Operation Christmas Child aids education, opens doors for evangelism, and helps combat human trafficking in Nepal
More than 80 excited school children in Shikhorbeshi, Nepal, sat on the ground in neat rows with gift-filled shoe boxes in their laps, anxiously waiting for the signal to open the lids.
“One! Two! Three! Open!” shouted Operation Christmas Child coordinator Suren Rasaily.
A chorus of laughter and excitement quickly filled the schoolyard as the children examined the treasures inside their boxes. The boys and girls hugged the stuffed animals and dolls, marveled at the toys, and prized the pencils, pens, and notebooks they found.
“I like the pencils and the notebooks,” said Resman, an 11-year-old girl. “I will use them in school and to do homework.”
Sadly, extreme poverty forces many children in Shikhorbeshi and other remote mountain villages to drop out of school.
“This distribution is a great encouragement for the children to come to school,” said a teacher named Pushkar. “Many of the parents are unable to provide even basic school supplies. I thank Operation Christmas Child for coming. This is important.”
The children were also intrigued by The Greatest Gift of All, the colorful Gospel booklets that were offered with the boxes.
Child after child said that they were anxious to take their shoe boxes home, share the gifts with brothers and sisters, and read The Greatest Gift of All to the family.
“I will share my gifts with my sister, Phool Maya, and read the book to her,” said Asish, an 8-year-old boy.
A 9-year-old girl named Tulkumari set her box aside and thumbed through the booklet, looking at the illustrations. “My mother and father can’t read,” she said. “I am the only one. I will read the story to them.”
More than 80 percent of the people in Nepal are Hindus, and few in the mountain villages have ever heard the Gospel. When excited children come home with gift boxes and Gospel booklets in their hands, it provides a way for the Good News to reach the unreached for the first time. It also opens doors for Nepali pastors to do follow-up ministry.
As shoe box distributions gain a foothold for the Gospel, local pastors are using the message of God’s love to help the local people take a stand against an evil that has brought heartbreak and shame to villages across the region—human trafficking.
Traffickers from Kathmandu exploit impoverished villagers, promising jobs to young men and even offering proposals of marriage to unsuspecting girls and their parents. Tragically, the boys end up doing forced labor in factories and on construction crews, and the girls are whisked away to brothels in Nepal or India and are never seen again.
“Human trafficking is a curse that brings shame upon the people,” Suren Rasaily said. “But I believe that this curse can be broken by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Shivaram is a man who runs a rustic travelers’ inn at the top end of the rocky, dirt road that runs through Shikhorbeshi.
“Trafficking is a serious problem here,” he said. “Many young girls have been trafficked from this village, but none of them have ever returned.”
One cold winter night, a young couple knocked on Shivaram’s door, looking for a place to stay. The man said that they were newly married and on their way to Kathmandu, but Shivaram was suspicious. He helped the couple settle into a small room in an upstairs loft and then went to the local police.
“Finally, the girl told the whole story and said that they were not married,” Shivaram said. “They arrested the man, who was a trafficker, and sent the girl back home.”
Shivaram was thankful that he was able to save a young girl from a lifetime of misery.
“I don’t fear the traffickers,” he said.” If it happens again, I will see it as my duty and responsibility to inform the police. I have faith and hope that trafficking can be stopped. Operation Christmas Child is encouraging kids through the gift boxes to go to school. I believe that in the days to come, it will help make more people literate and help reduce trafficking in these places.”
In the village schoolyard, the children were repacking their gift boxes to prepare for the long walk home. Some had to cross over rivers on foot-bridges and follow steep trails, high into the mountains, but they were anxious to get home to share their gifts with their families and read a story to them about a man named Jesus.
“It’s amazing what God can do with something as simple as a gift-filled shoe box,” Suren Rasaily said. “When I pray about what can be done to combat trafficking in the area, I’m reminded of the Bible verse that says, ‘God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong’ (1 Corinthians 1:27b, NIV). God always finds a way.”