By: Peg Hamilton
Who knew that taking a shoebox and preparing to walk the Samaritan’s Purse path would lead me to Walmart? But it did! And once again, perhaps this year more than others, I was struck by the unexpected joy I felt in choosing gifts to fill my shoebox for an unknown, faceless “girl age 6-9.”
Because I have two wonderful sons and an amazing grandson, buying “girl stuff” gives me pause. Just as I do when selecting names from Grace’s “undecorate the tree” annual event, I stop for a moment, wondering if I can choose something “right” for a girl. So there I stood in Walmart, my very clear Operation Christmas Child instruction sheet in my hand, looking first for the “one WOW item.” And there it was: an amazing, barking, pink puppy. “Touch its head to hear it bark.” Well, of course, I chose that! And then I wandered the aisles picking out hair bows and headbands, markers and drawing paper, lip gloss...all manner of things that I hoped would make my little girl smile. Because, dear readers, now she WAS “my” little girl.
It was then that I wanted to know more about Operation Christmas Child and its “parent” Samaritan’s Purse. The organization’s stated mission is “to follow the example of Christ by helping those in need and proclaiming the hope of the Gospel.” The president and CEO is Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist Rev. Billy Graham.
Perhaps the organization’s most well-known outreach is Operation Christmas Child, but Samaritan’s Purse also spearheads projects aiding in crisis and disaster response, feeding malnourished children, setting up emergency field hospitals and short-term medical service clinics around the world, arranging heart surgery in the US for children who otherwise might not receive care in their own country, fighting diseases that plague the world such as HIV/AIDS, diphtheria, among many other programs. That’s a LOT.
Operation Christmas Child is something that it is easy for those of us so blessed with good health, decent food and housing, and our faith to be part of. While receiving is wonderful, giving is even better! Operation Christmas Child came into being in 1993; since then, the outreach program has collected and delivered more than 157 million shoebox gifts to children in more than 160 countries and territories. Every year, more than 150,000 volunteers in the US help speed the filled shoeboxes to destinations and the arms of waiting children all over the world.
And what about my box and your box? What happens next? After the filled shoeboxes are blessed here at Grace, they are sent by air or sea to be delivered to more than 100 countries around the world. And while we don’t know exactly where our boxes go, we do know this: somewhere a child will be smiling as he or she opens the box of goodies we have so lovingly chosen.
As you are reading this, I hope you were able to fill a shoebox and deliver it back to church. I must share with y’all that I went back and chose another box to fill, this time for a girl aged 10-14. Now that was a challenge! But this time the “wow” item was a sparkly pink jacket that I believe with all my heart will fit her wherever she may be. And when I was at church this past Sunday, I marveled at the growing pile of filled boxes, each destined to bring the joy of Christmas to someone somewhere in the world.
Thank you to everyone who participated this year in Operation Christmas Child. By giving, you have each received. Bless us all.