Every year at my tiny Texas church, fall meant preparation for one of our favourite service opportunities of the year: Operation Christmas Child. A program created by Samaritan’s Purse, “a nondenominational evangelical Christian organisation providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world”, Operation Christmas Child encourages churches, businesses and ordinary people to fill shoeboxes with gifts for children around the world.
I can remember wandering around department stores with my mother and brother, searching for that perfect gift for a girl like me. We bought hair clips, dolls, Hot Wheels, hairbrushes and more in the hopes of making boys and girls smile. My brother and I would race around the store with our cardboard boxes, playing live-action tetris with plastic dinosaurs and jump ropes as our mother tried her best to make sure we did not include anything that would melt in transport. Helpfully, Samaritan’s Purse includes online lists of suggested items, as well as discouraged and banned items to guide these purchases.
Samaritan’s Purse also provides online options for Operation Christmas Child for those who might not have time to go out and play tetris with toys in person. Individuals can choose to donate towards a pre-filled shoebox or choose to select specific items from a list that will be shipped on their behalf. You can even include a picture of yourself and a note to the child who receives your gift if you like!
After shopping perhaps a bit too enthusiastically, my family would bring its red and green bundles to church and pile them in the sanctuary with all the other brightly-wrapped shoe boxes for children overseas. Churches, schools and businesses all over the world provide drop off locations like these for the boxes, and this year, 2019 drop-off locations will open during National Collection Week, 11th-18th November. Samaritan’s Purse provides an online interactive map with which individuals can find their closest drop-off location, and be assured that there are plenty of options in the UK.
After the gifts are delivered, you will receive an email in January with information about the country to which your box was delivered if you donate through the “Donate Online and Follow Your Box” page of the website that will provide a tracking barcode to include in your shoebox. Although privacy and safety precautions do not permit Samaritan's Purse to share specific details of the child who received your box, it is warming to see where in the world your box was delivered.
If you would rather volunteer and provide your services in person, Operation Christmas Child would be more than happy to have you! Whether you want to organise collections or drop-offs, sign up for a shift at a processing centre or work with local teams to spread information about Operation Christmas Child, there is a fit for everyone.
Hearing stories about the effect these gifts have had on children and their families from Estonia to Nicaragua can be a powerful testimony to the importance of a spirit of giving this holiday season. Read here to see the influence of these gifts given from people right here in the UK, and get inspired to spread some Christmas cheer to children around the world!