Alina and the Princess Shoes

Alina and the Princess Shoes

"The shoebox made me realize that Jesus hadn’t abandoned me. It was a representation of His love for me."

Alina received a shoebox as a child in a Central Asian country.

My family and I had what we needed, but gifts were a luxury we didn’t always get. So when I received a shoebox gift, I stood there baffled and confused. It seemed impossible for someone overseas, for someone I didn’t know, to send me a gift for Christmas. I carefully undid the tape and unwrapped it. In the box, there were ponytail holders, a toothbrush, socks, and candy.

What caught my eye were a pair of plastic princess shoes. Those shoes were like nothing I had ever seen. They were pink, and I loved the color pink. I got so excited when I put on those shoes. They were too big, but I still wore them. I tried to wear them as much as I could. I showed them to everyone.

As I looked closer through my shoebox, I found a photograph of a little girl the same age as me. She was wearing a tiara that matched the shoes I received. Her gift to me became so personal—I felt like I connected with her.

Before I received the shoebox, I was really discouraged because of the way I was treated for my faith in Jesus. A lot of my teachers lowered my grades for no other reason than they didn’t like me. One time, my teacher grabbed my sweater and pushed me against the wall, demanding, “Where is your Jesus now?”

I remember that so vividly. At that moment I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where is He? Why is He allowing this to happen?” It felt like God was very distant, very far away from me.

The shoebox was a representation of His love to a young girl. I no longer felt like Jesus had abandoned me.

The box was an act of kindness that represented hope, comfort, and the fact that God is watching over me. My perception of God changed. He became a personal Father to me.

After I received the shoebox, the persecution I experienced for my faith in Him didn’t stop. But my reaction to it was different because of the way God had revealed Himself to me. No longer did it feel like He was looking down at me from far away—He was walking right beside me.

To this day, 13 years later, I still remember what it was like to receive a shoebox. In that moment it felt like God was there giving that gift to me.

As the years went by, memories of God’s love, expressed through the shoebox, stirred up this passion in me to tell children, especially orphans, the Good News of Jesus and to help them feel His love—the same love I felt and still feel.

I’ve been packing shoeboxes ever since my family came to America. For the past three years I’ve been volunteering at a collection center. Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes are gifts that keep on giving. They are a tangible representation of Jesus’ love for me and millions of kids around the world.

These boxes change lives. I’m just one of many whom God has drawn closer to Himself through a shoebox gift.

Alina opening her shoebox Alina with family Alina with children

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