#ShoeboxStories: Elvina and Chewing Gum



#shoeboxstories is a series by shoebox recipients who give a first-hand account of the eternal impact of a gift delivered in Jesus’ Name.



The Chewing Gum

Elvina received a shoebox in Ukraine at age 7.

One of my favorite gifts in my shoebox was chewing gum. It was my first experience with it. I never knew that you could chew something for such a long time and it would not dissolve in your mouth!

I chewed it all day, and before I went to sleep I stuck it to the headboard. The next day I chewed it again. When it lost flavor, I added another piece to it, and when the gum ran out, I added jam to sweeten it. I chewed all this gum for about a month.

Then there was the doll.

My parents couldn’t even afford to buy food for all seven of us kids, so they couldn’t give us gifts—not even at Christmas or birthdays. But being a child I always dreamed of having a little toy.

She said, “If you want that doll you will have to pray for it.”

My neighbor gave us a doll she found in the garbage that was ugly and had wire hair. When my sister and I started fighting over her, my father got sick of it and threw it in the fire. It was a tragedy to me.

I started begging my mom to buy me a doll. She said, “If you want that doll you will have to pray for it. I cannot afford it.”

I thought my mom would actually get it for me, so I made sure she was around when I prayed. I would start, “Dear God…” and then look at my mom.

It was very cold in Ukraine when I received my shoebox. People were going door-to-door giving the boxes away. The only thing I heard was that every child in the family would have one of their own. So I grabbed a random shoebox and went to my room. I didn’t stay to listen to their program.

I opened the box hoping to find a doll. But when I went through the gifts there wasn’t one. I was so disappointed. I put it all back and ran to exchange it for another box but they were already leaving.

There was a lot of good stuff in my box but at the very top of my sister’s box there was a pretty doll in a pink dress. I told her, “You took mine. I had been praying for that one.”

“The shoebox was that first step in my faith when I realized that God is real.”

She didn’t want to give it to me, though. She was only two years older.

Then my mother opened the box for my little brother who was only 2 and found that someone had put a little doll in there. She gave it to me. It was such a miracle! It was the first time I realized that prayer was something real.

Later I had a lot of challenges getting to know God and trusting in Him so every time I had a problem I prayed, “God, do you remember that box? A long time ago you heard my fake little prayer and You answered it, so I know You can do much more.”

The shoebox was something very simple but it was the tool that helped me build my trust in the Lord and in prayer.

“It was a miracle to receive something I’d been praying for in a unique way.”

Receiving the shoebox also impacted my life as I was growing up. The prayer that was packed into the box was what really mattered. When I was stepping back from my Christian life, it was prayer that brought me back. Now I understand that so many people had been praying for me, and that’s what helped me return to the Lord.

The shoebox was that first step in my faith when I realized that God is not just a fairy tale or not just a story that my parents told me. It was a miracle to receive something I’d been praying for in a unique way through my brother’s box.

God is not just a hero in a book but He is real and can do a lot of things in our lives—even the little things.

Starting in 2017, candy and toothpaste will not be allowed in shoebox gifts due to customs regulations. We remain confident, however, that your gift will still delight a child in need.

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.