Christmas Rises from the Ruins

December 25, 2013 • Philippines
Operation Christmas Child Philippines

Children in the Philippines who lost everything to Typhoon Haiyan received shoebox gifts with joy. For children in Madridejos, the gifts were a surprise from the local church.

Josh Anderson is a staff writer covering a special distribution of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to children in the Philippines who survived Typhoon Haiyan.

Bible Baptist Church in Bantayan, Philippines, stands just a few yards from the closest side street, but walking to it brings you to a completely different world.

Typhoon Haiyan has reduced this neighborhood in Madridejos into an unidentifiable heap of mangled debris. The church building still stands, but it is nothing more than a sagging structure precariously held together by shattered windows and covered by a patchwork roof of twisted tin and splintered wood.

Operation Christmas Child Philippines

83 children were invited to Bible Baptist Church for a special program.

And yet an unmistakable energy pulsed through these sad ruins by the time we arrived for a special distribution of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes last week.

READ MORE: Shoebox gifts for a storm-ravaged nation.

That energy was spilling out of the 83 boys and girls between the ages of 2 and 14 who were already shifting anxiously in makeshift benches on both sides of the one-room church. They kept pointing and craning their young necks to sneak a peek at the curious green tarp that sat on the front stage.

Church leaders had gone door-to-door to invite these children to a special program that included an important message of hope and some surprises. All of them had lost their homes in the storm, and most of them thought Christmas had washed away with their meager possessions.

Just weeks ago, screaming and tears had flooded this part of the world. But at that moment, pure joy came rushing into the hearts of boys and girls who have lost so much.

What the kids didn’t know was that under the nondescript tarp sat 83 shoebox gifts filled with toys, candy, and the opportunity for them to celebrate a Christmas they would not soon forget.

They sang, danced, and participated in an interactive presentation of the Gospel story.

And then the pastor said, “I have a surprise for you today.” She turned around and pulled off the tarp that was hiding stacks of shoebox gifts.

Operation Christmas Child Philippines

When the children arrived at the church, they had no idea that they would soon receive Christmas gifts. Most of them no longer have homes, so they didn’t have high hopes for presents this Christmas.

The room erupted with cheering. Kids were hugging their friends, jumping up and down, and pointing at the gifts that would soon end up in their hands. The parents, who were also unaware of what to expect, simply stood and smiled. Many had never seen their children so happy.

Just weeks ago, screaming and tears had flooded this part of the world. But at that moment, pure joy came rushing into the hearts of boys and girls who have lost so much.

This distribution brought to life what the Bible says about our Savior’s birth: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2: 10b, ESV).

Please be in prayer for other boys and girls in the Philippines who will receive gift-filled shoeboxes from Operation Christmas Child. Pray that their hearts will be filled with great joy and that they can set aside their worries for just a moment and enjoy being a kid. Pray that this disaster will not overwhelm them and that they will be able to pick up the pieces of their lives. Pray that a simple shoebox opens their hearts to the true meaning of Christmas and the greatest gift of all—Jesus Christ.

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