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Operation Christmas Child is an organization (part of Samaritan’s Purse) that delivers shoeboxes full of presents to children around the world. They collect boxes from regular people like you and me in mid-November, then go around the world to countries to deliver the shoeboxes.
I had the amazing opportunity to travel with Operation Christmas Child to hand-deliver shoeboxes in Bogota, Colombia! What a life-changing experience. Truly. Humbled doesn’t begin to describe how I felt delivering boxes that families had packed for these children.
We were encouraged to pack a box of our own and bring it on the trip to select a child to receive it. I packed a box for a young girl, probably around age 6. But I didn’t know who to give it to. How do you decide that?
Look at all these sweet faces. This little girl, Maria, in the middle, is who I decided to give my box. She seemed like she needed some encouragement – and that she’d fit the clothes I put in the box!
All of the kids enjoy opening their box and then seeing what the other kids got too!
And what a delight she was! Look at her gentle smile. She opened the box and look at all the presents inside, and quickly closed the box. This was common for many of the children. They were very protective of their new objects.
This girl loved her little lamb.
And, it’s not just a box of presents. At every location, the church does a performance, a reading, or a skit to talk about the true meaning of Christmas. For many, this is the first time they’ve heard it. They all get a book to take home with them to reread and share with their families.
I helped this sweet girl wrap her jacket around her and her brother’s boxes so she could protect them on the walk home.
Imagine a scene where hundreds of kids look like this: all smiles!
But there was something else I noticed. At one distribution we’d begun handing out shoeboxes. The music was playing, kids were drumming on their unopened boxes while we continued to hand out all the boxes. All the kids had to wait to open the boxes at the same time.
I was in the back of the room when a boy looked at me and said something in Spanish. I noticed he was about the same age as my son at the time (11) and he was pointing to his box that was marked for a boy age 5-9.
“Quantos anos teines,” I hollered to him, breaking out the little Spanish I know.
“TEN!” he yelled back, in English.
“Un momento,” I replied as I ran back up to the front of the room. I asked the volunteers for a box for a 10-14 year old boy. We all started looking through the remaining boxes and there were none left.
I had to return to the boy and tell him, “Lo siento,” (I’m sorry) that he had to keep the box he had.
It broke my heart that he felt like he was getting a gift for a younger child. This happened at every location we visited. OCC just doesn’t get as many boxes for older children.
If you’re packing a box this year, or if you can pack an extra box, consider one for a boy or girl that’s 10-14.
These friends were really excited to be at the event and receive their boxes. And they were real hams for the camera!
This boy got a MEGA shoebox! Tons of amazing toys and clothes in his box. And, he loved the toothpaste. Although, toothpaste and candy is no longer allowed in Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, due to custom regulations from many countries.
Stuffed animals were a favorite toy in boxes – for all ages!
Learn how to Pack a Shoebox.
Find a drop-off location.