Inside Out 311: Those Shoe Boxes

04.30.14 | Martha Manikas-Foster

Last November you may have filled a shoebox with toothbrushes and McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, soap and pencils for Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of the international relief agency Samaritan’s Purse. Packing simple gifts for children in developing countries has, for many of us, become how we begin our march toward Christmas, model sacrificial service to our children, and teach the youth group about the basic, unmet needs of their peers in two thirds of the world.

If you weren’t reading this right now, maybe you wouldn’t think about that shoebox again until you started gathering up beanbags, crayons, and kazoos to pack another one this autumn.

But the people at Samaritan’s Purse think about those boxes all year long. According to Gaye Newlun, the Northeast Director of Operation Christmas Child, staff and volunteers have spent the first quarter of this year delivering most of 7.5 million colorful containers to children around the world.

Whole families benefit from the boxes their children receive. If pencils and notepads are among the treasures, children may be able to begin attending school. If the shoebox is plastic—or if a plastic bowl is included in the box—a family may now own its first sanitary container for food. What may seem incidental when you pack it may be the reason a family will keep your box in a place of honor in their home. Add the fact that most children also receive a book with the life-giving message of Jesus Christ, and many of us may begin thinking about packing more than one box next November.

Since 1993, more than 100 million boys and girls in over 130 countries have received a box. This year that included every child in the nine Syrian refugee camps that Samaritan’s Purse services in northern Iraq. One of those camps alone houses about 100,000 children.

“When you’re talking about walking [up to] your ankles in mud and no heat and the cold and not knowing where your dad or your brother or your grandfather is, and the desolation and no opportunity for school—we can’t imagine what that shoebox meant,” Gaye says in our Inside Out conversation. “The tears and the joy and the shrieks of laughter that were there . . . that brings me a lot of joy.”

Learn more by clicking on the LISTEN or DOWNLOAD icon above; you’ll hear my 11-minute conversation with Gaye.

Find out about the work of Operation Christmas Child, part of the ministry of Samaritan’s Purse International Relief.

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Inside Out airs Wednesdays at 12:20pm EST during the Family Life Noon Report.

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