I have not packed a shoe box in probably a decade or more, but when I was in high school I spent several seasons helping collect shoe boxes, packaging them into shipping containers, and transferring the precious cargo to the next collection station.
For those of you that have no idea what I am talking about, I am describing an annual missions project called Operation Christmas Child. It is an outreach program of the Christian mission organization Samaritan’s Purse, which collects thousands of shoe boxes full of small gifts and necessities, and provides them to children in need around the world, as a tool to help local missionaries and churches share the gospel with children at Christmas.
Despite my being absent from the project for many years, this year I felt nearly uncontrollably compelled to build a box. Perhaps it was out of honor for my late Grandma and Grandpa, who were certainly big fans of Samaritan’s Purse and the shoe box gifts. Perhaps it was thinking that there was a little boy somewhere in the world who may not know that he is loved and wanted, and, as a mother, I would do anything to make sure he knew. Perhaps it was thinking of my late brother-in-law, Johnny, and realizing I would not be buying him a Christmas present this year, the shoe box serving as a worthy surrogate.
Whatever the reason, I eagerly collected my supplies and got to work. Below is a list of what we packed and why.
Listen up! Operation Christmas Child happens every year, so if you are reading this after collection week in 2018, no worries, you can gather supplies as you see them all year for next time. But if it is 2018, collection week ends this year on November 19. You can check out the Operation Christmas Child website to find a drop-off location.
We built a box for a boy, aged 10 to 14 years. I picked this age group because many people pack boxes with their kids, building boxes for a child his or her own age. I figured there may be fewer 14 year old boys willing to participate, so there may be a shortage for this demographic.
First, I asked Massimo what he would want. He was, after all, a 10 to 14 year old boy at one point. “A digital watch,” he said. “To tell time, and use as a stop watch for running. I would have loved that.” Perfect! One child’s digital watch was ordered from Amazon. This was the most expensive item for the box, intended to be the “wow” item.
Next, of course, some school supplies. A trip to Dollar General and the Dollar Tree are prefect stops for this category. I picked up a pencil case, a pencil sharpener, a small pack of crayons, and two notebooks. From my own stash, I collected (all brand-new) two pens, and six of my favorite pencils: Ticonderoga. I also had a ruler that was the perfect size for the pouch, so I threw that in as well. This little boy will be well-prepared for school, drawing, or playing games.
We can’t not put in some more fun items. I found a blue recorder I was able to take apart to fit in the standard box. I printed off a few fingering charts and song sheets so he could get started on his own musical instrument. Then, a package of sports felt stickers and a zebra figurine for some extra excitement.
Finally, a few personal care items. I threw in a three-pack of socks, a Superman “magic towel,” and a multi-pack of toothbrushes. Samaritan’s Purse has some important rules about not including food, medicine, or liquid items, so these are safe options.
And of course, a personal note. I used my happiest stationary to write a short note, conveying our love and hopes for this little boy. Merry Christmas, child of God!
When we make our $9.00 donation (to cover shipping costs) online, we will be able to track our shoe box around the world to its recipient!
I am humbled at the opportunity to give a gift to a child in need somewhere in the world, and hope and pray that this small gift helps demonstrate to that same child the real reason for Christmas: the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
What about you? Have you ever packed a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child? What went in your box this year?
-D. E. Barbi Bee