Shoeboxes of Joy for the Philippines

December 12, 2013 • United States

A special airlift of Operation Christmas Child gifts will let children suffering from Typhoon Haiyan know that they are loved

A 747 cargo plane carrying around 65,000 Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts for children suffering in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan arrived at Mactan-Cebu International Airport at 2:05 a.m. local time Saturday.

“This shipment is a sign of hope for the children and for our whole team,” said James Sarcos, the East Asia regional coordinator for Operation Christmas Child. “These boxes are an opportunity for us to give hope to boys and girls who are suffering heartache and loss because of the typhoon.”

The shipment was unloaded in less than two hours, and the shoeboxes were on their way to a processing center where volunteers were working this morning at 4 a.m. They will be given to boys and girls beginning on Sunday.

“This is a special gift to the Philippines,” said Trifon Brady, pastor of Northwest House of Hope Church in San Remigio and an Operation Christmas Child regional leadership team coordinator. “It is an expression of love, care, and concern, and a reminder that we are not forgotten.”

The special airlift of shoebox gifts departed from John F. Kennedy airport in New York on Thursday afternoon Eastern time. Before the plane took off, Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham joined about 300 guests at a special event to thank God and ask Him to bless the children who will receive the shoeboxes.

“I was there two weeks ago,” Graham said. “It is just devastating. Their livelihood is gone, their home is gone, everything they owned is gone. Do you know what this gift is going to mean to these kids? It means that somebody loves them. It means they haven’t been forgotten. These boxes will be a beacon, a little ray of hope.”

Diana Barbacena put a stuffed whale in her shoebox gift.

Diana Barbacena put a stuffed whale in her shoebox gift.

Many guests in attendance packed shoeboxes that were loaded on the airplane. Like the people affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, they know the devastating impact a storm can have. This time last year, they were among thousands of people in New York and New Jersey recovering from Hurricane Sandy.

Sue Giuffrida remembers what it’s like to feel hopeless in the aftermath of a storm.

“I can imagine that people in the Philippines feel pretty desperate right now,” Sue said. “I know how we felt.”

Sue knew the only place to turn for comfort.

“I kept talking to God and saying this is really bad, this is really sad. I know that help is going to come from You,” she said.

The shoebox gifts will convey the same message to boys and girls suffering in the aftermath of the typhoon.

Diana Barbacena, an 11-year-old girl who was evacuated from her Long Beach, N.Y., home during Hurricane Sandy, attended the shoebox sendoff. She packed a special box with a stuffed whale, sock monkey, and school supplies

“I packed stuffed animals, which I think they will hold at night and fear for nothing and know that God will be in control,” Diana said.

A choir sings Christmas songs at the shoebox sendoff.

A choir sings Christmas songs at the shoebox sendoff.

Many of the people who packed shoeboxes for the children in the Philippines know that God will help the storm victims recover because they’ve experienced it themselves.

“God talks about storms in the Bible all the time,” Sue said. “People go through all kinds of storms in life. But with storms like this, God washes away all of the unfit things inside. It’s devastating, and it wrecks you, but He rebuilds.”

Sue’s church, Full Gospel Island Park, was flooded by several feet of water because of Hurricane Sandy and was not able to function as an Operation Christmas Child drop-off site last year. But God used the Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief teams that responded to the storm to help clean up the damage and restore the building. This year, it was back in business as a collection location.

All of the shoeboxes collected at Full Gospel Island Park were sent to a regional collection center, The Life Lutheran Church in Old Westbury, N.Y. During National Collection Week, volunteers there buzzed with excitement to be collecting shoebox gifts for the Philippines.

Samantha Sourbeck, 20, and her sister Natalie, 15, have been volunteering at the Old Westbury collection center since Natalie was 2 years old. They, along with their parents, Cynthia and Bill, pack thousands of shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child each year. This year, they packed more than 2,000 with the help of their family, friends, and neighbors.

Cartons of shoeboxes are loaded onto the cargo jet.

Cartons of shoeboxes are loaded onto the cargo jet.

In July, Samantha had the opportunity to hand-deliver shoebox gifts to children in the Philippines as part of the Samaritan’s Purse Youth Missions team. She was thrilled when she heard that her shoeboxes would be delivered to children there this year, and encouraged that so many other people impacted by Sandy wanted to reach out to typhoon victims.

“It’s inspiring to hear from people who have lost so much and yet are still so passionate about helping kids in similar situations,” she said at the airlift on Thursday.

Justin Vitrano, the pastor at The Life Lutheran Church, was excited to have his congregation pack shoeboxes for the first time this year.

Franklin Graham said the shoeboxes will provide hope for children recovering from the storm

Franklin Graham said the shoeboxes will provide hope for children recovering from the storm

“I know that these children get these boxes, and I know how much of a difference it makes in kids’ lives,” he said. “Some of the folks who are packing boxes now are people who were deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy. They know what they received from so many people around the country and people in the community, and it’s a chance for them to go full circle, that they can give back. It’s the circle of the Gospel to me. It’s a reflection of the love that God has given us. They can pack a box and they can share that with other people.”

As the shoeboxes were loaded onto the cargo plane Thursday, Graham reminded people that God will use the situation in the Philippines to show tens of thousands of people that they are loved and not forgotten.

The shoebox gifts leave New York on their way to the Philippines.

The shoebox gifts leave New York on their way to the Philippines.

“It will mean everything in the world,” he said. “It will give these little kids hope and it gives us an opportunity to share the Gospel with them. Be praying for the children in the Philippines. They need our prayers.”

Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief teams have been on the ground in the Philippines since the typhoon struck, and have already delivered thousands of tons of relief supplies and medical aid in the Name of Jesus. The 65,000 shoeboxes will be another reminder of God’s great love to the children who receive them.