In the early morning the long wooden boats motored gently across Nokoue Lake, past the small craft propelled by colorful sails, past the fishermen tending and mending large traps, toward the water dwellings of Ganvie. Secured in the wooden craft were hundreds of Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts destined for an outreach event at a local church.
Ganvie, a fishing village built on stilts, sits miles east offshore of Benin’s largest city, Cotonou. From the long boats, still half a mile out, boisterous music could be heard along with the sound of children’s voices. Soon that small musical fleet came into view with children and teachers dancing and singing on the deck of connected boats.
This beautiful, remote location in the southern part of the country is one of hundreds of communities where Operation Christmas Child outreach teams are working hard to reach children with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The children and their parents quickly tied up their dugouts. Some children paddled themselves here as well, quickly securing their own small boats before running toward the building where even more music was playing.
Scores of families heard news of this outreach event, either through local word of mouth or friends, and now the pastor was talking about the Greatest Friend, Jesus. Then the gifts—covered in a blanket until now—were given to each child.
“Three! Two! One!”
Shouts of happiness erupted. Children quickly searched through their boxes to see what was inside. It was a special moment!
This outreach event was the second Operation Christmas Child event for Ganvie, one of the many villages in Benin that are hard to reach for Jesus Christ.
“There are so many people of God in Benin who are willing to go where they need to go to share the love of Jesus,” said Jerry Johnson, a regional leader with Operation Christmas Child. “They will go by foot, by motorbike, by boat, and hundreds of miles from home. And because of this, we are seeing the generations come to Christ and I believe our African countries will see a better tomorrow because we are building a generation who knows Christ.”
Church leaders in Benin speak seriously about the spiritual forces in their country as many families continue to cling to traditional idol worship. Through outreach events, though, children like Alphonse are hearing about Jesus and their families are believing.
“I attended the outreach event at my friend’s church,” said the 12-year-old boy in Adjarra, a village northeast of Cotonou. Alphonse attended the outreach event earlier this year and also attended The Greatest Journey lessons where he received Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
“There I learned that God created me in His image and that He is my King,” Alphonse said. “And it makes me want to live as someone who represents God to others.
From Cotonou to remote rural villages, many churches in Benin have embraced the power of prayer and are committed to praying for the transformation of their country through the power of the Gospel.
Recently, more than 600 believers gathered to pray for this movement of God, but in reality they’ve been praying for years.
“The doors have been closed to the Gospel in so many parts of our country, and we have taken our mission with seriousness because we want to see God reach unreached people. That has been our prayer for a very long time,” said Veronique Houinato, the National Prayer Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in Benin. “These shoeboxes bring joy to people’s homes. They often bring things the children need. And they also open even the whole family to know God.”
Please donate $10 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.