In the fall of 2015 God allowed me to be a part of something life-changing.
Life-changing for me and the children I would soon meet.
I was invited to travel on a Media Trip with Operation Christmas Child (OCC) to distribute boxes on the island of Grenada.
Oh, ya’all! I was shaking when I read the email!
I’ve had a heart for OCC for many years. Our family has packed boxes for more than 10 years. And I cry every time I watch the OCC promo videos. Every. Time. And just forget about those stories of God sending just what a child needed in their box…
“No” wasn’t even an option.
I traveled with a team of 11 other media folks (mostly radio) on October 13-16, 2015 to the island of Grenada.
We spent two full days traveling around the island with the National OCC Team distributing about 800 shoeboxes to children ages 2 – 14.
I could pass out shoeboxes all day every day if given the chance!
The children we visited knew there was a special program but had no idea that they would be receiving a gift. That made it all the more exciting!
So let me walk you through what our distributions were like.
National local volunteers for OCC always coordinate the distributions.
Rarely do outsiders ever get to take part.
At all of our stops, we were able to mix and mingle with the children we were visiting.
Each event started with a time of worship and singing children’s songs. “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!” As a former first grade teacher, I was singing and dancing right along with them.
There is a presentation of the Good News that is shared at every single distribution in all of the 100 countries where OCC boxes are distributed. Our stops were no different. All of the children learn “sin is what we say, sin is what we do, and sin is what we think that does not please God.”
Children are invited to pray and accept Jesus into their heart.
Afterward, the national volunteer that was leading that distribution would share with the children that we had come from the United States with gifts for all of them. Boys and girls in the United States had packed and sent a gift just for them.
Only after that were the boxes distributed. At some locations, the children went to another space or room to get a box. Every box is labeled boy or girl and ages 2-4, 5-9, and 10-14.
Once every child received their box and a book called “The Greatest Gift”, we had a countdown to opening the boxes.
10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1 “Open your boxes!”
Second only to sharing the Gospel with these children, was the joy we experienced watching the children dig into the contents of their boxes.
Gloves and hats came out of the boxes and onto hands and heads.
Flashlights were immediately activated.
The notes from several musical instruments broke through the voices, laughter, and squeals.
Wrappers came off lollipops. (Please note: Candy can no longer be sent in OCC boxes.)
Balls were bounced.
Stuffed animals were hugged and held close.
Headbands were modeled.
And it was no surprise that they proudly showed their treasures to one another.
Many of the children closed their boxes after thoroughly checking them out.
I wondered if they were afraid someone would want one of their treasures. Were they protecting their gifts? Were they overwhelmed by the experience? Probably a little of both.
I overheard one of the boys ask another, “Are you going to bring those playing cards to school tomorrow?”
One of the girls proudly showed me her new diary. She’s always wanted one!
One of the older boys, probably 14, had gotten a pair of shoes in his box. I had to ask. Were they the right size? “Yes”, he told me and shrugged like I was crazy for asking. But I knew the chances of this boy getting a box with shoes that fit were a million to one, if not more! God knew this boy’s shoe size and sent just what he needed.
I was so thankful for moments just to ooh and aah over the contents of their boxes.
I struggle to put into words the impact a shoebox can make on a child.
God can use anything. In this case, He uses the hearts and hands of many to pack shoeboxes for millions of children around the world.
Some of these children had never received a gift before that day. And some received two – the shoebox and the gift of salvation.
Shoeboxes are a tangible way of sharing and showing God’s love.
My husband helped me put together this video below that I hope will give you a better sense of the impact a shoebox can make on a child.
It’s not too late to pack a shoebox! You can find a drop-off location near you here.
You can also pack a shoebox online.
Next week I’ll share some tips on how you can pack a better shoebox as well as how your women’s ministry can get involved with Operation Christmas Child.
You may also want to read:
Serving in the OCC Processing Center – Part 1
Serving in the OCC Processing Center – Part 2
Operation Christmas Child
My Message in Box
How to Pack a Better Shoebox
How to Host an Operation Christmas Child Packing Party
How Your Women’s Ministry Can Get Involved with Operation Christmas Child