Friends of Operation Christmas Child unpack the single word that, for each of them, describes why they pack gift-filled shoeboxes.
On social media this fall, Operation Christmas Child asked shoebox packers to pick one word that describes why they send gifts to boys and girls in need around the world. We thought you’d be encouraged to see some of the responses from our volunteers and staff as you prayerfully prepare to fill your own boxes with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items in time for National Collection Week, Nov. 16-22.
GOSPEL: The Good News, The Great Commission
“My one word is Gospel,” said Nathan Jansen. “That one word encompasses so much: Good News, the Great Commission, the hope of the world.”
Nathan served as a missionary in Southeast Asia for nine years before joining the staff of Operation Christmas Child. “One of the most difficult things that we struggled with on the mission field was finding bridges into the lives and hearts of those we were working to reach,” Nathan said. “When I heard about Operation Christmas Child, I was amazed how these simple shoebox gifts were used by the Lord to bring the Gospel to some of the most difficult places in the world.”
Nathan sees that shoebox gifts open hearts to God’s Greatest Gift—the Lord Jesus Christ. “I believe wholeheartedly that our generation can accomplish the Great Commission if we choose to do so as a Church,” he said.
Nathan hopes the word “Gospel” will prompt others to pack shoeboxes. He said, “I pray you’ll be encouraged, too, just with that word and knowing that God is bringing Good News and great joy to people all around the world.”
CHURCH: By and For Local Congregations
Sue Alice Sauthoff chose “church” as her one word because she said, “Operation Christmas Child exists for and by the local church.” On her first Vision Trip with Samaritan’s Purse to Paraguay, she brought U.S. church leaders to meet a South Korean pastor who had moved to the South American nation two years earlier seeking to plant a church.
“For two years he had been there unable to penetrate into this community that was so closed off,” Sue Alice said, “And the day that he showed up with cartons full of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, people came out of that community that he had never seen before.”
Parents began welcoming the pastor into their homes. He soon offered the shoebox recipients our follow-up discipleship program, The Greatest Journey. Sue Alice said that the locals who were trained to teach the course received tools that equipped them to disciple their community for a lifetime, and today “that church is growing and thriving.” This new congregation was started, in part, because local churches in other countries packed shoeboxes to help build Christ’s Kingdom.
SEEDS: Germinating Life at Home and Abroad
Volunteers Josh and Nicole Kingsbury chose “seeds” as their one word because of the powerful, life-giving force that a shoebox brings into the lives of those who pack them as well as those who receive them.
“We started packing shoeboxes as a way for the children in the church to be actively involved in the Great Commission,” Josh and Nicole said. “We love that each shoebox is an opportunity to share the Gospel with children around the world. Each shoebox gift acts as a seed both at home and overseas.”
RENEWAL: A Spark of Hope, Vision, and Perspective
Serena Butler sees her one word—“renewal”—working in a variety of ways through shoeboxes.
As a staff member, she witnesses a “renewal of hope” when a community suffering from violence, hatred, crime, and loss receives permission from local authorities for children to receive shoebox gifts and as a result, “people begin to give their lives to Christ.”
For her, Operation Christmas Child also means a “renewal of life”—especially for a bus driver named Fusani whom she met in Togo. He was raised by a family who adhered to another religion. He spent a day shuttling a team to shoebox outreach events, and after a long conversation with Serena on the way back to the hotel for the evening, he gave his life to Christ.
She also believes shoebox packing provides a “renewal of calling for pastors and ministry partners in both sending countries and receiving countries as they hear the Holy Spirit calling them to share the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth.”
It leads to a “renewal of vision as the Lord opens our eyes to the souls still waiting to hear the Name of Jesus. They live in deep jungles, on high mountains, across vast oceans, or maybe in the house next door,” Serena said.
Through all these examples, she encourages people to pack shoeboxes, because it brings a “renewal of perspective as we watch the impossible become possible.”
OBEDIENT: A Simple Act That Bears Great Fruit
“’Go and make disciples,’ are power-filled action words in the Great Commission,” said volunteers Dave and Lauren Sebring. “For us, ‘obedient’ is the one word that describes why we love to pack shoeboxes. God does His part and we are humbled and overjoyed to do our part to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to a hurting world that needs hope. And to give great joy to children who receive small reminders that Jesus is the Greatest Gift and He loves them.”
You can help spread the Gospel, build the Church, plant seeds of hope, and bring renewal into the lives of many through one simple act. Will you pack a shoebox?