Operation Christmas Child Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

About Operation Christmas Child


What is Operation Christmas Child?

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization. Our mission is to provide local partners around the world with shoeboxes filled with small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies as a means of reaching out to children in their own communities with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We ship these simple gifts outside the United States to children affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine, and disease; and to children living on Native American reservations in the U.S.

Can I find out where is my shoebox sent?

Yes! You can Follow Your Box and discover the destination of your shoebox by making the $9 donation per shoebox online, which provides for collection, shipping, and delivery. Just print and attach your unique shipping label to your shoebox gift.

Who started Operation Christmas Child?

The program was started in the United Kingdom in 1990 by Dave and Jill Cooke. Three years after this beginning, the Wales-based shoebox gift project merged in a partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, allowing us to share 20 years of expertise in relief and aid work with the project, and expand the reach of the shoebox gifts to more than 28,000 children that year. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to over 188 million children in more than 170 countries and territories.

Why shoebox gifts?

Shoebox gifts are a way to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

What happens after my shoebox gift is delivered?

Our local ministry partners distribute your shoeboxes to children in their communities. After receiving shoebox gifts, many boys and girls are invited to enroll in The Greatest Journey, our 12-lesson discipleship program. Through the program, our local ministry partners are able to establish long-term, caring relationships with children and families by sharing the love of Jesus Christ. Learn more about the eternal impact of a shoebox.

Are gifts delivered by Christmas?

The shoebox gifts are shipped out from our processing centers by the middle of December, and depending on the distance they must travel, some are delivered by Christmas—primarily those in Central/South America and Eastern Europe. Most of the gifts are sent via ship. Although the collection of Operation Christmas Child gifts is during the Thanksgiving/Christmas season, the delivery of some gifts is sometimes delayed due to international shipping. They may not clear customs in receiving countries until spring. In addition, many countries that receive the gifts must transport the gifts to rural areas using very poor roads. Distributions typically occur from late December through spring each year, extending the joy of Christmas to children that receive them!

Can I sponsor the child who received my shoebox gift?

Operation Christmas Child is unable to facilitate this; however, if you are contacted by your recipient child, you may be able to build a relationship with them. Samaritan’s Purse does have a gift catalog with several items supporting young children, such as a donation for a week’s supply of food for a hungry baby. You can also give a scholarship to a child to participate in The Greatest Journey discipleship program. It takes $6 to provide a child the opportunity to participate and receive discipleship materials including a certificate and New Testament in their language. Donors can fund one child, equip a church, or sponsor a country.

Is this project forcing religion on the child who gets a gift?

Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child seek to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way through each shoebox gift. One of our core values is to never be manipulative. We work in and through local volunteers in each country that understand their context and are respectful to the people they serve. At the same time, we do seek to share the Gospel wherever we go, which can be challenging at times. In some regions, we are not permitted to distribute literature, but we are still grateful for the opportunity to bless the children with gift boxes carefully prepared by people who love children. Boys and girls do not have to do or say anything to receive their gifts.

Packing Your Shoebox

Packing, Labeling, and Delivery

How do I pack my shoebox gift?

Everything you need to learn how to pack a shoebox gift can be found here. That includes what kind of box to use, what items can be included, how to learn the destination of your shoebox gift, and much more!

Where can I get a box to fill?

You can use any shoebox, cardboard or plastic. Operation Christmas Child also has red-and-green boxes that are also available to order now.

What items are allowed in my shoebox gift?

You can find a list of suggested items and items not to include here.

Where do I get basic shoebox labels?

You can download basic boy and girl shoebox labels here. Or you can download shipping labels through Follow Your Box by making your $9 donation online so you can learn the destination of your shoebox gift.

What is the $9 suggested donation per box?

The $9 per gift is a suggested donation. This donation is critical for Operation Christmas Child to collect, process, and ship shoebox gifts to more than 100 countries. It also provides for ministry materials such as The Greatest Gift Gospel Booklet and The Ministry Partner Guide. We encourage those who are unable to include the $9 per box to consider asking a group in their church or a family member to sponsor this part of the shoebox gift. Learn more →

When is the deadline for sending my shoebox gift to you?

Thousands of drop-off locations are open across the country during National Collection Week, the third week in November every year. This year, National Collection Week will be Nov. 15–22, 2021 but year-round you may send completed boxes to our headquarters:

    Operation Christmas Child
    Samaritan’s Purse
    P.O. Box 3000
    801 Bamboo Road
    Boone, NC 28607

Do you redistribute items in the boxes if they are too full?

We understand and respect that you carefully choose the items you include in your shoebox gifts. Volunteers at our processing centers are trained to remove only items on the “do not include” list found on our website. When these items are removed, they are donated to local charities and still put to good use.

Where do the shoebox gifts go?

Countries vary from year to year. If you make your shoebox donation online through Follow Your Box, you can discover the destination of your shoebox.

Can I select where my shoebox gift is sent?

Our goal is to collect and distribute millions of shoebox gifts in over 100 countries this year. Because of the tremendous growth of Operation Christmas Child, the logistics involved in collecting, processing, and distributing this many boxes prevent us from designating specific boxes for certain countries or climates according to the contents. We can assure you, however, that whoever receives your box will need and appreciate your gift.

Can This Go in My Shoebox?

Are playing cards allowed?

Yes! Playing cards can be included in your shoebox gifts.

How about little toys like spiders, bugs, snakes, etc.?

All of those items are allowed.

Can we include batteries?

Yes. However, if the batteries are loose, both ends must be covered with tape.

Can videos, CDs, and DVDs be included?

Yes, all of these may be included in your shoebox gifts. However, keep in mind that the children may not have a DVD player or CD player available.

Can we include paint sets or glue bottles?

No, both of these items are liquids and can’t be included in your shoebox gifts. However, dry paint sets (such as watercolors) or glue sticks are OK to pack!

Can we include a toolkit with nails, screws, screwdrivers, and hammers?

Yes! The only tools that can’t be included are saws or pocketknives.

Are scissors OK?

Yes! Scissors are OK to include in your shoebox gifts.

Can items with camouflage be included?

If the child can wear or use the items without looking like a soldier, they are OK to include in your shoebox gift. Pink or colored camouflage is safe as are pencils, wallets, or socks.

Are squirt guns allowed?

Squirt guns can be included as long as they do not look like real guns. Brightly colored squirt guns are great to pack in your shoebox gift.

Can glow sticks go in a shoebox gift?

Yes, glow sticks are OK to pack in your gift. If the tube breaks, the liquid does not spill out and can’t damage other items.

Can we include wet wipes?

Yes, wet wipes do not have enough liquid to spill out into the shoebox so they are OK to include in your gift.

Can rubber balls be included if they have liquid glitter inside?

No, these would be considered inappropriate because of the liquid.

What type of candy is allowed in shoebox gifts?

No type of candy is allowed in shoebox gifts, due to increasing customs regulations. Please email us at occinfo@samaritan.org if you have any questions.

Is lip gloss OK to pack in a shoebox gift?

Lip gloss is a liquid and can’t be included. However, lip balm or lipstick can go!

Can I include toothpaste in my shoebox?

Toothpaste is not allowed in shoebox gifts, due to increasing customs regulations. Please email us at occinfo@samaritan.org if you have any questions.

Is play dough OK to pack in a shoebox gift?

Yes, play dough can be included in your shoebox gift. However, some children might think it is edible.

Can compact mirrors go in a shoebox gift?

Yes. Compact mirrors can be included because if the glass shatters, it will be contained.

Are matches allowed?

Matches are not allowed in shoebox gifts due to shipping regulations.

Follow Your Box

What is Follow Your Box?

By making a simple donation for shipping and other program costs through Follow Your Box, those who pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child can discover the country destinations of their gifts. Samaritan’s Purse will email a special label, which, when attached to each shoebox packed, allows us to let you know the country destinations through our Follow Your Box look-up tool.

How do I follow my box?

After you complete a $9 donation online through Follow Your Box, your label will be displayed on the payment confirmation page and delivered to you via email. Print the label as many times as you need to affix each shoebox you pack with one of these special labels. Mark boy or girl and the age-group range on each label according to the shoebox’s contents and attach the label to the shoebox gift. The Follow Your Box label is connected to your email address through a number, so it’s important to include the label on each of the shoeboxes you pack. The barcode enables us to scan shoeboxes during processing and record their shipping status and country destination in our Follow Your Box look-up tool. There, look up the information for your shoeboxes according to your number or the email address you used to donate to Follow Your Box.

Do I need to include $9 in each shoebox in addition to attaching a Follow Your Box label?

No, the label indicates that the $9 donation per shoebox, which provides for collecting, shipping, and delivery, already has been donated online through Follow Your Box.

Getting Your Follow Your Box Labels

How will I receive my label?

After completing your donation through Follow Your Box, your label will be displayed on the payment confirmation screen and delivered to you via email from Samaritan’s Purse (updates@e.samaritan.org).

How do I print my labels?

After completing your donation, we will send you an email containing your labels. Click the link in your email to view the printable version of your label, right click, and select “Print.” You can also go to File/Print in your browser navigation bar, or hold down the Ctrl and P buttons on your keyboard. From the attachment in your email, click to view the web browser printable link, or save the labels to your computer.

I didn’t receive two different labels (one for a boy gift and one for a girl gift). Has the label changed?

Yes, we are now providing one label for you to mark either boy or girl for each shoebox and the age-group range to coincide with each shoebox’s contents. You can still print or copy the label as many times as needed.

How many labels should I print?

You can print or copy the label as many times as needed so that each shoebox you pack has a special label. After you have made a shipping donation through Follow Your Box, you can right click on the payment confirmation screen label to print it or open the email attachment we send you to print the label. You can reopen your email attachment at a later time if you need to print more labels or refer to your number. You also can save the label attachment to your computer for future reference.

What do I do with my Follow Your Box label once I print it?

Be sure you have printed or copied enough Follow Your Box labels so that you can tape one label on each shoebox. Don’t forget to mark boy or girl contents for each box, along with the age range. The best place to tape the barcode label is off center on the lid of the shoebox. Avoid placing the label in the center of the shoebox lid because that is where the shoebox will be taped shut at a processing center. Place the label to one side of the lid so that the label will be visible to the processing center volunteers who will scan the barcode. Make sure the label edges are securely attached to lessen the likelihood of the label getting torn off or its barcode ripped during transit.

Why haven’t I received an email containing my barcoded label?

Samaritan’s Purse sends a unique Follow Your Box label to the email address entered when making a shipping donation online through Follow Your Box. Refresh the inbox of the email address you used to complete the Follow Your Box donation and search for an email from updates@e.samaritan.org. Be sure to check your spam folder or junk mail inbox for the email. You may need to add Samaritan’s Purse info@samaritan.org and updates@e.samaritan.org to your safe senders list. If you did not receive your Follow Your Box label, email info@samaritan.org or call 1-800-353-5949 and a representative will help you obtain a Follow Your Box label.

I paid for multiple shoeboxes. Why did I only receive one Follow Your Box label?

You will receive one label when you donate through Follow Your Box. Print or copy that label as many times as needed to attach one label per shoebox and label each box’s contents. Placing a label on each box will enable us to let you know where each shoebox you pack goes. Your specific number on the label is connected to the email address you used to Follow Your Box, so you can use the same label for all of your shoeboxes.

Why do my labels have the same number? Shouldn’t they be different?

Your number can be the same on each of your shoeboxes because the label is associated with the email address you provided when you made your Follow Your Box donation. Each shoebox with a barcode is scanned at a processing center along with its individual shipping carton label, which enables us to provide you with country destinations for multiple shoebox gifts.

Why can't I activate my printed Follow Your Box label with the 15-character code?

Label activation is only required for new Follow Your Box adhesive labels. If you make your $9 suggested donation online to receive a printable tracking label, your label with the 15-character code is already activated and associated with your email address. Just print this label and attach it to your shoebox gift before you leave it at a local drop-off location, and we will track your gift for you.

Why do I get an error when I scan my label code?

The codes on your printable tracking or adhesive labels are only compatible with our processing center scanners; they are not valid with an ordinary QR scanning app or mobile device camera. These codes are associated with your email address and will be scanned when we process your gifts. At that point, your gift tracking status will be updated in our Follow Your Box look-up tool so you can discover the destination of your shoebox gift.

Follow Your Box Adhesive Labels

What is the advantage of using these new labels?

The new Follow Your Box adhesive labels are free of charge and don’t require printer ink. They are also made with quality adhesive material allowing for easier application to both cardboard and plastic shoeboxes.

How do I get these new adhesive labels?

Follow Your Box adhesive labels are available with an order of preprinted cardboard shoeboxes. You will be sent a pack of 50 adhesive labels for each set of 50 cardboard shoeboxes.

How do I activate one or multiple labels?

To activate your label(s), scan the QR code with your smartphone camera or QR scanning app, and follow the pop-up link to the website. Your label will automatically appear in your cart for checkout. You can add more by scanning more labels or by manually entering the nine-digit code on each label.

Can I activate entire packs of 50 labels at once?

Yes! You can also make one combined donation for all 50 labels. Just scan one label and choose the option to activate the whole set. If you need to make the donation for 100 or more labels at once, more than one set of 50 can be entered at a time. Also, if you only use some of the labels, all are activated and can be used at another time.

What if my church covers the donations for all our boxes, but I want to still follow my individually packed boxes?

Each Follow Your Box adhesive label has its own individual code. Be sure to keep record of the alphanumeric tracking code on your specific label, and you can enter this into the look-up tool to search for your individual shoebox gift. If you want the label associated with your email address for easier searching, an individual label can be associated with more than one email, but you will be prompted to make an additional $9 donation in order to complete this transaction.

Can I continue donating online and print a label?

Yes, you are still able to donate online and print a Follow Box label from the website.

I put the label on my box but do not get results in the look-up tool.

There are a couple possibilities here. Either your label was damaged or activation was not completed. Be sure you are entering the same email address used to complete the online activation donation or the alphanumeric code from your label. Email occinfo@samaritan.org for assistance.

Can I make copies of my adhesive label to share with my group?

To avoid confusion with tracking results, we encourage you to instead use the existing print-at-home method to obtain more labels for your group.

Can we activate labels after our packing event?

Yes, you can complete your packing event and then activate your labels. If you are activating more than 50 labels, we recommend donating through the bulk activation option prior to sticking the labels on the shoebox gifts.

Where do I attach these adhesive labels to the box?

Labels should be adhered the lid of your shoebox, preferably toward one end (away from the center) of the box. In the Processing Centers, boxes are taped in the middle, so proper placement eliminates taping over the labels.

How do I confirm if a label is activated?

Once your label has been activated you will receive a confirmation email. If you have trouble locating this email, contact occinfo@samaritan.org.

I already ordered my boxes for the year. Can I request the Follow Your Box adhesive labels for my boxes?

This year labels will be available with cardboard shoebox orders placed after late August. However, we do have a limited supply available upon special request. Please email us at occinfo@samaritan.org for more information.

Why does it show multiple countries when I just donated one box?

This can happen when a church or group has purchased and activated multiple labels and made copies to share, and/or an individual has duplicated the same label and more than one person activated it.

Discovering the Destination of Your Shoebox Gifts

Where can I enter in my label number online to discover the destination of my shoebox gifts?

Visit our Follow Your Box look-up tool. Enter the number on your Follow Your Box label or the email address you used to Follow Your Box. Shoebox information will display in the look-up tool once shoeboxes have been processed. This typically occurs at processing centers between mid-November and mid-December. Then, it will either report that your boxes are awaiting overseas shipment or it will list the country destinations where they are being shipped.

Once I drop off shoeboxes, will I be able to find out where my shoeboxes went?

You will be able to see the status of your shoeboxes at two stages: 1) after they have been processed and are awaiting overseas shipment and 2) after they have been shipped to a country destination. Most shoeboxes are processed in the weeks following National Collection Week, the third week of November, through mid-December every year. After processing has been completed, it will be noted in the Follow Your Box look-up tool that your shoeboxes are awaiting shipment. The look-up tool also will note when the shoeboxes have been shipped to country destinations. This could happen in quick succession or a shipment could be delayed because of customs procedures. You must log in to the tool to see the updates.

Will I receive an email notification for each shoebox I packed?

No, Samaritan’s Purse will send you one email with a Follow Your Box label and a link to our Follow Your Box look-up tool. Using its search field, you can enter either your label number or the email address you used to Follow Your Box. The tool will generate a list of countries your shoeboxes were shipped to, rather than the country where each shoebox was shipped.

Why haven’t I received an email telling me where my shoeboxes went?

If you made your shipping donation online through Follow Your Box, you will receive an email from Samaritan’s Purse with a link to our Follow Your Box look-up tool. From there, you will be able to discover the country destinations of your shoebox gifts. You may need to add Samaritan’s Purse, info@samaritan.org and updates@e.samaritan.org, to your safe senders list. If your label is ripped or separated from the shoebox while it is being transported, it may prevent us from informing you where your gift was delivered into the hands of a child in need.

I donated to Operation Christmas Child online. Why didn’t I receive a label?

Follow Your Box labels are only provided when you donate specifically through Follow Your Box, not through any other Donate Online section of samaritanspurse.org (such as a fundraising page, another Operation Christmas Child item, or Adopt A Box in the Samaritan’s Purse gift catalog).

Will I receive information or a photo of the child who receives my shoebox?

Unfortunately, we are not able to provide pictures or information about the specific child who receives your shoebox.

Is there a way I can arrange to have my shoeboxes go to different countries rather than the same country?

Because of the logistics involved in collecting, processing, and distributing millions of shoebox gifts to over 100 countries each year, we are unable to pre-assign certain shoeboxes for specific countries.

Can I follow my shoebox through Build A Shoebox Online?

Yes, shoebox gifts built online automatically will be tracked through Follow Your Box. Samaritan’s Purse will send a link via the Follow Your Box look-up tool to the email address associated with your donation. Many of the shoebox gifts built online are delivered to hard-to-reach areas.


Follow Your Box Look-up Tool

The Follow Your Box look-up tool only listed one country destination, but I packed multiple shoeboxes. Where did the rest of my boxes go?

The Follow Your Box look-up tool will list the countries where your shoeboxes were shipped but will not display where each shoebox was shipped or how many of your shoeboxes were shipped to each country.

Why are my shoeboxes not showing up in the look-up tool?

If you looked up your shoeboxes using an email address instead of your label number, make sure that the email address is the same one you used when making your Follow Your Box donation. If your label gets ripped or separated from the shoebox while it’s being transported, it may prevent us from informing you where your gift was delivered.

Why did the look-up tool indicate that my shoebox gift was sent to a hard-to-reach country and not a specific country?

For the safety of our ministry partners and local believers living in some hard-to-reach areas, we cannot disclose the names of these countries. Some countries are hard-to-reach because they are experiencing a form of conflict that complicates the delivery of shipments.

Why can’t I see where my previous years’ boxes where shipped in the new look-up tool?

The Follow Your Box look-up tool references the email address you entered when you completed this year’s Follow Your Box donation. If you used a different email address to Follow Your Box in previous years, enter in that email address in the look-up tool’s search function.

Why does it show that my shoebox has been scanned but not that it has been shipped?

The Follow Your Box label is scanned during processing in mid-November through mid-December. Most shoeboxes are shipped immediately after processing, but some shipments may be delayed by customs procedures. The country destination of your gift will display in the Follow Your Box look-up tool as soon as its shipment has been confirmed. Shoebox outreach events typically occur from late December through mid-year as National Leadership Teams and local believers coordinate shoebox distributions in communities they have identified.

The look-up tool indicated that my shoeboxes were shipped in December. How did this happen so quickly?

Shoeboxes are scanned when they are processed in mid-November through mid-December. Most of them are then shipped out immediately. This does not mean they have arrived yet, simply that the shipping container is on its way to the country destination.

Shoebox Drop Off

Where should I take my packed shoebox gift?

We have drop-off locations around the United States during National Collection Week, the third week in November each year. Find the location nearest to you.

Do you accept shoebox gifts year-round or just in November?

We do accept shoebox gifts at our headquarters year-round. They can be mailed to Samaritan’s Purse, 801 Bamboo Road, Boone, NC, 28607. We also hear of many churches, families, and groups who collect items monthly. It’s good for each shoebox to contain at least one “wow” item, such as a doll or soccer ball, as well as other fun toys, hygiene items, and school supplies. If you make your own year-round packing list, be sure to include a mixture of these items, as well as one month for collecting the suggested $9 per box donation. Here is our suggestion of monthly items for those who would like to pack year-round:

  • January – Hats, Gloves & Scarves
  • February – Dental Hygiene Items
  • March – Quality Crafts
  • April – Stuffed Animals
  • May – Hygiene items
  • June – Toys
  • July – Clothing Items
  • August – School Supplies
  • September – Games
  • October – Letter & Photo
  • November – $9 Donation
  • December – Prayer

Learn more about year-round packing and other fun tips.

Build a Shoebox Online

What is Build a Shoebox Online?

With just a few clicks, you can pack an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift online to help share God’s love with a boy or girl in need around the world. Simply select toys and other fun items you’d like to include from our collection, and personalize your gift with your own letter and photo. We’ll pack the gift for you and send it on its way for a suggested donation of just $25.

Can I choose which country my shoebox gift will go to?

No. As with all shoebox gifts, there is no way for us to designate the specific country to which your gift will be sent.

When are they delivered?

Boxes that are built through Build a Shoebox Online are assembled after Processing Season and delivered throughout the year.

Can you guarantee the items I choose for my box?

Shoebox gifts built online will be packed with the items you have selected or comparable items. Occasionally we have to switch out similar items based on demand and availability.

Is there a deadline for Build a Shoebox Online?

You can build a shoebox online year-round, but keep in mind that shoeboxes built after December 31 will not count in the current year’s shoebox total.

What items are included in “essentials”?

The essential items cover personal care items and school supplies. They vary slightly depending on the age and gender for which you are packing. These items include chalk (age 2-4), crayons, colored pencils, notebook, pencils, pencil sharpener, pens (age 5-9 and 10-14), a comb or brush, and a toothbrush.

Can I choose a plastic box for my shoebox gift built online?

No, all shoebox gifts built online are packed in sturdy corrugated cardboard material. Our corrugated cardboard shoeboxes are a great option as they are both strong and durable and also recyclable.

Is the $9 donation per shoebox gift covered in the $25 Build a Shoebox Online donation?

Yes, the $9 donation per shoebox gift is already included in the price of building a shoebox online.

Can I follow my shoebox through Build a Shoebox Online?

Yes, shoebox gifts built online automatically will be tracked through Follow Your Box. Samaritan’s Purse will send a link via the Follow Your Box look-up tool to the email address associated with your donation. Many of the shoebox gifts built online are delivered to hard-to-reach areas.

If I use Build a Shoebox Online this year, can I designate my box for my specific church so that it will be counted in my church's shoebox numbers?

Shoebox gifts donated from our Build a Shoebox Online page can’t be assigned to a specific church or group; however, church project leaders can create a Build a Shoebox Online goal page where they are able to set a specific goal and deadline for shoebox gifts built online and keep track of the donations made through their goal page. We encourage you to connect with the project leader at your church to find out if there is a Build a Shoebox Online goal page already set up where you can donate toward your church or group goal.

Build a Shoebox Online Goal Pages

Do you have any tips for creating and promoting a goal page?

Ideas and resources for this process are available in our Goal Page Tips PDF.

Will my goal page be published instantly?

No, after you create your goal page, you’ll receive an email with an invitation to confirm the page. This will generate an email to Operation Christmas Child, who will approve or reject the page within 24 hours.

If someone packs a shoebox through Build a Shoebox Online and not a goal page, is there a way to include them in my goal page count?

No, the system is only able to count transactions that were placed through the designated goal page.

Can I edit my goal page once it's published?

Yes, changes can be made to a published goal page. It is important to note that changes will be sent to Operation Christmas Child for approval. This process can take up to 24 hours.

How long does my church or group have to complete or our goal?

You will decide the time frame needed to reach your goal. Goal pages can be created with deadlines up to 365 days out. After the established end date, users can no longer contribute shoeboxes gifts to your current goal page. Please note that any shoebox gifts built after December 31 will not be counted in the current year’s shoebox total.

Once my goal page campaign ends, can people still pack toward our goal?

No, once your campaign ends, you can direct individuals to pack through Build a Shoebox Online, but your goal page will no longer be active. No additional shoeboxes gifts can be added towards your goal.

If someone wants to donate funds to my goal page, can others build and personalize the gifts without having to pay?

No, the same person who makes the donation will need to build their own shoebox gifts through your goal page. We’re unable to transfer or save funds to your account in order to build shoebox gifts later.

Evangelism & Discipleship

What is the GREATEST JOURNEY app?


GREATEST JOURNEY is a fun, exciting way for kids to explore the Bible and learn how to follow Jesus! Aboard a time-traveling spaceship that players captain, GREATEST JOURNEY gives kids a bird’s-eye view of the Old and New Testaments, introducing them to major events in the Bible and focusing on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. GREATEST JOURNEY is based on the international discipleship course created by Samaritan’s Purse for children who receive Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

How much does the app cost?

The app download is FREE, with no in-app purchases or advertisements.

What are the recommended ages for the app?

The application is targeted to 5- to 9-year-olds.

Where can I download the GREATEST JOURNEY app?

It’s currently available on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Is the app available on Amazon?

We are currently exploring additional App Stores, such as Amazon—but right now the GREATEST JOURNEY app is only available through the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Is the app available in my country?

GREATEST JOURNEY is available for download in over 140 countries (English only). Check the Apple App Store and Google Play for the latest download.

What if I am having trouble launching the application?

Make sure that all other applications are closed:

    iPhone 8 or older:

  • Double-press the Home button. This starts the app switcher, where you should see all of your apps represented as cards.
  • Swipe side-to-side through your apps until you find the one you want to close.
  • Swipe up on all of the apps you want to close. When it disappears off the top of the screen, it’s closed.
  • When you’re done closing apps, tap anywhere on the screen other than the cards, or press the Home button to close the app switcher.

  • iPhone X/iPad

  • On an iPhone X or later, an iPad with iOS 12 or later, or iPadOS, from the Home screen, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and pause slightly in the middle of the screen.
  • Swipe right or left to find the app that you want to close.
  • Swipe up on the app’s preview to close the app.

Uninstall/reinstall the application

  • Touch and hold the GREATEST JOURNEY application icon on the Home screen, then tap Edit Home Screen. The apps begin to jiggle.
  • Tap on the app you want to remove, then tap Delete.
  • Re-download the application.
What if I am not getting any sound at all?

Makes sure the “Ring/Silent” button is the ring position, and that the volume is turned up.

What if I am not hearing any voice, music, or sound effects within the application?

Launch the application. Before starting or continuing a new game, click on the setting gear image in the lower right side of this screen. Make sure all of the sliders are moved to the top.

What is The Greatest Journey discipleship program?

Samaritan’s Purse offers this 12-lesson, international discipleship program for Operation Christmas Child shoebox recipients.

What if I have another question, feedback, and/or recommendation that is not addressed above?

For any additional questions or concerns, please email us directly.

I need more help in learning how to play the game. Is there a game manual?

Yes. This game manual will walk you through how to build a character and play all of the mini-games.

The Greatest Gift

What is The Greatest Gift?

This Gospel booklet available in more than 75 languages is given out with shoebox gifts around the world. With the Apostle John as narrator, the booklet shares 11 Scripture stories and invites children to follow Christ.

The Greatest Journey Around the World

What is The Greatest Journey?

The Greatest Journey is a discipleship experience offered by local churches to many of the children who receive shoebox gifts. The 12-lesson program introduces boys and girls to salvation through faith in Christ and encourages them to grow as faithful followers. This connects children to local churches who can, through discipling relationships, teach and nurture the children in faith.

How can I participate?

The Greatest Journey is an investment not only in children, but also in the teachers and the local churches that can learn, grow, and continue to serve Christ with the momentum that is gained through the program. It takes $6 to provide a child the opportunity to participate in The Greatest Journey and receive discipleship materials, including a certificate and New Testament in their language. You can support The Greatest Journey to further this work around the world.

The Greatest Journey in the U.S.

Can I offer The Greatest Journey in my U.S. city?

Yes. Discover this exciting opportunity to teach children about what happens after their shoebox gifts are delivered. They, too, can learn how to follow Christ and share Him with others like boys and girls all around the world. Learn more.

What age should participate?

Although the material can be used for any age, we have found that 6-12 year olds receive the most benefit.

When should we start?

The Greatest Journey is a 12-lesson program that is typically implemented one lesson per week. You can start your discipleship program any time that works best for your schedule. One good option is starting in the fall, leading up to a graduation celebration during National Collection Week, the third week of November.

How long does it take to receive materials?

Please allow two to three weeks for material delivery.

How long does teacher training take?

We suggest you allow two hours to complete the training. The online training video walks you through different aspects of the discipleship materials and how to prepare for The Greatest Journey.

What is a kick-off event?

A kick-off event will help children experience a shoebox gift distribution similar to distributions in other countries. But there’s a twist. During the event, you’ll give children an empty shoebox and ask them to bring it back at the end of The Greatest Journey—filled with gift items to send to a child overseas. Children will have an opportunity to reach out to children in need and participate in the spread of the Gospel around the world.

Why should I host a graduation ceremony?

The Greatest Journey graduation ceremony is the perfect opportunity for children to share with your entire congregation what they learned during the discipleship program. Your congregation will be inspired to see the next generation live for God’s glory and give selflessly so that others have an opportunity to hear the Gospel.

What is the student to teacher ratio?

We suggest at least one teacher per 10 students so that teachers have more opportunities to engage with their students.

Global Influence of Operation Christmas Child

Who delivers shoebox gifts?

Operation Christmas Child is a global program facilitated through hundreds of thousands of trained volunteers. Local believers in more than 100 countries deliver Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts, present the Gospel, and facilitate our follow-up discipleship program, The Greatest Journey.

With this approach, local Christians who know the culture and language best are given effective resources with a solid biblical foundation to share the Gospel in their communities. We equip ministry partners—a local pastor or church leader—to be our volunteer representatives by providing thorough, detailed training for them to be able to facilitate a shoebox outreach event and present the Gospel.

Trained National Leadership Team members, ministry partners, and The Greatest Journey teachers are volunteer roles filled exclusively by these national Christians. To learn more about these roles, visit our Volunteer Network page.

How do shoebox gifts impact local economies?

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to provide local churches who are our ministry partners around the world with shoebox gifts as a way to reach children in their communities. For many children, this is the first gift they will ever receive. More important than the items inside the shoebox, the gifts are an opportunity to share God’s love—and the Good News of Jesus Christ—with children in need.

In each shoebox receiving country, we partner with a volunteer National Leadership Team that consists of year-round volunteers from various church denominations. Together, they strategize how to reach children in their country with the Gospel. It is our desire to give one shoebox to a child in their lifetime, and this is the model used in our training. Local churches distribute shoebox gifts to children in different communities each year. Because of this strategy, the economic impact on a community is minimal which allows us to reach millions of new children every year with the Good News of Jesus Christ and disciple many, with millions now sharing their faith with their friends, family, and beyond.

According to Henry Manthanamba, Operation Christmas Child prayer coordinator in Malawi, “If shoebox gifts impacted our local economy negatively, the government would never allow them. They see it as a blessing to the children of Malawi.”

How do shoebox gifts impact the local church?

In more than 100 receiving countries, shoebox gifts are used by local Christians as a strategy for evangelism, discipleship, and the multiplication of believers and churches in their communities. More important than the items inside the shoebox, the gifts are an opportunity to share God’s love—and the Good News of Jesus Christ—with children in need. Local Christians who know the culture and language best are given effective resources in their own language and a solid Biblical foundation so that they can communicate the Gospel within their own communities through shoebox outreach events and The Greatest Journey discipleship program.

For example, in Fiji, a pastor hosted an Operation Christmas Child shoebox outreach event in a rural community that had no church. He then invited the children to attend The Greatest Journey follow-up discipleship program. As the students gathered for the discipleship lessons, their parents grew curious and began attending too. The village elder became a believer and offered his property as a place for the new church to meet. Today 80 people attend regularly, and five additional churches have been started in surrounding villages! This is one example of hundreds of churches planted annually as a result of Operation Christmas Child in regions where we work.

The evangelism and discipleship resources utilized by Operation Christmas Child were intentionally developed with input from local believers in 16 countries, from six continents, and are specifically focused on children.

In the seven countries where shoebox gifts are packed, Operation Christmas Child provides an opportunity for participants to be a part of fulfilling the Great Commission. Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In this church-to-church ministry model, churches who pack shoebox gifts partner with local churches around the world as they share God’s love with children in need and provide follow-up discipleship through The Greatest Journey.

How are different cultures and local contexts incorporated into shoebox distribution events?

More than 75,000 pastors and church leaders share the Gospel every year at outreach events where shoebox gifts are delivered. The shoebox outreach events are planned and implemented by volunteers in the local church who know the culture and language best. Through our volunteer National Leadership Team, local believers are trained to present the Gospel in a child friendly way. We work with the volunteer National Leadership Team to develop an annual strategy for evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication of believers and churches in their communities.

Do children have to say or do anything to receive a shoebox gift?

Shoebox gifts are given to children regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or faith. We seek to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way through each shoebox gift. Children do not have to do or say anything to receive the gifts. We work in and through local Christians in each country who understand the context in their area. Simple gifts—packed with love in Jesus’ Name—deliver hope and joy to children all around the world, regardless of their faith or religious background.

How does a shoebox gift impact a child in need?

Operation Christmas Child is not intended as a solution for meeting physical needs, but rather a strategy for the local church to meet spiritual needs of children in their communities. The unexpected gift delights and sparks hope in the life of a child as they hear of Jesus’ love for them. Shoebox gifts are given freely in Jesus’ Name.

Serving with OCC

Processing Center Volunteer

How can I move through check-in quickly?

Groups that complete online waivers for all members before arriving at the processing center earn a FAST PASS to expedite the check-in process. Every member of the group must be in attendance in order to qualify for the FAST PASS. For more information about the FAST PASS, see the next FAQ section.

Can I update my reservation?

You can manage your reservation at occvolunteersignup.com. If your group size decreases, it is critical to the operation of the processing center that you notify us so these spaces may be made available to volunteers on our waiting list. To increase your group size, check availability at occvolunteersignup.com.

What are the roles at a processing center?

Every volunteer in the processing center plays an important role in the ministry of Operation Christmas Child, ensuring the integrity and successful delivery of the gifts. Volunteers in the processing center form teams and perform all the tasks necessary to process the shoeboxes at one location. Teams are responsible for removing financial contributions from the shoeboxes, inspecting the gifts, sorting inappropriate items, working with filler items, separating boxes by age and gender, and boxing shoeboxes in designated cartons. Due to the fast-paced environment of the warehouse and changing needs, you may be asked to do different tasks. We appreciate your flexibility.

Are there employment opportunities? What are the dates of operation?

Processing centers are open late November to mid-December to prepare gifts for international shipping.

Can any age volunteer?

All volunteers must be at least 13 years of age, regardless of a student’s grade level. Due to the warehouse environment, we can allow no exceptions to this age requirement. At least one chaperone for every four youth is required (youth volunteers include any volunteers between the ages of 13-17). The primary responsibility of a chaperone is to ensure the safety and appropriate behavior of your youth. For the safety of all volunteers in the warehouse, processing center staff reserve the right to ask any group not acting in accordance with safety procedures and outlined policies to leave the building at any time.

What if my child is too young to volunteer?

Children under the age of 13 are not able to volunteer in a Processing Center; however, tours are available throughout the season when families with children under 13 or individuals who want to know more about the project can come to the processing center. The tours help people learn about the journey of a shoebox, what we do at the warehouse, and how they can pray for children receiving boxes. Please contact your local processing center to register for a tour, offered Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at select times.

What is the address of the processing centers?

The locations of our processing centers vary year-to-year, depending on warehouse availability. Address information will be added to this page once secured.

What should I wear to the processing centers?

Our processing centers are set up in warehouses, so please make proper provisions to be comfortably and appropriately dressed for this environment. It is best to be prepared with closed-toe shoes appropriate for standing for long periods, and warm, layered, casual clothes as the temperature inside can vary. Breaks are available as needed.

Can I bring food for my group?

You are welcome to take breaks as needed during your time with us. A break area in the processing center has vending machines and space to store your meals and snacks. Ice is not provided; however, you may bring your own coolers. All food and drinks must remain inside the break area. Please be advised that tobacco products are prohibited on the property.

What if the day I’d like to serve is full?

First, join the waiting list for your preferred time, then search for other options available. We typically have the most open time slots during the week and in the evenings. After that, check back throughout the season—time slots open regularly as registered group sizes decrease.

Fast Pass

What is a FAST PASS?

A FAST PASS allows your group to expedite check in at the Processing Center and provides each group member with a printed name tag.

How can I qualify for a FAST PASS?

There are two qualifiers for a FAST PASS:

  1. Every member in a group must complete their online waiver before arriving at a Processing Center.
  2. A group size must match the number of reserved spots. If a reservation is for 10 spots, all 10 members must show up to be eligible for a FAST PASS. If a member is unable to attend, the reservation must be updated to reflect the new group size.

How can I update my reservation?

Reservations can be updated at www.occvolunteersignup.com.

When is the last date I can update my reservation?

Reservations can be updated any time before your selected date and time. You can even update your reservation before you leave for the Processing Center. If your group size decreases, it is critical to the operation of the Processing Center that you notify us so these spaces may be made available to volunteers on our waiting list. To increase your group size, check availability at www.occvolunteersignup.com.

Where do I find the waiver forms?

When Volunteer Coordinators invite group members to join a reservation, an email is sent to each group member with a link that will guide them through submitting their waiver. In order for your group to qualify for a FAST PASS, all group members must complete their online waiver.

How do I use my FAST PASS?

Volunteer Coordinators will receive an email with a QR Code when they have qualified for a FAST PASS. When your group arrives at the Processing Center, there will be a priority line where you can scan your QR Code and go straight to orientation.

Volunteer Year-Round

How can I serve with Operation Christmas Child in my area?

Dedicated volunteers work year-round to promote and pray for Operation Christmas Child. Starting in September, people can sign up to volunteer at processing centers as well. Check out our long-term and short-term volunteer opportunities pages. We also have a resource page full of ideas and materials that will help you, your family, church, business, or community center get involved in Operation Christmas Child.

Have questions or suggestions? Email occinfo@samaritan.org

Share This Page