Our family began packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child 10 or 11 years ago. At that time, it was just a mission project suggested by a lady in our church. I knew nothing of the ministry of Operation Christmas Child and very little about Samaritan’s Purse. Over the last decade, I have learned to love this ministry ~ first by simply packing shoeboxes with my family, and later as the coordinator for a local relay center (drop-off location).
While I have a part in packing many boxes each year, I always pack one special box. This box is one that I work on all year long ~ usually for an older girl. While school supplies, hygiene items, and other basics go in every box I pack, I choose the items for this box carefully and it is important to me that it includes certain extra things. I always include at least one thing that is handmade and since I crochet, that item is often a scarf or small bag. I also include crayons and a coloring book. Finally, I always include a carefully chosen stuffed animal ~ one that carries a special message of love to the little girl who will find it in her gift.
These extra items are meant to convey the simple message of this shoebox gift. Most important to me is the stuffed animal. Though she may not understand it, I choose the stuffed animal early in the year and use it to remind me to pray for the child who will receive this box and all the others that are packed in our church. The most important message in my shoebox, or any other one, is that "God loves you and sent His Son to redeem you.” I want this young woman to know that she is being prayed for and that she is not forgotten.
The true beauty of this message isn't only revealed in the faces of the children who will receive the gifts. It is true that they will hear, perhaps for the first time in their lives, that there is a Savior who gave Himself for them. They will have the opportunity to learn about the amazing love of Jesus and that is nothing short of a miracle. But, they aren't the only ones who receive a gift through the packing of shoeboxes. Each year, during collection week, I hear countless stories of how packing a "simple gift" has impacted the lives of individuals, families, and churches. We have received boxes that were packed by abused women in a battered women's shelter and boxes packed by adults with special needs at a local center. These boxes are placed alongside hundreds of others ~ some from individuals, some from families, and some packed by churches of all sizes. Each box has a story, a reason it is packed, and each box is special.
The ultimate message is this ... God created and gifted each of us in a special way for His glory. Whatever your part in the process, from the packing, to collecting, to processing, and even to receiving, God has a plan for your life. I may never know how God plans to use the children who receive the shoeboxes that I have a part in packing, but that is okay. I have no doubt that I can trust Him to accomplish His will and I am thankful for the opportunity to have a small part in it.