When I was just over a year old, doctors told my mother that I would never be able to walk. Not knowing how to care for me, my mother left me in a hospital. Thanks to doctors and nurses who did not give up on me, I began to walk and was placed in an orphanage when I was 3 years old.
On a cold day nine years later, I noticed other kids in the orphanage carrying shoeboxes. I was very curious what was inside them! So I got in the back of a long line and could hardly wait my turn. I was one of the last ones to receive a shoebox.
When I finally had one in my hands, my teacher told us that we had to wait to open them until we were back in our classroom. That meant a seven-minute walk up five flights of stairs. I couldn’t wait that long! I tried to peak inside my box, but my teacher said, “Nope! Close it! We all need to go to the class.”
When I finally got there and opened it, the first thing I saw was a little round, white music box that played Christmas music. I liked it because I could put it in my hat, hiding it from the other orphans who beat kids and checked their pockets in order to take things from them.
When I tucked the music box in the fold of my winter hat, it played music in my ear. I remember kids watching me while I bounced along to the music. They heard the noise, but didn’t see me carrying anything.
Eventually, though, I became careless and an older girl heard the music. She asked what it was and I had to show her. I begged, “Look, you can take whatever you want from my shoebox, but don’t take this away from me.”
But she took it, stepped on it, and broke it. I was so mad at her for ruining my new happiness— the music box was mine for two days at the most.
The other thing in my box that I especially liked was a Lego man. I liked him because he also was little and I could hide him. I tried not to play with him except when I was by myself, so people wouldn’t see him.
But when I took the Lego man out to play with another orphan, an older girl saw it. The next thing I knew, five older girls ganged up on me and took him. I cried because he was my imaginary person. I had him for about a month.
Even though I no longer had these toys, my shoebox gift meant I was special. I was loved. It meant someone cared for me.
That same year, I attended a camp where they talked about Jesus. I had heard about God, but didn’t really know who He is. I imagined a huge man with a white beard sitting in a big arm chair looking down at people as little ants.
But a woman gave me a New Testament and explained that I could ask Jesus into my heart. She said I could talk to Him at any time. This meant a lot to me because I talked to myself often—not aloud, but in my thoughts.
Now I knew someone would hear me whether I was sad, happy, or even had questions. The woman told me that God could be my best friend, brother, and even my parent. I thought, Now I can have a best friend with me no matter what!
When I got back to the orphanage, people saw a change in me. I had Jesus in my heart. No one could take that away from me!
Years later, I had an opportunity to come to the United States to do some translation work for missionaries who had served in Romania. I met my husband and now we have a baby girl. I can’t wait to pack shoeboxes with her one day.
#shoeboxstories is an ongoing series in which shoebox recipients share about the eternal impact of a simple gift.
Operation Christmas Child delivers great joy to millions of children around the world through shoeboxes lovingly and prayerfully packed with gifts that will bring delight to a child. In the hands of local churches, every gift-filled shoebox is a powerful tool for evangelism and discipleship—transforming the lives of children and their families around the world through the Good News of Jesus Christ! After receiving shoebox gifts, boys and girls are invited to enroll in The Greatest Journey, our 12-lesson discipleship program where children learn what it means to faithfully follow Christ and share their faith with others.