Police officers from Calgary and Edmonton make a difference in the lives of hundreds of children in Costa Rica by participating in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox distribution.
The atmosphere was electric. We had barely stepped off the bus and into the gym but it was clear the kids knew something was up. The cement floor of the school’s gym was filling up with 550 elementary school children who, in that moment, looked like they didn’t have a care in the world. Their excitement was bouncing off the walls.
It was shoebox distribution day at the Escuela Esmeralda Oreamuno school in Tabas, San Jose, Costa Rica. Our Canadian Police team was ready to distribute Operation Christmas Child gift-filled shoe boxes with the help of a few local Costa Rican Police officers. The goal for all of us was to share the power of those simple gifts. To bring joy and hope to children who may be buzzing with excitement in this moment but whose everyday life wasn’t as safe and happy.
In fact over 90% of the children we would meet were from Triangulo dela Solidaridad, a slum community mostly made up of Nicaraguan families who left the poverty and challenges of home. Unfortunately the trek to Costa Rica didn’t bring increased status or fortune. Instead children and families that live in this slum daily weave their way through small pathways that can often bring danger and violence. Children try to dodge rampant drug use, hidden and painful sexual abuse, open prostitution, neglect from parents, and many addictions that claim their hearts and minds over time. Only some are successful in moving beyond the dangers of their community. School here has become a daytime refuge for those that don’t have the stability at home. Even though school is a safe place almost 60% of children drop out of school before they reach 7th grade.
And here we were. We came knowing full well the power behind a shoebox—the hundreds of prayers that were prayed as each individual shoebox was packed. I’m thankful God will follow these children back into the slum at night, long after we disappeared back into our bus. The energy in that moment was electric but the thank you hugs and tears helped me to understand this moment does not end when we leave. It’s merely an open door for God’s to love to reach into the lives of each one on their road to wholeness and hope.