Something to Think About
Go... Make a Difference

Let us not become weary in doing
good, for at the proper time we will
reap a harvest if we do not give up.
(Galations 6:9)

Twitter Posts


Powered by Squarespace
Recent Items
« Alex's Lemonade Stand 1st Annual LEMON RUN! | Main | "Now What?" »

Got Boxes?

By MAD21

By now you all know what a fan I am of Samaritan Purse's program called, Operation Christmas Child (OCC). I have written before about the organization and the Graham's in a previous article. I was privileged with the opportunity to talk with a great woman named Stacey Wilson from OCC last month. The time of year to begin putting boxes together is coming very soon. Please read and consider how many boxes you and your friends and family could do this year.

How do you explain to people what you do for a living?

For the many people who pack shoe box gifts, when I mention that I work for Operation Christmas Child, their faces light up, and they start asking questions right away. For those who are not familiar with the project or Samaritan's Purse, I explain that I work on the public relations team for a Christian international relief organization that encourages people to pack empty shoe boxes with small gift items for needy children around the world - and that we share the Gospel along with those gifts.

What is it like to work for OCC? How is it the same or different from other jobs you've had?

Operation Christmas Child is a unique and powerful ministry, and it is a blessing to be a small part of it. I love working at an organization that's mission is to point people to Jesus. As my first job out of college, I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity.

How it has affected your life? And how you have personally seen it affect others?

God has used Operation Christmas Child to open my eyes to His work around the world. This project belongs to Him, and He is using simple shoe box gifts to reach not only children, but also families and entire communities. God is also using Operation Christmas Child to minister to people right here in the United States. Thousands of volunteers devote their time and energy to this project and use it to share God's truth with people in their own communities. Many children here in the United States are also learning the importance of giving to people in need.

Children playing with a Slinky from one of their boxes.Do all the employees of OCC have the opportunity to be part of a group that delivers the boxes? Have you ever done it? Please explain the experience and where you went.

Every year, directors, managers, and assistant managers of Operation Christmas Child have the opportunity to go on a distribution trip. This year, OCC leadership opened this opportunity to even more employees, and I was able to go to Panama.

I will never forget some of those children's faces and how excited they were to see us - and how excited they were to receive their colorful shoe box gifts. These children lived in significant poverty, and it was a joy to be able to bless them with the gifts as well as the truth of God's love for them. One part of the trip that moved me the most happened at a McDonald's restaurant. After the last shoe box distribution, our team headed back into Panama City for lunch. While waiting for our food, a young man who worked at the restaurant told us he received a shoe box several years before. He recognized the OCC logos we were wearing on our t-shirts and nametags. He hadn't been to church in a while, so one of our team members boldly shared the Gospel with him once again. Hopefully this young man will soon come to know Jesus as his Savior and will start going back to church. It's amazing to think that a simple logo and shoe box gift can serve as lasting memories for children around the world - and a catalyst for leading them into a loving relationship with the God of the universe.

How does OCC determine where to go to give the boxes and who gets them?

Operation Christmas Child is designed to open doors for our National Leadership Team members (NLT's) to reach their neighbors and country for Jesus Christ. We work through the NLT's not only to distribute the gifts, but also to share the eternal hope and joy found in Jesus Christ alone. The children receive booklets with their gifts called "The Greatest Gift of All" - which highlights some key Bible stories and shares the story of Jesus. Some of these children also participate in a series of discipleship lessons that help them grow spiritually. After graduating from this program, they receive a copy of the New Testament and are encouraged to share God's gift of salvation with their friends.

Any church or mission overseas may request to be a part of the OCC distribution by contacting the Samaritan's Purse office; we will then put them in touch with the appropriate NLT. Operation Christmas Child requires that the organization contact us directly in order to be considered for involvement in this ministry. Since we focus our ministry on areas outside of the developed world, we need the request for involvement to come from outside as well.

When OCC gives the boxes out to a group, do they always have enough for the kids who come to receive them? How does this part work? Does OCC invite a certain amount of kids to a 'party' where they give them out so they are sure they don't leave anyone out? I'm assuming that there are also times when the groups just walk around a community and hand them out to the kids they find?

To determine the number of boxes that will be needed at a distribution site, our National Leadership Team members depend on information provided by the churches, schools, hospitals, orphanages, and refugee camps where the distribution occurs. In situations of war, famine, and poverty these numbers can change daily as people flee from or return to their homes. Unfortunately, on occasion, there are not enough shoe box gifts for all of the children at a distribution. In these cases it is the difficult task of our distribution partners to determine which children are in particular need of a gift that year. Our goal is to distribute one shoe box to each child once in their lifetime.

How do you maintain control of the crowds that come when the deliveries are made? The reason I ask is that I've been short-term mission trips to Mexico and when the community sees that we are there, people come from everywhere. It got overwhelming at times. It's ok that most are there, but some come to just take whatever they can get their hands on. One year we even had an older lady who stole 2-3 bags of candy, among some other small things, and took off.

Since we work to distribute the shoe box gifts through nationals, all of the boxes arrive by ocean freight and are transported to their destinations by locals. Children are invited to attend an event, but most of them do not know they will be receiving a gift; this is to be a surprise. Keeping the distribution a surprise helps with crowd control. Of course, word sometimes spreads quickly after the distributions begin, but most of the time the crowds are kept under control.

What is the most amount of boxes ever received and/or given in a single year since OCC was formed?

In 2008, Operation Christmas Child collected nearly 8 million shoe box gifts - 7,968,214 to be exact. The United States packed about 5 million of these boxes. Ten other "sending countries" also participated in the collection of gifts. Since 1993, OCC has collected more than 69 million shoe boxes for children in over 130 countries.

How many staff/volunteers does it take to give out the boxes around the world in a given year? Does one group travel around, or do you have specific groups in each country that handle all the work?

Our National Leadership Team members in their home countries are the main box distributors, but we have about 110,000 volunteers around the U.S. who work at collection and processing centers to prepare the boxes for shipment overseas. We also have about 4,500 volunteers who promote the project year-round. In addition to volunteers, we have nearly 200 staff members.

I'm sure there are some difficult times for OCC when it comes to working with the families. What are some of the hardest things to deal with? How does OCC overcome them?

Our teams see a lot of poverty and spiritual darkness in many of the distribution areas - including violence, depression, and substance abuse. An OCC gift, however, is so much more than a few small items in an old shoe box. Covered in prayer, these gifts have the power to change the hearts of families and communities. One shoe box distribution was held in the community of Cotton Hill, Trinidad in 2008 in a small open area covered by plastic. Through the discipleship program that followed the distribution event, the local Operation Christmas Child team realized the children were hungry for spiritual things. One team member's church began a Sunday School class held in the same garage where the distribution took place. Before long, many parents were attending with their children, and a class was started for the adults. A Bible study and prayer meeting was also organized for battered women in the community. Now the church ministers to an average of 100 people weekly through this outreach, and it is looking for a better place to meet.

With the current economy, I've seen a few charitable organizations talking about how much they are struggling because people are not donating a much as they usually do. Has OCC also been impacted by the economy?

God has truly blessed this ministry, and our donation amounts actually increased last year. Donors around the world continue to be faithful to the work of Operation Christmas Child and other Samaritan's Purse projects. We do not take this for granted because we know all of these gifts come from the Lord.

Does OCC set long-term goals? How do you determine them? Is it just numbers or is it more than that? What are some OCC goals for the future?

OCC sets both short and long-term goals. There are so many facets of OCC - from volunteer management to church and community relations to shipping and logistics. Each one of these areas has its own team that sets goals every year. Our worldwide shoe box collection goal for 2009 is 8.2 million gifts, and our U.S. goal is 5.2 million. Please keep this in your prayers and encourage people to pack lots of boxes!

Just for fun, if it's appropriate to share, what are some of the strangest things people have packed in the shoe boxes? And, what are some of the best boxes? Are there any that stand out to you?

Since OCC started, there have been a number of interesting items placed in shoe boxes. Some of the most unexpected items include a petrified frog, an Elvis commemorative coin, and a hamburger bun. The frog and hamburger bun had to be removed, of course. There are a number of items that are inappropriate for shoe boxes, including chocolate, food, liquids, war-related toys, and used items. A complete list can be found on our Web site.

I think some of the best boxes are the ones with photos and letters from the people who packed them. Some people even get letters back from children who received their shoe boxes. No matter what someone puts in a box, we hope they take time to pray for the child who will receive it - that he or she will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

National Collection Week for 2009 is November 16-23, so start looking now for items to put in your box! Then check out the Samaritan's Purse Web site near collection week and find a drop-off location in your area.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (7)

Thank you for this article about such a worthy organization. Our church does an OCC drive every year and it is an amazing way to teach our children how to give.

August 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Thanks. I just can't say enough good things about them. I love how excited my kids get putting the boxes together. It's a wonderful opportunity for them to give of themselves.

August 23, 2009 | Registered CommenterMAD21

Hey, thanks for coming by and commenting on my blog! It's great to meet new people and read new blogs. We participate in OCC every year - it's a great project!

Hope to see you around again. God bless and happy blogging!

It's amazing how God seems to bless not only the kids who get the shoe boxes, but those who give them. I've never seen a project like this where the lives of so many volunteers and shoebox-packers overflowed with joy. Not to mention, every shoe box is an opportunity for a child to enter into a relationship with the Father. God has his hand on this ministry, for sure.

August 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Packing shoeboxes is the highlight of my family's holiday season. My kids can't wait every year to pack their special box. They usually pick an age range that matches up with their current age. It is a great opportunity to get my kids thinking about others and about how truly blessed they are.

August 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRenee

This interview was enlightening. Stacy Wilson inspired me when she said, "This project belongs to Him, and He is using simple shoe box gifts to reach not only children, but also families and entire communities."

Wouldn't it be great if we could describe the things we do everyday as that?.. X belongs to Him and He is using simple X to reach out to people and in doing so, connected communities?

Thank you for highlighting this important work. It givse me the idea to do this with my little 3 year old this year! A shoebox project for Jesus!

August 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFaith Barista Bonnie

I bought 9 pair of flip flops for my Operation Chirstmas Child boxes and a pair of summer sandles for 9.41 cents

I told My mom i do not need professional help I just need bigger shoe boxes.....

I also got a nice bag of Happy Meal toys form someone on Free Cycle It was like Chirstmas for me finding boxes to add the itmes too.......

August 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathy D

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>