Since 1993, Samaritan’s Purse has partnered with local churches around the world to deliver 157 million Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts to children in need in 160 countries. Each one—packed full of fun toys, school supplies, and hygiene items by a family or individual—is sent with prayer that the child who receives it will experience God’s love through their simple gifts.
During the summer of 1993, Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham received a call from a man in England asking his help on behalf of children in Bosnia who were suffering because of a brutal civil war. The Englishman specifically asked for shoeboxes filled with gifts to deliver to these little ones at Christmas. Samaritan’s Purse was already working in Bosnia, and Franklin had been there three times in the previous year, so he was eager to help.
Franklin then called his friend, the late Ross Rhoads, who was serving as senior pastor of Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He asked if Ross and his wife Carol could fill a shoebox with items for a child, show it to their congregation, and ask them to do the same—in order to share the true meaning of Christmas with the children of Bosnia.
Ross and Carol were eager to assist, and the response was overwhelming. Shortly after Thanksgiving, Ross called Franklin to report that 11,000 shoebox gifts were now lining the hallways of his church! Combining these gifts with more from our Canadian office, Samaritan’s Purse sent 28,000 shoebox gifts to children in Bosnia that Christmas. Ross and Carol Rhoads traveled to the war-torn nation to help us distribute them
Graham reflects on the past 25 years.
“When I agreed to send shoebox gifts to Bosnia in 1993, I never dreamed it would grow into the project it is today. We praise God for allowing us to touch the lives of so many children and their families with the Gospel of Jesus Christ over the past 25 years.”
“so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8
How to Pack a Shoebox
- Start with an average-size cardboard shoebox.
- Decide whether you will pack a box for a boy or girl and the age category: 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14
- Fill it with gifts. Start with a medium to large “wow” item such as a soccer ball with pump or stuffed animal then fill the box with other fun toys, hygiene items and school supplies. Please no candy or toothpaste due to customs regulations.
- Pray! Pray for the child that will receive your gift. You can also include a personal note and photo.
- Follow your box when you use a tracking label
- Drop off your box at one of the local drop off locations.
** From Operation Christmas Child’s Website
For more information how you can create a box or to read stories of impact, visit https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/
Pack a box. Get your family, group of friends or small group and pack your boxes together. It can even be fun to go shopping together to pick out the items that you want to put in the boxes. Bring them back to the house and have a packing party. Write your notes together and take time to pray for each child that is receiving the box. Pray that God would use the box to impact their lives so that they can come to know Him in a real way.
Read a story. Check out some of the lives that have been changed by Operation Christmas Child over the past 25 years. Find a story that inspires you and share it with someone else. It could be sharing about it in a conversation, on social media or sending the link to the story in an email to friends. Remember that people are more open to hearing about the Gospel around Christmas time. The person you share the story with might even be open to helping fill a box regardless of their faith background. Allow God to direct you in your conversation.
Pray. Take time this week to pray for the children that will receive the boxes and that God would reveal His love to them. Pray for the missionaries in these countries that work with the children and the families that God would guide and direct their ministry and provide for them. Ask God to continue to give direction to Operation Christmas Child and multiply their efforts.