Imagine a child living in poverty in one of the poorest countries in the world, with none of the things that we consider to be essential to life.
Imagine that child receiving a shoebox full of simple gifts, packed by someone like you just for them.
That is Operation Christmas Child.
But could that shoebox make a real difference to that child’s life?
Many of you will have heard about the work of Operation Christmas Child around the world. Some of you may even have taken part and filled a shoebox. However, as Christians we want to know that our giving makes an eternal difference.
Last year the people of Suffolk packed over 15,000 shoeboxes full of amazing gifts that were sent to children in Central Asia and Romania. Each of those gifts gave a little bit of joy and hope to a child in need. That in itself is fantastic.
But of course, we want more. We want to see lives changed. I want to know that my box is giving that child more than a fleeting moment of joy.
Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes are distributed in the receiving countries by dedicated teams of Christian volunteers who are already working in Churches in their local communities. They take your shoebox gifts and distribute them to children throughout their local area. They know where to find the children with the biggest need and also know how to get access to them. This could be through clubs they already run in their Church and community, local schools and orphanages or children living on the streets. The gifts are given totally unconditionally to children of all faiths and none. The boxes are often accompanied by a little booklet called The Greatest Gift written in their own language. This tells the story of God and how he gave the Greatest Gift, Jesus to us. This is only given out if culturally appropriate and there is no compulsion for any child to take one.
After the children are given their gifts they may be invited to attend a 12 week course called The Greatest Journey. This course is what gives your shoebox eternal impact. Last year 3.5 million children enrolled in this course around the world. (Always with parental permission). Every child who graduates from this course will receive a certificate and a Bible in their own language. Since 2009 over 5 million children in 112 countries have made a commitment to Christ as a result of this course. These children then impact their own communities by sharing their new found faith. Many of these children go on to introduce their families to Christ. Around the world new Churches have been planted because of this. Search on YouTube and you will find videos telling stories of this course and the impact it has.
Your simple shoebox gift may just bring a smile to a child’s face but it may be the start of that child’s journey to find a loving Saviour who will radically change their life.
As well as being an amazing outreach tool in the countries that receive shoeboxes, many Churches use OCC as a tool to reach into their own local community in this country. We are very happy to support Churches to do this.
If you would like to be part of this great mission you still have time to fill a box this year. Simply look on the website www.samaritanspurse.org.uk You will find information on what you can put in the box. Type in your postcode and you will find your nearest drop off point. We have many throughout Suffolk. The official closing date is November 18th but many drop off points stay open past that date. Every box that we collect has to be checked and we do this at St John’s Church, Cauldwell Hall Road, Ipswich, IP4 4QE. We will be working there for 3 weeks from November 13th.
We also have a team of volunteers who work all year round sharing Operation Christmas Child as part of their Christian ministry. We would welcome new members of this team who use their skills and gifting to reach out to others in this country.
If you would like more information about any of this please contact Marilyn Coates on 07758555775 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have a local Facebook Group Operation Christmas Child – Suffolk.