One In 10 Million

February 26, 2015 • Mexico
OCC-Duce-photo

Out of the millions of shoeboxes collected worldwide, God guides the right one into the hands of a girl in Mexico

This story was originally posted on Feb. 24. After it was shared by thousands of people online, the mother of the girl in the photo contacted us. Discover how a case of mistaken identity still shows how God orchestrated the journey of a shoebox.

About 140 boys and girls excitedly squirmed on their white, plastic chairs outside the little church in Casa del Alfarero, a small farming community near Veracruz, Mexico.

Pastor Jesus, a man with a passion for reaching his community with the Gospel, had invited these children and their families for a special event. On this bright, sunny day, they would be receiving a shoebox gift from Operation Christmas Child!

Operation Christmas Child in Mexico

Operation Christmas Child partners use creative skits and props to proclaim Gospel truth.

They smiled and sang along as the man on stage with the big puppet monkey told them how much Jesus loves the children of the world and led them in songs. They laughed at the antics of the zany clowns.

Finally, it was time for the big moment. The shoeboxes were handed out, one by one.

The 140 or so shoeboxes at this one distribution in a little church in a small village were just a tiny fraction of the more than 10.4 million collected worldwide in 2014, and of the 750,000 shipped to Mexico.

And yet, God had ordained that one particular box would end up in the hands of one specific child.

Operation Christmas Child in Mexico

About 140 children received shoebox gifts at the little rural church.

A little girl named Duce, who looked to be about 11, waited patiently while the younger children received their gifts. Finally, it was her turn. A smiling ministry partner took a box out of the 10-14 Girls carton, and handed it to Duce.

When everyone had received their boxes, the countdown began. “Uno … dos … tres!” The children eagerly opened up their gifts, and began to look at all the treasures inside.

As Duce opened her box, she immediately clasped her hands over her mouth in surprise, and began to cry. Inside was a photo of the two American children who packed the box, a girl and a boy.

She said the girl was her friend Hannah! The only friend, Duce said, she had in the 3rd grade when she lived in the United States. Hannah was even the name written on the back of the photo.

It was reported on the Samaritan’s Purse website and on social media that this was, indeed, the Hannah that Duce knew. It proved to be a case of mistaken identity. And yet, God was still clearly at work.

Operation Christmas Child in Mexico

Duce, with Jonathan and Leonor, her mother, treasures the photo of Hannah and her brother.

In Iowa, a woman name Tonia saw the story. She recognized the photo that Duce was holding, because her family had put it in the shoebox. It was of her two children, Hannah and Zach.

Even though the photo wasn’t of Duce’s best friend from when she lived in the U.S., Tonia feels God still orchestrated that specific shoebox.

“You think, what are the chances?” Tonia said. “They have the same name. My Hannah has very, very red hair. Her friend must have red hair too. What are the chances she had a best friend named Hannah with long red hair? Do we know why and how (she got that box)? No. But God knows who needs which box and why.”

Tonia said her family loves the ministry of Operation Christmas Child. They packed at least 170 shoeboxes last year. Hannah is her primary helper when they put the gifts together in their basement.

“She puts a lot of care in them,” Tonia said. “If there’s a stuffed animal, she might wrap it up in a washcloth.”

While each shoebox was packed with care, love, and prayer, they only put photos in a few.

When Duce opened it and saw the picture of Zack and Hannah, she was reminded that the God who motivates people to pack shoeboxes to show His love truly does care for her deeply. Tonia feels like God let Duce see that picture so her heart would be opened to hear the Gospel of Christ.

For Hannah, it was a reminder that each of the many shoeboxes she packs with her mother brings joy and the message of God’s love to a child somewhere in the world.

“It meant a lot to her to see one of her boxes and who received it,” Tonia said. “To see that it meant a lot to that little girl meant a lot to my little girl.

Hannah suffers from selective mutism, an anxiety disorder she’s had since she was a toddler that affects the ability to speak. Tonia said she has mostly overcome it, but still struggles at times.

God used Duce’s shoebox to speak to Hannah, His precious child who sometimes has difficulty speaking.

“After they see the results of what God has done, it encourages their faith,” Tonia said. “A shoebox can seem like a little thing, but in God’s hands it’s a big thing.”

Even in a case of mistaken identity, it was an amazing reminder that God knows every box and uses them for His glory.

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