From Wyoming to the World with Love

November 11, 2019 • United States

Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes packed on the plains east of Cheyenne help reach children for Jesus across the globe.

Jana Ginter lives on the southeastern plains of Wyoming, 30 miles east of Cheyenne, a place where golden wheat fields stretch in almost every direction to the far distant horizon and where acres of sunflowers glow in the late-summer sun.

Jana Ginter and a young friend from Golden Prairie Church prepare shoeboxes for kids in need overseas.

Jana Ginter and a young friend from Golden Prairie Church prepare shoeboxes for kids in need overseas.

Here, “next-door” neighbors live several miles apart, separated by spacious farms and cattle ranches, most of which have been in families for generations. Carpenter, the town where Jana lives, boasts fewer than 100 people. Looking around at the lonely landscape, it’s no surprise that Wyoming is the least populated U.S. state.

But from here, of all places, the lives of children the world over are being transformed each year by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How? It’s because Jana is crazy about Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

“I love being a part of shoeboxes,” Jana said. “I can’t think of another ministry that has the impact that shoeboxes have in the world.”

Immediately Hooked

Jana first became involved with this Samaritan’s Purse project 15 years ago when she was asked to volunteer by Barbara, a fellow congregant at nearby Golden Prairie Church. “When I heard about Operation Christmas Child and saw what was going into the shoeboxes, I was immediately hooked,” she said.

Jana Ginter and Pawku Ju help prepare shoeboxes in the converted granary.

Jana Ginter and Pawku Ju help prepare shoeboxes in the converted granary.

Before settling down with her husband Tim on their 640-acre wheat farm in a modest wooden house where her mother grew up, Jana worked drilling water wells in Sudan and saw poverty firsthand as she got to know children in a nearby village.

“I know personally what one of these boxes would have meant to any one of those children,” Jana said. “Oftentimes, their only toys were sticks or rocks. They would tie a bundle of rags together to use as a soccer ball. These are children who didn’t have paper to write on. They would use newspaper and write between the lines for their schoolwork. So, yes, I was in love with shoeboxes from the get-go.”

Five years ago, Barbara’s health declined, and Jana took over the shoebox packing ministry at the church. At the time, Golden Prairie, which boasts a congregation of about 70 people, packed around 40 shoeboxes per year. But Jana thought they could do more.

“At first, people thought it was my ministry,” Jana said. “And that’s the perception in a lot of churches that it’s one person’s ministry.”

So, she began calling on people to help, which gave them ownership of the ministry as well. Through volunteering, they saw that Operation Christmas Child was more than just putting a few things in a shoebox for a kid overseas and feeling good at Christmastime. “They saw that this is a chance to reach children for Jesus,” Jana said.

Granary Dedicated to God’s Work

Last year at Golden Prairie, 147 shoeboxes were prepared, thanks in great part to Jana’s year-round efforts to collect items for the boxes. She stored her goodies in the church basement, but when the church underwent a renovation she was forced to remove them. With no place else to take them, Jana stacked the items in her house.

“That was very hard because my dog liked the toys very much,” she laughed. “And I said, ‘God, you’ve got to show me where you want this stuff to go. I need a place.’”

Jana and Tim Ginter officially open the Golden Prairie Shoebox Granary for the packing of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

Jana and Tim Ginter officially open the Golden Prairie Shoebox Granary for the packing of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

Behind Jana’s house were three dilapidated wooden granaries that hadn’t been used in decades. The walls were rotting, the roofs leaked, they were piled with junk, and rats had taken up residence. But Jana’s daughter suggested fixing up the granary that was in the best condition and storing the shoebox gifts in it.

“I thought it was impossible,” Jana said. “The granary inside and outside was a filthy mess. But we dug in and got some shovels and started.”

Jana and her daughter removed trash and washed the walls. Tim installed two windows, a new door, and a donated chandelier. He also put up siding and constructed work surfaces. Jana’s brother helped repair the roof.

Youth from Longmont Calvary Church in Colorado, who assisted with Golden Prairie’s Vacation Bible School, helped Jana scrub the floor. Neighbors and church friends also volunteered. It took several months, but in September the Golden Prairie Shoebox Granary, as Jana dubbed it, was completed and dedicated “to the work of Jesus and packing shoeboxes.” Family, friends, and members of Golden Prairie Church encircled the structure, held hands, and prayed over it during a ribbon-cutting ceremony as part of this year’s Shoebox Roadshow.

“This whole experience has been a faith-building exercise,” Golden Prairie pastor Jeff Giles said about the granary renovation and the church’s involvement in it. “My job is to equip people for ministry, and Operation Christmas Child is one way they get equipped and get to do ministry firsthand. It’s one of the major Kingdom ministries that we get the privilege to be involved in.”

Packed with a Personal Touch

Following the granary dedication in September, Jana immediately began packing unique shoeboxes to send to children in need overseas. Golden Prairie’s overall goal for 2019 is to prepare 210 boxes.

Kids from Golden Prairie Church write personal notes to shoebox recipients.

Kids from Golden Prairie Church write personal notes to shoebox recipients.

“What I really like is that the boxes don’t just reach the child, they reach the family of that child, too,” Jana said. “That’s a great opportunity to witness. And that’s why I like Samaritan’s Purse so much. They do so much to help people and to reach them with the love of Jesus.”

Inside each shoebox that Jana prepares she includes a photo of herself, a personal letter, and her contact information. She has done this for the past 15 years and has received a reply from at least one shoebox recipient each year. But one stands out from all the others.

“I got a response in my mailbox one day, a letter from the Philippines,” Jana said. The letter was from a girl who lived near one of Manila’s largest landfills, a place where the poorest of the poor pick through tons of garbage for scraps of food and anything of value to sell. The girl wanted to thank Jana for the gift-filled shoebox. Jana wrote back and the two have continued to correspond for now over 10 years. Jana is especially happy that the girl is part of a church that her father helped start near the landfill and is growing in her faith in Christ.

“People who don’t believe that a shoebox has any significance have not seen what a shoebox can do,” Jana said. “I have.”

Transformed

Jana hopes that the refurbished granary will encourage other churches that may be facing space limitations similar to the one she encountered to be creative with the resources they have available and turn unused garages, basements, spare bedrooms, sheds, or attics into areas for shoeboxes.

Members of Golden Prairie Church pray over and dedicate the Golden Prairie Shoebox Granary to the Lord Jesus Christ for shoebox packing.

Members of Golden Prairie Church pray over and dedicate the Golden Prairie Shoebox Granary to the Lord Jesus Christ for shoebox packing.

Standing in the now glistening, scrubbed-clean granary, it’s difficult to imagine that just a few months ago it was filled with rodents and rot. But it’s an example, Jana said, of what God wants to do in each of our lives.

“God wants to come in, grab hold of us, and completely transform us, and give us new purpose—just like the granary which has now been repurposed for a different harvest, a harvest of souls for Jesus Christ.”

This article and video are part of our 2019 Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Roadshow. For more on this online cross-country journey, including additional short videos, please go to the Roadshow landing page.

Operation Christmas Child National Collection Week is November 18-25. Learn how to pack a shoebox gift!

SUPPORT
Through our Operation Christmas Child project, God has given us unparalleled opportunities to touch the lives of millions of boys and girls in over 150 countries. Many of these children have never received a gift and never heard the true meaning of Christmas—until they open shoeboxes filled with gifts from people like you. Some of these gifts are packed by young children or people on fixed incomes who simply cannot afford to include the $7 we request for international shipping and related costs. When you adopt a shoebox, you are partnering with them to deliver their gifts and show God’s love to a precious child.
Operation Christmas Child Through Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan’s Purse is sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with millions of boys and girls in more than 100 countries each year. Many of these children have never before received a present or heard the true meaning of Christmas—until they open a gift-filled shoebox from a person like you. A requested donation of $9 per shoebox provides for collection, processing, and shipping, as well as Gospel materials for the child. If you or your church/group are packing multiple shoebox gifts, please consider making your combined donation here. Or, give to cover the cost for those unable to include $9 with their packed shoebox.

Note: If you would like to discover the destination of your shoebox(es), please give instead through our Follow Your Box page.


Operation Christmas Child 013477
Send a Shoebox: $9 | Send a Carton of 15 Boxes: $135
$

More