By Janine Buser
Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child ministry is a wonderful way to involve our children in missions. Lord willing, 12 million shoeboxes of toys, school supplies, and hygiene items will be distributed in over 100 countries this year, providing an opportunity for boys and girls to hear the gospel for the first time. Local pastors and missionaries distribute the boxes along with gospels in the local language. The children are invited to discipleship classes. They then share the good news of Jesus with their families and friends. The result? New believers and new churches.
On this side of the ocean, OCC shoeboxes are a tangible way to teach our children about Jesus’s sacrificial love. What has a child halfway around the world, who we will probably never meet in our earthly lifetime, done to deserve our spending our time and resources on sending them a gift? Nothing. Similarly, what did we do to deserve Jesus dying on the cross as the punishment for our transgressions? Nothing. As we approach the Thanksgiving season, why not consider paying our thankfulness to Jesus forward by sharing the good news with another child through the shoebox ministry.
Some tips for a meaningful family experience:
- Check out the numerous OCC videos online. On the OCC website, https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/, click “Download Videos” at the bottom right of the page or review the YouTube offerings to find the one that’s right for your family.
- Pray over how you should participate. How many boxes? What should be in them? And pray for the child who receives the box to also receive Jesus and to share the gospel with others.
- Let OCC participation be an object lesson in sacrificial love. Partner with your children to fill the boxes. Let them collect items you have around the house –– extra soap, pencils –– and offer to pay for the shipping donation ($7) and, if paying online, the $6 to cover discipleship lessons. Then, encourage them to use their own resources to fill the rest of the boxes. Are they in a program with token money they can exchange for gifts? They can give up fast food meal gifts. Candy and other Halloween gifts may also be appropriate. Have them use their allowance or do chores to earn money to shop at a Dollar Tree. Even the youngest child can understand that five one–dollar bills buy five items.
- Shopping with friends helps to motivate the children.
- Have a stuffed animal or doll that has just graced a shelf and otherwise looks new? Run it through the washer and feel free to include it to be loved by another child.
- Finally, include a picture of your child/family as well as a letter to encourage the recipient. You may want to use one of the coloring pages available from our table in The Commons or online at http://www.cherrydale.org/shoebox
- A tip on shoeboxes –– any regular–sized shoebox is fine. If you use a plastic one, purchase a sturdy one –– the dollar store varieties tend to break on camel rides. If you wrap your box, wrap the top and bottom separately with heavy–duty paper. Oversize boxes actually are not helpful –– Samaritan’s Purse is granted permission to bring a certain number of shipping cartons into each country –– bigger shoeboxes mean fewer children receive gifts and learn about Jesus.
- You can pay the shipping fee with one check placed in any one box if that is most convenient. If you pay online, Samaritan’s Purse will tell you the country your box is delivered to. One note, if you send more than one box and want to know exactly where each one is sent, you will need to pay separately, using a different email for each box.
- You will label your box for either boy or girl, and choose an age category: 2–4, 5–9, 10–14. Boxes for the oldest boys are most needed. Labels should be placed near one end of the top of the box –– Samaritan’s Purse will tape it shut around the center.
If you have any questions, check out http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/ for help.
Now that you know how wonderful the ministry is, plan for next year. Perhaps have the kids keep a bag or shoebox in their closet to collect free or almost–free items throughout the year. Maybe even make a game of reserving coins they find on the ground or in the washing machine to go toward OCC shopping/shipping next year. Keep an eye out for clearance items and back–to–school sales. Encourage them to give their best. The gift they assemble may be the only one the recipient receives in their whole life and, more importantly, it is their first introduction to Jesus.