Growing up, my mom worked hard to teach me the importance of giving back. It was a value I always knew I wanted to instill in my son, as well. So, when considering ways to give back this season, I knew the choice was an easy one.
Operation Christmas Child isn’t exactly a new organization. Started by Samaritan’s Purse in 1993, the organization has collected and delivered more than 100 million gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 100 countries with children in need. This year is a REALLY special year for Operation Christmas Child– it’s the 20th anniversary year! (Which is weird, because 1993 doesn’t seem like it should be 2 decades ago! Yikes!). This year, Operation Christmas Child plans to collect 9.8 million shoeboxes this year.
So how exactly does it work? Well, it’s pretty simple. You start with a shoebox (plastic or cardboard works fine!), and a decision. Are you packing for a boy or a girl? And what age range are you packing for (2-4, 5-9, or 10-14). You’ll go on the Samaritan’s Purse website and print the label that matches your box, then tape it to the top of the box with the age category marked.
You then fill it with gifts. When packing our shoeboxes, we decided to pack one for a boy and one for a girl, ages 2-4, since that’s how old Zach is. Packing the box to his age range helps it stay meaningful for him, and it also helps us decide what another child might like who is his age.
For both boxes, we chose underwear and socks that fit the gender and size we were packing for, new and on clearance at Walmart. We then continued with a new toothbrush and tube of toothpaste for each gender, some bar soap (no liquids should be packed in the box!), and finished up with some washcloths and a couple of combs, each purchased at an affordable price as part of a multi-pack. After packing the basic hygiene products for each of our boxes, we added a few pencils, a sharpener (so they can use the pencils!), and a pack of small legal pads that fit into the box. We also decided some crayons and affordable sticker books would work really well and fit into the box. We finished with a few fun items that we knew the kids would love– a slinky for each, some bouncy balls for both, and then a doll for the girl and a small stuffed animal and cars for the boy.
I tried to think of items that children would enjoy, as well as items they needed. A lot of the children that these boxes go to don’t have basic school supplies, and have limited access to hygiene products, so including things like that is also special, in addition to new toys.
We decided to finish the boxes with a photo of us, and a letter to the child, as well as a $7 donation for covering processing and shipping for each box. By donating online, we’re able to track our boxes and see what country they end up in!
When money is tight here at home, especially with the nature of the economy, the number of layoffs, and how many people are struggling, but I also know that, even with limited resources, I have places in my budget I can cut back on to afford to give back with a box like this. By purchasing items on clearance, and finding affordable items kids will love (like a great quality off-brand doll rather than a name-brand one that was twice the cost) will be just as meaningful for the children we’re sending these boxes to! In the end, we were able to fill the boxes for about $15 each (not including our $7 donation). But the gift it brings? It’s priceless. These boxes send a message about Salvation and can help those who get the box learn about Jesus Christ. That is a gift that you can’t put a dollar amount on, and it’s why I love what Samaritan’s Purse is doing through Operation Christmas Child.
It’s the first step for a lot of these kids in learning about the Gospel. Kids who receive boxes fro Operation Christmas Child can participate in the Greatest Journey, a follow-up program to Operation Christmas Child. This program is a 12-lesson discipleship program that helps kids learn about the story of Jesus Christ and the Salvation that God offers all of us. All kids who graduate from this program receive a Bible in their own language! Over 1 million children have participated in the Greatest Journey after receiving an Operation Christmas Child box, and thousands have become believers as a result.
And, the best part is that it’s not too late to participate this year. National Collection Week is November 18-25, and you can drop off the box at one of the hundreds of locations across the United States. There are 4 collections centers within 15 miles of me, so there’s a good chance there is one near you, also. The website can give you the full list of collection centers and help you find one closest to you.
When packing your box, it’s important to remember that items should be new, rather than used, and should not include any military related items, figurines, or toy guns, and also should not include chocolate or food. Liquids and lotions, vitamins or medicine, breakable items, and aerosol cans are also prohibited.
Want more information about Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child? Visit their website at www.samaritanspurse.org/occ
If you’re a fan of Duck Dynasty, see what Uncle Si has to say about Operation Christmas Child, and then go pack a shoebox, Jack!
More of a Veggie Tales fan? Bob and Larry can also help you pack it. Everybody may not have a Water Buffalo, but everyone CAN help pack a box for Operation Christmas Child!
Running short on time, or don’t like to leave the house? You can even pack a box online using the box builder on the Samaritan’s Purse website, then checkout online, and your box will go to a child without you ever having to leave the house.
Operation Christmas Child is such a blessing, not only to those receiving, but to those giving. Knowing that I can share this tradition with my son, a tradition of giving, and show him that not everyone is as privileged as he is, but that he can give something special to those who need it, is a huge deal for me. I also love the opportunity to pray for our box and for the child who receives it, that the box can be a blessing in their life and that they’ll find salvation if they don’t yet have that knowledge and thirst for the Lord. That’s priceless to me. And it’s why Operation Christmas Child is a part of our family’s tradition. I hope it’s one that we will participate in for many years to come.