An Operation Christmas Child volunteer in Fiji offers insight into how shoebox gifts are making a difference in the lives of children and families in the island nation.
Meet Ravina Kumar, national discipleship coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in Fiji. She is one of 6,100 people globally who volunteer on National Leadership Teams to guide our efforts in evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication within their respective countries. Read on to learn more about how the ministry is advancing the Gospel in the Pacific through gift-filled shoeboxes and our follow-up discipleship program, The Greatest Journey.
Q: Can you share about the perception of Fiji and contrast that with the reality of it?
A: Fiji, like a coin, has two sides. The first side is the good side. Fiji is paradise—a very beautiful paradise with lovely beaches and friendly people all around. The other side of the coin are the many challenges. We have cyclones every year from November to April, and a lot of floods that hit the towns and villages. During these floods, the children are affected. Sometimes their school books get washed away. They have to leave their house and stay in evacuation centers for weeks. These are some of the challenges.
Q: How has God shown Himself faithful even during the challenges with violent weather?
A: Rain or shine—cyclone or flood—ministry has to move and so does the Operation Christmas Child team. We push through. Sometimes we have to go out in the weather to reach out to those children. After cyclones have done lots of damage, the work of Operation Christmas Child gives children and their families hope. We give them these Gospel boxes because we want them to know that even though their house is blown away, someone is there who is loving them.
Q: Describe the reaction when a child opens that shoebox gift.
A: When children open their boxes, you can only hear, “Yay! Yay!” You can’t even talk, and, if you want to quiet them, it’s impossible. You can hear the laughter, you can hear the cheer, you can hear the cries, all sorts of noise. You go around and see the children showing their toys. You can see all kinds of reaction from the children. They are so into their boxes that sometimes they don’t want to go home. They close their box, and again they open it. They look again, then they close it. For a while they look in other boxes, then they open theirs again. The excitement goes and goes for I don’t know how long. They all thank us. If you were there, you would be like a child, too.
Q: Can you describe the joy you see on the children’s faces who have come from all over Fiji?
A: I witnessed one outreach event which touched my heart a lot. Children were walking barefoot and from far they came. They were very respectful children and listened to the Gospel presentation. When the time came to open the shoeboxes, I saw a child holding his box, hugging it, and then he started to cry loudly. I asked, “My son, why are you crying?” He said, “Auntie, I go to school barefoot. I don’t have flip flops. I share with my sister a pair of shoes. When I go to school, some children come with their expensive shoes and they show off. All the time, I pray. Even today, in the morning I asked, ‘Please Jesus, give me shoes as a gift.’” And I asked, “You didn’t receive it?“ He opened the box and showed me. It was a pair of brand name shoes with fancy lights. He was so happy he was kissing the shoes. Maybe the whole of his life he’ll remember it. The Lord gives more through these gift boxes than what the children ask.
Q: How is The Greatest Journey discipleship course effective in helping children grow in their faith?
A: The Greatest Journey program is a simple way for them to understand the love of Christ, why He came here, what He’s done for us, and how He loves us. When we go to the interior, when we go into villages, we see children who receive the boxes, and they go through these 12 lessons. After their graduation, we hear the testimonies. Because they started praying through the lessons, the children now know how to pray. Through their prayers, their families are back together. Parents who were apart, they come together.
Q: What makes you proud when you look at The Greatest Journey students?
A: Through The Greatest Journey, they come to know new things. As a mother, if my child comes to know the truth and then accept Christ, follow Him, and understand the meaning of their own life and purpose, it fills me with joy that my child is on the right path. If they are going out sharing who Christ is with a small memory verse from The Greatest Journey booklet, if they share with someone at the bus stand or on the playground or with anyone in the school and that child receives it, they start getting excited. It fills me with joy that my job is done. This child from The Greatest Journey class is going out and sharing. Then I can see there is the multiplication. That’s what I feel as a mother—I’m so happy to see my child growing in Christ through The Greatest Journey and Operation Christmas Child.
Q: Can you tell us why prayer is important for Operation Christmas Child and The Greatest Journey?
A: We go through many challenges, and we know we can’t do it by ourselves. “Not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). When we pray, we can see the move of God. When we pray, we can see the way has been made, the roads have been cleared, the rain stops, the flood goes down. We can see all kinds of movement when we stop and pray, because when we pray, God moves.
Q: How can people pray for Fiji?
A: Pray for our team as we walk together, volunteering and partnering with local churches, so that we can reach more children and touch every heart with the Gospel and the love of Jesus Christ.