A message in a shoebox impacts a young boy
In the slums of central Ecuador, a curious group of children, parents, dogs, and chickens had gathered. Though there was no outward sign of what this event might be, the children carefully held simple tickets signifying that they were chosen to receive a special gift.
This year, Operation Christmas Child will distribute more than 380,000 shoebox gifts in Ecuador, and 220,000 children will go through The Greatest Journey, a 12-week Samaritan’s Purse discipleship course designed to bring children into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ after receiving their gifts. For the team in Ecuador, every shoebox distribution is a time to engage the children with the message of Jesus Christ.
In this particular village, a group of kids watched in excitement as a troupe of colorful clowns danced and performed a Gospel-inspired skit. It was obvious that the children and parents had rarely or never experienced any sort of live entertainment before, and their joy was palpable. Many of the children struggled to stay still or even seated as they cheerfully engaged with the Biblical message.
A 9-year-old boy named Caesar was particularly energetic during the Gospel presentation and even more animated when he received his gift. Constantly talking with the Operation Christmas Child staff members, he was interested in the school supplies that he had received and excited to see what the other children had in their shoeboxes.
Brothers Ignatius, 8, “Nacho” to his friends, and Darius, 6, were excited to receive their gifts and eager to bring them home to their family. Nacho’s favorite item was a toy from the movie “Cars,” and he also enjoyed the song and dance performed by the clowns.
Throughout all the excitement, there was one boy standing apart from the rest. He didn’t have a box, but he didn’t need one. His box was at home.
A couple of weeks previously, Danny, 12, had received his shoebox gift at another distribution. Shy and soft-spoken, Danny talked about the “cool things” he had received. Some of his favorite gifts included sunglasses, shoes, a shirt, and a hat, but there was one particular gift that touched his heart more than the others. It held no intrinsic value but contained something more personal and profound.
In his gift, Danny had received a letter from a Texan boy his age named Jackson.
“I enjoyed the letter because it described their whole family, and it was special,” he said. “It made me feel loved and thought of. It was detailed and told their story.”
No one had ever written a letter to Danny before, and receiving something so special and personal filled him with joy and gratitude.
When he heard that Samaritan’s Purse would be doing another distribution in the area, he decided to write a thank-you letter to the young boy from America. To make sure it got to the right family, he decided that he would accompany his aunt and cousin during the next shoebox distribution.
After the children had received and opened their shoebox gifts, Danny approached the Operation Christmas Child team with the letter. The team graciously accepted it and have now sent it to the family.
Danny also heard the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He learned that “Jesus died for [his] sins.” It impacted him and made him think about the message of salvation. The children who received the shoeboxes will soon start The Greatest Journey.
As the country of Ecuador continues to rebuild from the devastating earthquake last month, the work of the wonderful Operation Christmas Child team continues bringing the joy of a gift and the message of Christ to the lost and hurting across the nation.