Since the boxes were inspected, packaged and sent on their way right after Thanksgiving, it is much too late to participate in Operation Christmas Child.
Yet for those who believe in looking ahead, I heartily recommend getting planning to get involved in this effort next year.
I had written a couple stories in the past about this initiative, which is aimed at providing Christmas gifts for children in impoverished circumstances around the world.
It involves packing a shoebox with toys, school supplies (i.e., pens, crayons, notebooks, and coloring books), hygiene items, and accessories (socks, hats, watches) for a boy or girl in a certain age range.
Yet, as I discovered when our church participated, there is a huge difference between head knowledge of a project and heart involvement.
The massive scope of this endeavor unfolded in a new way when a volunteer from a neighboring country church spoke to our congregation. She noted that Samaritan’s Purse had marked the distribution of 100 million shoeboxes last year, the program’s 20th anniversary.
This year, each box contained a gospel tract in that child’s language, a New Testament, and a discipleship program. During Christmas of 2013 the ministry says the shoeboxes prompted some 459,000 professions of faith.
Aside from the impressive numbers, I gained a new awareness for the missions potential of these gifts. They demonstrate how a simple concept multiplied by countless numbers of volunteers can yield incredible dividends.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this project came in the shopping. My wife and I purchased everything at Dollar Tree for the two boxes we packed. Nothing that would be considered “cool,” yet items that will bring joy to the hearts of the recipients.
Plus, some of the colorful storybooks, rulers, crayons and glue sticks are not just useful items, but the kind of thing that I thought any child would like to have. Common, ordinary stuff, maybe, and yet by today’s materialistic American standards, I think we have lost much of the joy of simplicity.
No, I’m not trying to glorify poverty or gloss over the trying circumstances that are part of the lives of children who will open these gifts during the coming week. Yet in trying to satisfy the inner longings of our hearts with material goods, millions of Americans are missing the point of Christmas.
What Matters Most
The Christmas story is full of wonder and joy. God came to earth in the form of a baby, who was born perfect and remained that way throughout His life. He tweaked the noses of religious leaders of the day, making them furious and ultimately leading to His death. Yet, as John 3:16 says, through belief in Him we can find eternal life.
When you get to the heart of the holiday that sparks so much fervor—including outrage from those opposed to everything involving Christ—that is what matters most. It’s my prayer that thousands more of children around the world will come to this realization next week when they open their shoeboxes.