Boys and girls on the Caribbean island of Antigua receive Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
On Dec. 28-29, Franklin Graham and members of his extended family traveled to the Caribbean island of Antigua to distribute shoebox gifts to children in need. Two Operation Christmas Child outreach events took place on Friday at local churches and two more occurred on Saturday, blessing a total of 450 children.
The Grahams continue the more than 25-year Samaritan’s Purse history of giving gift-filled shoeboxes to children as a tangible expression of God’s love.
“I want every child to know there is a God who loves them,” Franklin Graham said. He was joined on this trip by two of his sons—Roy and Will—and several of his grandchildren.
Mark Houghton, Operation Christmas Child regional manager for the Caribbean, says the boxes distributed by the Grahams go to children who face challenging circumstances.
“There’s still a lot of poverty in Antigua,” he said. “There are a lot of broken families and with that—a lot of times—their Christmas isn’t that great. For the children to be celebrated is a powerful experience for them. It moves beyond receiving a gift of joy to an opportunity to hear about the hope and salvation found in Christ.”
Each shoebox is packed full of toys, school supplies, and hygiene items to delight a child. As local churches distribute the gifts at outreach events, the Gospel is shared in a child-friendly way. In addition, boys and girls are invited to participate in our 12-lesson follow-up discipleship program, The Greatest Journey, where they learn to follow Christ and share Him with others.
“Shoebox gifts build bridges to parents and have a lasting impact in the community beyond just the box,” Houghton said.
Samaritan’s Purse began distributing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in Antigua in 2017 in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. It’s sister island, Barbuda, was nearly completely destroyed in the storm and its residents evacuated to Antigua. More than 9,300 children received shoebox gifts last year—some of whom had seen their homes and communities on Barbuda demolished by the storm.
“In our first year in Antigua, participating Operation Christmas Child churches have grown in number and have a renewed desire to share the Gospel with the unchurched,” said Bill Pfister, senior regional director for the Americas and Caribbean.
Antigua also served as Samaritan’s Purse base of operations for relief and rebuilding efforts on Barbuda and nearby Dominica, which suffered damage from Hurricane Maria less than two weeks after Hurricane Irma.
Through this combined effort, Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers have repaired more than 500 roofs, including those on 16 churches. In addition, we distributed more than 12 million liters of clean water between the two locations. Our follow-up investment in women’s and sports ministries, as well as livelihood programs, also assisted in the islands’ recovery.
There’s still time to pack shoeboxes online. It’s a convenient way to bless a child in need!