Mission & History
“Let the children come to Me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
Mark 10:14, ESV
The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world. Through this project, Samaritan’s Purse partners with the local church worldwide to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and make disciples of the nations.
In the summer of 1993, Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham received a call from a man in England asking if he’d be willing to fill shoeboxes with gifts for children in war-torn Bosnia. Franklin agreed, but figured Christmas was months away. He forgot about the promise until he received a call back around Thanksgiving asking about the gifts.
Franklin asked his friend the late Pastor Ross Rhoads of Calvary Church of Charlotte to see if he could help with the need. A Sunday shortly afterward, Pastor Rhoads demonstrated for his congregation how to fill a shoebox with simple gifts and encouraged them to include a letter to the child as well. Within weeks, the church had 11,000 shoeboxes lining their hallways.
Due to their generosity and additional gifts from Canada, Samaritan’s Purse sent 28,000 shoebox gifts to children in the Balkans that Christmas.
Every year since, Samaritan’s Purse has collected shoebox gifts filled with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items for children around the world. Since 1993, more than 188 million children in more than 170 countries have received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox. The project delivers not only the joy of what, for many kids, is their first gift ever, but also gives them a tangible expression of God’s love.
Tens of thousands of volunteers from local churches around the world partner with us to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ at festive outreach events where children are surprised with these shoebox gifts.
“Every box is an opportunity to reach a child with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
President, Samaritan’s Purse
The Greatest Journey
In addition, we have trained over 1.1 million volunteers from these congregations to teach The Greatest Journey, our dynamic follow-up discipleship course for shoebox recipients. Since 2009, 26.5 million children have enrolled in this 12-lesson program to learn how to follow Christ and share Him with others. More than 12.5 million of these boys and girls have made a decision to accept Jesus as their Savior during the course. Many are now praying for and sharing their faith with family and friends. As a result of this ever-expanding witness, new churches are starting and communities are being transformed!
More than 12.5 million boys and girls have made a decision to follow Christ.
Behind the Scenes
This whole process is made possible by caring individuals who pack shoeboxes full of quality gifts for children in need. Many of these shoebox packers also use our online Pack A Box feature to discover the country where their gift will be delivered.
More than 700 year-round volunteers also get the word out about the Samaritan’s Purse project across Canada. In addition, short-term volunteers serve in nearly 400 drop-off locations open across the country every year during National Collection Week, the third week in November. Each shoebox collected then travels to our Calgary processing center to be inspected and prepared for international shipment by 15,000 volunteers.
In 2020 alone, more than 9.1 million Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts were collected throughout Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Together we are working to see “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9-10).
More than 9.1 million shoebox gifts were collected in 2020.