The lives changed by shoebox gifts aren’t always just on the receiving end. Meet a teenager in Chicago who was saved at a packing party.You Can Still Pack a Shoebox
Annalisse asked Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of her life at age 14, the fruit of our Operation Christmas Child project. But Annalisse isn’t a shoebox recipient. She was saved during a shoebox packing party in Chicago.
Three years ago, the now 17-year-old attended a packing party at Chicago’s North Shore Spanish Baptist Church. There, she heard a Gospel presentation and joined in praying for the children who would receive shoebox gifts.
“I felt an overwhelming sense of love—God’s love,” Annalisse said. “I felt that love coming from Him, and I felt that love coming from the other people there. I didn’t want that feeling to end. I wanted to be part of something like that so desperately.”
“I know what it’s like to not get a gift,” Annalisse said, “when there have been hard winters and no one’s hiring. I want to make sure nobody ever feels like that. I want them to know what a true gift—God’s love—feels like. As Christians, it’s our job to spread love to whoever needs it—to those who don’t have love, to those who don’t have gifts, to those who don’t have God.”
So, she prayed during that packing party to receive Christ as Savior. She’s packed shoebox gifts every year since then.“I know that a shoebox can change a life. It changed mine before I even sent it. It doesn’t just change the recipient, it changes the person packing the box.”
MISSIONS IN ACTION
Annalisse is now considering being involved in missions in ways she hadn’t thought possible before. Though she’s looking forward to international opportunities, her outreach to others has started at home.This year, Annalisse brought a friend to the church’s packing party. Annalisse explained to her friend that though the church set a goal of collecting 100 shoeboxes, packing quality items so each child feels loved is more important than mere quantity.
She learned that from the church’s Operation Christmas Child project leader Eric Huertas. He encouraged the church to start packing shoebox gifts four years ago.
“It was a time of reflection, for us to ask, ‘Who are we and what can we do?’ If we believe in the importance of missions, what can we do to express that in concrete ways?”
In 2012, the congregation of about 60 people packed 45 boxes. By last year, the congregation had grown to 90 and exceeded the 100-shoebox mark. This year, they collected 108 shoeboxes and prayed over them all.
“God touches lives and hearts on both sides of a shoebox gift,” Eric said. “To pack a shoebox is an opportunity to experience as well as to share God’s love.”