Zac and a Yellow Yo-yo

Zac and a Yellow Yo-yo

Receiving a shoebox gift taught me lessons of faith that I now share with others.

My four siblings and I grew up playing with sticks and stones in my home country of Fiji. We played with what was available because exchanging gifts wasn’t common in our culture. And, for our family of seven, we couldn’t afford extras. Necessity was the mother of invention as neighborhood children would play rugby using empty soda bottles.

My family lived near a river that flooded each year during the rainy season. My father, who was a pastor, and several men from the church routinely had to go down river to fetch pieces of our church’s structure that had been swept away in the downpour. They would then try to reattach the pieces.

My parents stayed faithful to God and relied on Him to provide for their needs. The power of prayer made it possible for me and my siblings to attend school, because otherwise our parents wouldn’t have been able to afford it. But, somehow, God always provided what was needed.

I placed my trust in Jesus Christ as my Savior at age 5 at a revival camp meeting in my grandmother’s village. Four years later, I received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift during a special event at church.

Atmosphere of Joy

My mom oversaw the shoebox distribution, calling the names of the children invited from the community first, before the regular Sunday School participants. My name was last to make sure that the other kids had received gifts. While I was initially a little worried that the gifts might run out before she got to me, the spirit of celebration as my friends opened their gifts caught my attention.

The joy in the room was infectious. Love, joy, excitement—receiving a shoebox teaches these virtues and so many more.

When it was my turn to open my box, the first thing I experienced was the clean, fresh smell of everything inside. I even recall the crisp smell of the pages of a coloring book I received. The coloring book had Bible stories in black and white that were brought to life when you put colors in them.

I was overjoyed to receive school supplies, such as pencils and crayons, as well as a jump rope and toy cars, for which I made dirt tracks around the outside of my house. I couldn’t believe it as I pulled one toy after the other from my box. My favorite item was a yellow yo-yo. I had seen them in stores but always had to leave them behind because something like that was financially out of reach.

To receive your own toy like that was a jaw-dropping moment. It was so precious that I gave it to my grandmother each day for safekeeping while I was at school, and I kept it close beside me at night. I looked forward to being able to play with it each day after school.

One day, I returned home to find that my grandmother had lent the yo-yo to my cousin.

At first, I was upset. But then I realized that I needed to learn to share out of the blessings that God had given me.

To me, the yo-yo was more than plastic and string. It was a seed that a family from the U.S. gave so God could sow that seed of love into my heart.

Leading Youth

I used to be a kid on the other side of the globe who received a shoebox. I’m a living, walking testimony to what you all are planting.

When I came to the U.S., I looked up local shoebox drop-off locations from the list online so that I could participate in packing shoeboxes. After years of service in the U.S. Army, I became a children’s and youth director as well as the project leader for Operation Christmas Child at my church.

Our mission—evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication—is where my heart is. Packing a shoebox may look like a little thing, but it’s very impactful. It’s the footprint and fingerprint of God. It shaped me and continues to shape kids around the world.

Now, I’m part of that sowing and reaping for the Gospel, taking the Good News to people around the world who don’t know Christ.

Operation Christmas Child outreach efforts in Fiji are part of a Pacific islands initiative to share the Gospel with at least 500,000 children in 1,000 Pacific islands by 2023.

Zac at an early age Zac's youth group Zac with his family

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