Young People Play Vital Role in Suriname’s Shoebox Outreach

December 20, 2022 • Suriname

It is so encouraging to see youth—teens—teaching and discipling children as part of Operation Christmas Child.

Operation Christmas Child

Suriname bills itself as the greenest country in the world, boasting forests cover 93 percent of its land. Wherever you turn, from the coastal capital to the dense inland jungle, it’s true that the nation seems to burst forth with innumerable flowers, bushes, vines, and trees.

Such vibrancy seems to characterize the Operation Christmas Child project in Suriname as well. Earlier this year, a Samaritan’s Purse team met with two of Suriname’s youngest Operation Christmas Child teachers—both in their teens—who were busy sharing the Good News with their peers. Young, committed leaders teaching other young people how to follow Christ is a wonderful indicator of growth. Spiritual fruit is coming, by God’s grace.

Charahja: Loving Jesus, Loving Children

Charahja, 15, grew up in a Christian home, and her mom, Abigail Singotiko-van Broekhoven, now serves as the national discipleship coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in Suriname. Charahja received her own shoebox gift years ago and remembers it fondly.

“I was overjoyed,” Charahja said. “I got really long socks. I was excited about that because when it gets too cold, my bones start hurting.”

She began following Jesus quite young and has been accompanying her mother to outreach events and The Greatest Journey discipleship classes for years. She started by working with the younger siblings of children in her mother’s course. Then Charahja more formally shadowed her mother while teaching. “Doing Operation Christmas Child with my mom makes me very happy and I like having my mom close to me,” she said. “She teaches me a lot of things. I kind of have her as my role model.”

Mother and daughter teach The Greatest Journey together

Charahja (right) and her mother (left), Abigail, teach the first lesson of The Greatest Journey together in Suriname.

Finally, Charahja received official training last year and began solo-leading The Greatest Journey with students at her grandfather’s house.

This year she continued teaching and helping to lead Operation Christmas Child outreach events. Charahja’s faith is personal, dynamic, and infectious. “Jesus is my best friend,” she said. “I talk to Him every day. When I have a problem, I close my door and start talking to Him.”

She wants her students—and everyone in Suriname, she says with youthful enthusiasm—to be saved and cultivate their own relationship with Jesus Christ. “My prayer for the students that I teach is that they will accept Jesus in their life as Savior and friend and find happiness in Christ.”

  • Charahja teaches children at an Operation Christmas Child outreach event in Suriname.
    Charahja teaches children at an Operation Christmas Child outreach event in Suriname.

As she teaches The Greatest Journey course, she focuses on ongoing spiritual growth, encouraging her peers to live out their faith in word and deed. “Acting like you’re a Christian and [just] saying you’re a Christian are two very different things,” she said. Ultimately, she hopes they will take the Good News to all their friends and relatives.

Charahja spends a lot of time with her mom planning and preparing to teach. But, she’s quick to point out—with great maturity—that “we need to pray, so God can lead us through it.”

She understands that God is the focus of Operation Christmas Child—the content of our message, yes, and also the One who gives strength to pack, process, ship, teach, and disciple. “If we don’t include God in Operation Christmas Child, it won’t be successful in any way,” she said.

Charahja walks and talks with children who received Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts in Suriname.

Charahja walks and talks with children who received Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts in Suriname.

What does Charahja’s mother think of all this? “It really means a lot to me to be able to teach The Greatest Journey together with my daughter,” Singotiko-van Broekhoven said.

“When a child teaches a child,” Singotiko-van Broekhoven said, “it has a bigger impact.” As young people see and know what their peers are going through, they are better equipped to know what to say to them, she said.

“The children are even better disciples than us, because of their boldness.”

Isha: Overcoming Difficulty, Sharing God’s Word

Isha, 19, has been helping to lead Operation Christmas Child outreach events since she was 16. Working alongside her mom, Usha Budha, the two are eager to reach boys and girls in their community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“I’m very happy,” Budha said. “It was my wish all along that my children would do this with me.”

As Isha leads scores of children in singing and dancing to Christian songs, her face beams. She then transitions to sharing the Gospel message—the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, delivered at a children’s level. She invites the youngsters to The Greatest Journey course, and then they move to the distribution of Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts.

Isha leads boys and girls in singing as the outreach event begins.

Isha leads boys and girls in singing as the outreach event begins.

Isha tells them, “Jesus is with you in every circumstance.” It’s a truth that she learned through a difficult experience.

A little over two years ago, Isha’s face was badly burned in a kitchen accident. Doctors said healing would take a year. “The moment I saw my face, I said, ‘No, I can’t live like this.’ I just wanted to give up.” The following weeks were a dark time for her.

But Isha’s mom encouraged her and cared for her. Her mom told her, “Jesus will heal you.”

“I love children," Isha said.

“I love children,” Isha said.

The process went more quickly than doctors imagined. By the next shoebox outreach cycle, Isha was leading events. “I love children, I didn’t want to give up,” Isha said.

Now she continues to be a big part of the Operation Christmas Child team in her area of Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname.

“It was wonderful,” she said after an outreach event this March. “I was very nervous. I thought maybe I would be scared, but no, it was wonderful. Yes, it was great.”

“It means a lot to me,” Isha continued. “Any chance I have to share God’s Word or bring more children to Jesus, I will do that. I love to do that.”

Isha shares the Good News of Jesus Christ with children in Suriname.

Isha shares the Good News of Jesus Christ with children in Suriname.

Please pray for Charahja, Isha, their mothers, and all who help lead Operation Christmas Child in Suriname. Shoebox gifts are headed their way soon! Pray for the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts of boys and girls—and their parents, friends, and relatives—across this South American nation in the months to come.

Operation Christmas Child Through Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan’s Purse is sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with millions of boys and girls in more than 100 countries each year. Many of these children have never before received a present or heard the true meaning of Christmas—until they open a gift-filled shoebox from a person like you. Some people are not able to give the $10 per shoebox we request for shipping and related costs. By adopting a shoebox, you can partner with them to deliver the Gospel and help "bring salvation to the ends of the earth" (Acts 13:47, ESV).

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Adopt a Shoebox: $10 | Adopt a Carton of 15 Boxes: $150