Kojo received a shoebox in Ghana, West Africa, at age 12.
#shoeboxgiftstories is an ongoing series in which shoebox recipients share about the eternal impact of a simple gift.
My family of nine shared a one-room clay house. We had little money or food. My mom worked in the local high school cafeteria and fed us with leftover rice and peanut soup. My dad worked in a sugar cane field. They loved us very much.
I walked two miles to school every day. During my long walks, I prayed and sang. I didn’t have enough money for lunch, so during that period I climbed a tree and waited in hunger for class to begin again. I am grateful for the challenges and financial difficulties I faced as a child, though, because they made me rely on God.
One Friday morning when I was 12 years old, my friends announced that they were not going to school that day, so I went alone. That afternoon, most of my classmates had already gone home when we heard a loud noise. The teacher told us to go outside and see what was happening. We found that children from four to five other schools had come to join us for a program about God. During this special event, I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
The leaders taught us the song “Jesus Loves Me.” Normally when I learn a new song, it doesn’t stick—but this one did.
Then they started distributing shoeboxes. Going to school that morning, I felt tired, but when I got the box, I felt so strong. I felt something new. I was so excited I ran home to show my box to my family. I had never received a gift before, but inside my shoebox I found a yo-yo, a toy car, and some pencils—pencils made in the United States! I felt so proud that someone in America loved me.
“The challenges and financial difficulties I faced as a child made me rely on God.”
When my friends saw my gifts, they ran all the way to school to try and get one too, but they were all gone.
God used my shoebox to plant a seed in me. I started going to church every Wednesday and Sunday. I just wanted to sleep in the church because David said, “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1, KJV). I made the Lord my No. 1 priority.
I don’t have the yo-yo anymore. I don’t have the toy cars or the pencils either, but I have one thing that has not changed: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” The shoebox gave me all that I need and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ.
When I grew up, I applied to schools all over the world. Then I learned about Tusculum College in East Tennessee. I hadn’t heard of it before, but I applied and was accepted.
There, I went to a church that packed Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts, and it dawned on me that I received one of those as a child. That little yo-yo, those pencils, and that toy car brought me here. It reminds me of when David asks, “Who am I … that you have brought me thus far?” (2 Samuel 7:18, ESV).