Operation Christmas Child - 080053 Operation Christmas Child

Canadian fights back tears as she recalls packing and giving a shoebox to hurting El Salvador girl

Melody Borgstrum has always enjoyed packing and sending gift-filled Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to needy children in the developing world, but wanted to take the experience to another level by meeting some of the children who receive the boxes.

And so the 33-year-old woman from St. Albert, AB, joined a Samaritan’s Purse team from Canada that travelled to El Salvador to hand out shoeboxes packed by Canadians.

“Going on this trip has heightened the importance of the ministry,” says Borgstrum, who serves as an Operation Christmas Child corporate relations volunteer to help develop partnerships with businesses large and small.

“This program is not just packing shoeboxes,” she notes. “You’re changing kids’ lives by showing them that someone in another country cares about them, shopped for them, put everything in boxes for them, and dropped off those boxes (at regional collection centers).”

Melody personally packed and brought a shoebox on the trip to El Salvador and waited until God directed her to the right recipient.

“The experience was simply amazing,” she said, while fighting back tears after giving her box to a 13-year-old girl named Darling. “I remember being in a store before the trip and asking God: ‘What does this child need?’ and things kept coming to me like flip-flops and a T-shirt—things we Canadians can buy so easily, but that she may never have.”

How did Darling receive all this?

“I handed out shoeboxes to all the girls in the row where I was sitting at the distribution,” Melody recalls. “She (Darling) noticed I didn’t give her one of those, but pulled one out of my backpack. Then her face just glowed. She waited until the other kids in her row had opened their boxes so we could have a moment together.”

Melody and the other visiting Canadians also attended a ceremony for children graduating from The Greatest Journey, Samaritan’s Purse’s 12-lesson evangelism and discipleship program offered to many of the children who receive gift-filled shoeboxes.

We praise God for the 1.9 million children who have dedicated their lives Jesus Christ through The Greatest Journey in last year alone. Now, they know that “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5, ESV).

Seeing the joy in Darling and the other children in El Salvador who received shoeboxes, and knowing they have an opportunity to know and commit their lives to Jesus through The Greatest Journey, has made Melody even more convinced of the immense value of Operation Christmas Child.

“Don’t stop packing,” she says passionately. “Even if you never go on a trip, just know you are making a difference packing boxes every year.”

Knowing that some adults pack shoeboxes while they have young children but stop when their children are older, Melody advises: “Get started again. When I packed for my girl (Darling), I thought ‘what did I love when I was between the ages of 10 and 14?’ It almost brought the kid out in me again. It brought joy to me.”

Get Involved with Operation Christmas Child

You can be part of what God is doing through Samaritan’s Purse in countries like El Salvador when you lift up this ministry in prayer and support it by packing shoeboxes in the traditional way, or online at

You can also join us in traveling to struggling nations to distribute shoeboxes. Please visit our mission trips page for more information.

Our website has complete instructions on how to pack shoeboxes. Please include $10 for each gift box to cover international shipping and other costs. You can also bless children in need by packing shoeboxes online.

Operation Christmas Child - 080053 Operation Christmas Child

Please donate $12 for every shoebox you prepare. Your donations will help cover project costs, including shipping (make one combined donation for multiple shoeboxes). Consider making an additional donation to help Samaritan's Purse go beyond the shoebox and expand assistance to children, their families, and their communities. Samaritan's Purse does not provide receipts for the value of gift items included in a shoebox.