Motivated by fond memories of packing shoebox gifts at Sunday school, a Canadian teen takes the reins and starts Operation Christmas Child again at her church.
Operation Christmas Child is creating wonderful childhood memories around the world-not only for those who receive gift-filled shoeboxes-but also for Olivia and others like her, who put the ‘give’ in “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b, NIV).
Olivia, 15, enjoys packing shoeboxes with her church, Rexdale Alliance, in Toronto, Ontario.
The 15-year-old fondly remembers packing shoeboxes during her Sunday school days. “When I was younger, they did Operation Christmas Child every year in my Sunday school and with the entire congregation,” she explained. She recalls getting points for memorizing Scripture verses, and then being able to spend those points on items to fill shoeboxes.
“I remember they had big plastic boxes or small cardboard ones,” Olivia said. “My friend and I decided to combine points to get the big ones.” She remembers stuffing one box so full it was difficult to close. “We were so excited!”
Though her church (Rexdale Alliance in Toronto, Ontario) stopped running Operation Christmas Child for several years as a result of retiring leadership, Olivia continued participating by hosting packing parties at her home. She’d invite friends from church and school, and continues to do so to this day.
Recently, Olivia took up the torch and received permission to start Operation Christmas Child again at Rexdale Alliance, specifically in children’s and youth ministries. “I wanted other kids in the Sunday school to have that experience,” she said.
“With so many other things it’s donating money, but with this, it’s like you’re personally doing something for somebody that they’re going to get to touch.”
A Team Effort
Olivia wasn’t the only one among her friends who cherished packing boxes at church as children; no sooner did Olivia ask her peers if they wanted to be involved in Operation Christmas Child at their church again than she felt she could have sat back and let them run it.
Toys and toothbrushes make great additions to shoeboxes.
But she didn’t. With their help, she made presentations to every Sunday school class about Operation Christmas Child and sent home lists of items for each child to donate-pencils, facecloths, toys, toothbrushes, and more.
Just before National Collection Week (when all shoeboxes are rounded up and sent to a processing center), Olivia and her team planned that all the donated items would be set up on tables. Each Sunday school class would then tour through to choose the items they wanted to pack in their boxes.
One of Olivia’s friends lovingly displayed the items for the children to see, even making a pyramid out of bars of soap. When Olivia saw how thoughtfully her friend had arranged everything, she said, “It was just that moment for me; this isn’t going to be sitting on a table soon-this is going to be somebody’s present.”
Olivia most enjoyed helping the children pick out items and pack their shoeboxes. “They care what goes into them,” she said. “It’s really a blessing”-as will the 235 boxes the children packed be a blessing to those who receive them.
To others like her who might be considering starting Operation Christmas Child at their church, Olivia says, “Do it! It seems really scary-you’re worried that nobody else is going to be there, just you-but in reality it brings people together. It seems like you’re just watching it happen!”
“There’s so much love that goes into it from the community that comes around it,” she continues. “I think what I took away most from this experience was seeing everyone come together as a church community.”
It’s not too late to pack shoeboxes! You can pack online at www.PackaBox.ca.