Shoebox gifts sent from Christians in the United States give churches overseas the opportunity to impact their communities with the truth of Jesus Christ
For Louie Giglio, when it comes to participating in Operation Christmas Child the question isn’t “Why?” It’s “Why not?”
“If someone has to ask, ‘Why should we take the energy and the time to pack a shoebox full of love for the children of the world,’ then they’re asking the wrong question,” he said.
Giglio, the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta and leader of the Passion Conferences for college students, knows that packing shoebox gifts allows his congregation to support pastors and churches overseas who are committed to sharing the Gospel with children in their communities.
Through gift-filled shoeboxes, Operation Christmas Child helps link churches and people in the United States with churches overseas. As the gifts are delivered, boys and girls learn that God loves them so much that He sent another gift – His son, Jesus – as their Savior.A shoebox “doesn’t just carry love and compassion and a tangible expression of that, but it carries the message of Jesus,” said Giglio, explaining why the children’s ministry at Passion City Church participates in the Samaritan’s Purse project.
People personalize the shoeboxes they pack, filling them with handpicked small toys, school supplies, clothing, and hygiene items. Through the gifts, they send expressions of themselves to children around the world, and in effect they enter another country and impact the children with three-dimensional examples of love—all without physically going to some of the most remote and difficult places on earth.
“You know that there’s a real story on the other end of that box, a child for a child, a kid for a kid,” Giglio said. “Think about partnering with such a great movement, even though it is just a little part, and believe that even in that, God is doing immeasurably more. There are children’s lives around the world right now that are linked to our story, and we’re linked to their story through what Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child make a reality.”
Many of the stories are nothing short of miraculous, as many children receive exactly what they pray for and need in their boxes. Millions of boxes are sealed in the United States each year, and are not opened again until they are placed in the hands of a child overseas. Only God can direct the boxes to specific children.
Marc and Rafael, two Filipino boys, experienced the Lord’s provision when they received shoeboxes in the hospital where they were being treated for bone cancer. The boys were neighbors, staying side-by-side in a hospital ward. Marc’s cancer had claimed his right leg to amputation, and Rafael’s left leg was amputated.
The boys were close in age and size, and as they explored their shoeboxes, they were delighted to find toys and school supplies in their boxes. And God had a special surprise in store. Marc’s box contained a pair of shoes, and Rafael received a pair of socks. The boys immediately shared one half of their pairs with the other – Marc gave his right shoe to Rafael, and Rafael gave his left sock to Marc.
Over the past 20 years, churches have played an important part in reaching children like Marc and Rafael with the love of Christ. Over 103 million gift-filled boxes have been delivered to children in more than 140 countries, providing ministry partners overseas the opportunity to share the Gospel.
“You can see how people can do the work to make something so amazing become a reality, but you know that God has to fill in the gap and take the offering,” Giglio said. “God has to breathe it to life.”
Giglio said he encourages churches and people in the United States to export their care and compassion to international churches by packing shoebox gifts that can open new doors in many countries.
“We have been struggling to reach out in the community because we are the Christians,” said Dhan Raj Ghimire, an Operation Christmas Child volunteer in Nepal. “When we take the [gifts] to the community, they have accepted us.”
Volunteer leaders around the world echo his sentiments.
“You are the engine God is using to empower churches [here],” said Pablo del Salto, a volunteer in Ecuador.
When churches in the U.S. catch the vision behind Operation Christmas Child, their passion to pack shoeboxes opens a new story for a child somewhere overseas. A simple act of love can become a Gospel opportunity.
“I would say to every pastor who’s a person like me and every civic leader, why wouldn’t you want to do that? Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of a story like this?” Giglio asked. “[It’s] an enormous heaven story, and I know our church has a part in it. We may not have a hundred million of the boxes, but we have some of them. I think the mission of life is to be a part of the great stories that God is doing around the world, and Operation Christmas Child is one of the great stories that’s unfolding in our lifetime.”