little...and then, the faces of these dear women, touching our family, touching our hearts...we are blessed!