A woman in Missouri started teaching her children about giving to others by helping them pack simple shoebox gifts. Eighteen years later, the family still shares the tradition.
Della Bergen is an Operation Christmas Child collection center coordinator in Southwest Missouri. She has been packing shoeboxes with her family since the project began in 1993.
I got involved with Operation Christmas Child when Franklin Graham spoke at our church in Colorado. Our pastor, Tom Stipe, invited him to share about the new project and made the announcement that our church was going to partner with Samaritan’s Purse as a drop-off location for shoebox gifts.
“What a simple and wonderful way to show God’s love, share the Gospel, and teach our children how to have servant hearts,” I thought.
It is no easy task to encourage six children to buy a cart full of toys for other children. But over the past 18 years, I have found it to be a true joy and wonderful thing to teach all my children and now their children.
I have had a heart for Operation Christmas Child since that first time I heard about it at our church, but it became a passion after I packed my first shoebox. Packing a shoebox gives us a great opportunity to become missionaries and share God with those who need Him so much. Teaching our children to “Go and make disciples” is a big responsibility for a parent. Operation Christmas Child gives us a chance to put feet to our faith.
When you get to be my age, there are few things you still need in life. So a few years ago, I decided to have a family packing get-together for my birthday. Since it falls in late October, it is perfect timing! What a great way to focus on what is important. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of helping each grandchild pack his or her first shoebox. It is a wonderful tradition that started when I helped each of my own children pack their first boxes 18 years ago.
I love that Operation Christmas Child is family focused. It is something we all can do no matter our age. I turned 50 this year. I wanted to pack 50 boxes with my family to celebrate the milestone. They all participated, and we got it done. The best birthday gift they give me is honoring my request to give to others and serve God in the process.
I am blessed to have six children who have always taken time to participate in Operation Christmas Child. They helped build a float that looked like a large shoebox for our local parade and passed out Operation Christmas Child goodies all along the parade route. They have also served alongside me at our Joplin Collection Center and the Processing Center in Denver.
We have packed thousands of shoeboxes over the years, but the ones packed for my birthday are dearest to my heart. This year, my granddaughter, Elizabeth Mae, was only 4 weeks old when we packed her first shoebox. Teaching my grandchildren why we share the Gospel and how to share God’s love with others will always start with a simple shoebox gift.