Ever wonder what happens to the Operation Christmas Child shoebox your family fills every year? Many families donate boxes full of toys, candy, and personal items to Franklin Graham’s ministry to children in impoverished or war-torn areas. They seldom think about what happens next. My visit to the giant OCC processing center in Charlotte, North Carolina enlightened me.
Every year, thousands of volunteers help inspect and process the shoe boxes for distribution. This year, my husband led a team from his youth ministry, and I went along. In 2013, our guide told us, the Charlotte campus of OCC hopes to send out 2.9 million boxes. By 2 p.m. on the day our team arrived, they had already processed 109,000—a remarkable feat considering that every box must be hand-inspected by volunteers and prepared for travel.
|This is not me -- her hair is much prettier!|
As I carefully raised the lid, mindful of the fact that a check could be taped to the inside or resting on top, I couldn’t help but imagine how the little child who will ultimately receive this box might feel.
Two types of boxes were particularly moving.
The boxes designated for little girls made me smile. Many included soft stuffed animals, hair bows and brushes, and pretty pens and paper. I imagined the girls’ delight when they fingered the faux pearls, sniffed the scented soap, or hugged the black-eyed teddy bears. My favorite box of all contained an entire fairy outfit, complete with a sparkly wand and a pink tutu.
The boys’ boxes were equally exciting, according to my husband. They held flashlights with extra batteries, ball caps, and tools like hammers and screwdrivers. Candy filled the corners and the token toothbrush and toothpaste balanced out the equation. Some were packed so tightly and filled so full that we had a hard time closing the lids.
Every now and then, however, I’d open a different type of box. Sparsely filled, sometimes with items that were second hand or functional, these country cousins just couldn’t compete with their overweight city relatives. They were usually smaller, almost apologetic in their presentation, and seldom wrapped in pretty paper. One had a photo of a little old lady sitting on a couch with a bug-eyed Chihuahua beside her. “Jesus loves you,” she had written. “I hope you come to love him, too.”
Thankfully, due to the added generosity of individuals and businesses, we supplemented boxes like these with filler items. We’d tuck toys, school supplies, or toiletry items into the empty spaces and pray a blessing on the giver who’d obviously had a generous heart but an impoverished pocketbook.
The full boxes made my heart happy, because they demonstrated the generosity of God’s people toward those less fortunate than themselves. They gave me hope that although our world seems to be increasingly selfish and self-centered, people are still listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit’s nudge to give.
The partially filled boxes made my heart happy, too. Like the widow’s mite, they demonstrated the desire of God’s people to give sacrificially. Both boxes, I believe, made God’s heart happy.
Perhaps some of the shoe boxes you’ve donated over the years have been filled with gracious plenty. Others, maybe not so much. Even if all you could give was a partially filled shoebox, rest in the knowledge that God multiplied your gift and sent it on.
And he’s smiling—just like the little boy or girl on the other side of the world will be when she opens her box this Christmas.
Do you have an Operation Christmas Child story to share? I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment below. If you’re reading by email, click here to comment.
And if you'd like to read about two orphaned children who received shoe boxes, click HERE to read my friend Dawn Gonzalez's fabulous story.
|Here's the team from Green Hill Baptist Church with my husband, David (left).|
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