In 2021, Samaritan’s Purse continued to declare God’s glory in more than 100 countries and territories through Operation Christmas Child—including among many unreached people groups at the very ends of the earth. We praise God that more than 9.1 million shoebox gifts were distributed to children in need at over 81,000 outreach events!
“Every shoebox represents an opportunity to reach one more child with the Gospel
of Jesus Christ.”
Declare His glory among the nations…
In Gabon, the Baka people live on the margins of society and have typically been outside the reach of the Gospel. But that began to change when shoeboxes were given out in a remote village. All 354 children in the community turned out for the festive outreach event—and all the adults, too! Everyone listened carefully as they heard the Gospel for the first time and discovered how much God loved them. At the end of the presentation, all of the children—and all of the adults—prayed to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior! The village chief, who also gave his life to Christ, was so impressed with the event that he set aside some land for a church to be built. Praise God!
We also saw God work mightily among several other unreached people groups. The village of Gongonbili, where the Lobi people live in Burkina Faso, was considered a “no-go zone” for the Gospel, due to its reputation for violence against outsiders and its open hostility to Christianity. But “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26) and local leaders allowed shoeboxes to be given out to the area children.
“The parents were delighted that someone had thought of bringing gifts to their children and show them the love of God. They even asked for prayer for themselves,” a ministry partner said. “Today, over 30 adults and 50 children attend a new church that was started in the village. God broke into this no-go zone, and now it’s a go zone for the Gospel!”
“God broke into this no-go zone, and now it’s a go zone for the Gospel!”
Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Ephesians 3:20 NLT
If Enubirr isn’t the end of the earth, it’s close. The tiny island, located between the Philippines and Hawaii, is part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and home to just over 1,000 people. The atoll has no electricity and no airport. But that didn’t stop four ministry partners from transporting 30 cartons of shoebox gifts on a 57-foot ketch to the island and distributing them to the area’s 293 children. After the Gospel was shared, 131 boys and girls responded by inviting Jesus into their hearts!
Over in Palau, a ministry team traveled three hours by boat through rough waters to reach the 15 children who live on the remote island of Kayangel, the country’s northern most state. Just over 50 people call Kayangel home, but God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). When the shoeboxes were given out and the Gospel was shared, many of the locals put their faith in Christ.
To date, over 283,000 children on more than 2,000 Pacific islands have received shoebox gifts and have been given the opportunity to respond to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem…
Each shoebox is a Gospel opportunity that can be used by God to change a child’s life for eternity—and change the course of many other lives as well.
The shoebox that 8-year-old Génesis was given in her native Ecuador was the first gift she had ever received. But as delighted as she was with her new doll and other fun toys, Génesis was even happier to learn how much God loved her and readily gave her life to Jesus. She then shared the Good News with her parents.
“At my home, we talked about God, and Jesus saved my mom who was sick with COVID,” she said. “I asked God for her healing and her salvation, and both of my parents were saved.”
Génesis, 8 years old
Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them…
COVID-19 presented many challenges this year, but our National Leadership Teams across the globe prayed and found creative solutions to bring Good News and great joy to boys and girls.
In Bulgaria, many children dig through trash dumps to find food or items they can sell. So, our ministry partners there decided to meet the kids where they were and gave out shoeboxes at a garbage site. Over 40 boys and girls were delighted to receive new toys, hygiene items, and school supplies. They also heard the Gospel and many of them committed their lives to Jesus.
In other places, like Montenegro, where only small gatherings were permitted, our ministry partners and volunteers went door-to-door to visit families in their homes. “This gave us an opportunity to build a bridge with the children and their parents,” one partner said. “We spent one to two hours with each family talking about the Gospel. They were amazed that somebody remembered them during this hard time with the virus and that people from the outside world packed shoeboxes for them.”
…‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that My house may be filled.’
Earlier, we told you how an entire village among the Baka people in Gabon gave their lives to Christ after hearing the Gospel for the first time. But that’s not the end of the story.
Everyone in the community was so eager to learn more about Jesus that they wanted to immediately begin The Greatest Journey, the 12-lesson Bible course for shoebox recipients. Several teachers then led hundreds of villagers through the first lesson. But at the end of it, they all wanted to continue. They were so hungry to learn more about God’s love that they insisted on going through all 12 lessons in just a few days!
In Kenya, a boy shared The Greatest Journey materials with his parents and four siblings. All of them gave their lives to Jesus! “A big thanks to my Greatest Journey teachers and to those who donated the books,” he said. “The 12 lessons transformed me, my family, and my friends. I promise I will keep on sharing the Gospel as the Bible commands. I want the world to hear about and know Christ.”
Since 2009, more than 30 million children have enrolled in The Greatest Journey with over 14 million making a decision for Christ!
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Operation Christmas Child is made possible by an army of volunteers and shoebox packers. It’s their faithful prayers and support that keep the project moving forward year after year.
Barbara Korn, 76, and Margarita Sosa, 74, live in Miami and work together to make hundreds of unique stuffed animals for shoebox gifts. Known as the “Happy Grandmas,” the duo sees eternal purpose in their creations. “We make them, God places them,” Margarita said. “One box is going to reach a child—that’s a soul that is going to be touched by Jesus. One child at a time, it’s going to make a difference.”
In Tennessee, Jane Marie Franks, an adopted teen, rallied her community to pack 1,000 shoeboxes in the last two years. Her ambitious goals were inspired by a visit to her birth country of Guatemala, where she met a boy who asked her for money for school supplies. When she returned home, Jane Marie encouraged her family, friends, and classmates to pack shoeboxes for children in need, like that boy in Guatemala, and around the world.
Farther north near Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ken Postema, 69, built 20,000 toy wooden cars in 2021 to put in shoeboxes. He created 10,000 the year before. His cars have thus far reached children in South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Pacific, “each one an expression of our love and God’s love for the kids,” Ken said.
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1 Peter 4:10
We praise God that in 2021 4 million children were discipled through The Greatest Journey, where over 2.3 million made decisions for Christ. In addition, over 10.5 million gifts were packed, collected, and processed to bless even more boys and girls in 2022!
Time and again, we saw God work wonders to open doors for ministry and open hearts to receive His love. As one Regional Team Leader said: “With Operation Christmas Child, God upsets social habits, overturns traditions and customs, and acquires a people for Himself. Through this ministry, the impossible becomes possible by virtue of God.” Amen!
…with God all things are possible.