Franklin Graham and Operation Christmas Child ambassador Evilyn Pinnow credit God for a significant milestone
Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham remembers the early days of Operation Christmas Child. In 1993, when Dave Cooke, originator of the program, called Graham and asked for support, he thought 1,000 shoe box gifts would be a good number.
Nineteen years later, Samaritan’s Purse expects to reach 100 million shoe boxes collected for needy children
“God has breathed his blessing on this program, so today we celebrate 100 million boxes and we give God all of the glory,” he said. “This is about the most beautiful message in the world—God’s love. It means everything in the world to these kids.”
Graham spoke before hundreds of volunteers at the Charlotte Processing Center on Tuesday.
“It’s a treat for us to come here every year and say thank you,” Graham told the volunteers standing before him.
Graham also commended 12-year-old Evilyn Pinnow for being an Operation Christmas Child ambassador during the 100 millionth shoe box tour. She traveled to cities such as Nashville, Denver, and New York, where people put different items in the shoe box representing the 100 million mark.
“Today I’m here to say God bless you!” Evilyn said. “Because of the efforts of volunteers like you, Operation Christmas Child has been able to put shoe box gifts in the hands of 94 million children in 130 countries. And your work this year will enable Operation Christmas Child to surpass the goal of reaching 100 million children.”
Elena Hagemeier, a former shoe box recipient, joined Evilyn on stage to put the last gifts into the shoe box—purple sunglasses and a pink pen that lights up.
Elena recalled her experiences growing up in orphanages in Russia. She said her life was bleak until she received a colorful shoe box.
“When they gave us the shoe boxes, just holding something as beautiful as that was the first time I had something bright in my life,” she said.
Elena grew up in a home filled with abuse and poverty. At first, it was hard for her to believe someone loved her. But the shoe box gift, along with the colorful Gospel booklet offered at the distribution, proved that not only did someone across the world love her, but God loved her too.
“When I read the book ‘The Greatest Gift of All’ I thought it was a fairy tale,” she said. “I could not believe that the King of Kings would die for a nobody like me. That booklet gave me hope, and I started praying to God.’”
Elena’s story reminded the volunteers present that morning that every shoe box represents a real child—a real life that can be impacted for eternity.
Evilyn, founder of The Shoebox Club in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, which has packed over 2,000 gifts in the past four years, then shared her hopes and dreams for the future of Operation Christmas Child.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if there were shoe box clubs all over the country helping Operation Christmas Child collect another 100 million shoe box gifts?” she said.
“I thank you. You all do a wonderful job,” Van Susteren said. “I look forward to next year getting 110 million.”
To close the event, Graham thanked the volunteers again and then prayed for the shoe boxes that would be distributed all over the world in the coming months.
“I pray for these boxes and for the children who will be receiving them,” Graham said. “I pray that they will know that You love them. As we celebrate 100 million shoe boxes, we thank you and give you the glory. ”
Evilyn then returned the thank you to Graham.
“Thank you Mr. Graham,” she said, “for allowing kids like me to share God’s love with children around the world.”