Mission and History

Mission & History


“Let the children come to Me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
Mark 10:14, ESV

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world. Through this project, Samaritan’s Purse partners with the local church worldwide to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and make disciples of the nations.

Franklin Graham leads a team to deliver Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to boys and girls in Bosnia in 1995.


In the summer of 1993, Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham received a call from a man in England asking if he’d be willing to fill shoeboxes with gifts for children in Eastern Europe. Franklin agreed, but figured Christmas was months away. He forgot about the promise until he received a call back around Thanksgiving asking about the gifts.

Franklin asked his friend, the late Pastor Ross Rhoads of Calvary Church of Charlotte to see if he could help with the need. A Sunday shortly afterward, Pastor Rhoads demonstrated for his congregation how to fill a shoebox with simple gifts and encouraged them to include a letter to the child as well. Within weeks, the church had 11,000 shoeboxes lining their hallways.

Due to their generosity and additional gifts from Canada, Samaritan’s Purse sent 28,000 shoebox gifts to children in the Balkans that Christmas. Through these gifts, we communicated to children and their families what the angel said to the shepherds about Jesus’ birth: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people”
(Luke 2:10, ESV).

Every year since, Samaritan’s Purse has collected shoebox gifts filled with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items for children around the world. Since 1993, more than 220 million children in more than 170 countries and territories have received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox. The project delivers not only the joy of what, for many kids, is their first gift ever, but also gives them a tangible expression of God’s love.

Tens of thousands of volunteers from local churches around the world partner with us to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ at festive outreach events where children are surprised with these shoebox gifts.

Shoebox Gifts Graph - 1993, 28 thousand. 2012, 100 million. Today, 220 plus million.

“Every box is an opportunity to reach a child with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
—Franklin Graham
President, Samaritan's Purse

The Greatest Journey

Seeking to follow Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19), we have trained over 1.9 million volunteers from these congregations to teach The Greatest Journey, our dynamic follow-up discipleship course for shoebox recipients. Since 2009, 40.5 million children have enrolled in this 12-lesson program to learn how to follow Christ and share Him with others. More than 20.2 million of these boys and girls have made a decision to accept Jesus as their Savior during the course. Many are now praying for and sharing their faith with family and friends. As a result of this ever-expanding witness, new churches are starting and communities are being transformed!

More than 20.2 million boys and girls have made a decision to follow Christ.

Behind the Scenes

This whole process is made possible by caring individuals who pack shoeboxes full of quality gifts for children in need. Many of these shoebox packers also use our Follow Your Box feature to discover the country where their gift will be delivered.

More than 10,000 year-round volunteers also get the word out about the Samaritan’s Purse project across the U.S. In addition, some 82,000 short-term volunteers serve in more than 4,500 drop-off locations open across the country every year during National Collection Week, the third week in November. Each shoebox collected then travels to one of our processing centers to be inspected and prepared for international shipment by 105,000 volunteers. All of this is supported by the 14,000 volunteers in our prayer network.

Millions of Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts are collected each year from locations in North America and throughout the world, including Australia, Austria, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Together we are working to see “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9-10).

Shoebox gifts are collected by faithful partners around the world—in the U.S. and Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and in South Korea.

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