Since 1993, Samaritan’s Purse has changed the lives of children in over 130 countries through Operation Christmas Child, the world’s largest Christmas project. By partnering with thousands of churches at both local and international levels to collect, ship and distribute shoe box gifts to people who need them most, Operation Christmas Child is able to give children all over the world the sort of Christmas experience they’ve only dreamed about or never imagined. It’s simple: Anyone can collect as many toys, games and supplies as they can pack into a shoe box, then drop that shoe box at any of Operation Christmas Child’s 3500+ collection centers. From there, those shoe boxes are shipped all over the world, to volunteers from villages who are able to distribute them to children who need them. But there’s even more. These local volunteers not only hand out the shoe box gifts, but are given resources to help share Jesus’ message of love with everyone in their communities. The shoe boxes are a springboard to a larger, life-changing conversation about the story of what exactly Christmas is. And here’s the thing—it’s working. This year, Operation Christmas Child expects to surpass 100 million shoe box gifts packed and distributed since the ministry began in 1993.
We all have shoe boxes. They’re in our shelves, under our cupboards, shoved in the back of our closets. What’s more, it’s the perfect box—perfect for stuffing, carrying around, shipping and handing out. A shoe box is perfect for Operation Christmas Child’s mission, because it’s an item almost everyone has that can be easily repurposed into a tool for life change. When a child opens a shoe box gift, they’re opening a lot more than just a new toy. Through Operation Christmas Child’s cooperation with local volunteers, they are opening up a world of life-changing opportunities. These shoe boxes are able to open doors to the Gospel for the kids who receive them, their friends and, ultimately, their entire community.
No shoe box gift is just a shoe box gift. Millions of children are coming to faith in Jesus Christ through a new Operation Christmas Child’s program called The Greatest Journey. This is a different kind of program for showing people who Jesus is—it’s powered entirely by people in the community, it tells the story of how far God was willing to go to love us all and it teaches and inspires people to love Jesus. The Greatest Journey is why the shoe box is so much more than a package of toys. It’s a seed that can inspire an entire community to thrive.
More than 8 million shoe box gifts were collected last year. And this year, we hope to collect more than 9 million! There are all kinds of ways to get involved with Operation Christmas Child. The first and best is to pray for us, our volunteers and for the communities our shoe box gifts are going to. In addition, you can serve by volunteering at one of the collection sites anytime between November 12–19, which is this year’s collection week. Or, get a bunch of friends together and volunteer as a group. There are also opportunities to volunteer in the processing centers in November and December, where gifts are inspected and approved before being sent off to the kids.