A U.S.-based Christian relief organization wants to share God's love and message of hope to children in various countries by sending them a shoebox full of Christmas gifts, just like it has been doing for the last several years.
In 2016, Samaritan's Purse was able to distribute more than 11.5 million shoeboxes to less fortunate children in 120 countries for its Operation Christmas Child project. This year, the Christian relief organization will be collecting boxes from churches, communities, businesses, and other organizations from all over Utah from Nov. 13 to 20, Deseret News detailed.
"Operation Christmas Child is a way communities can share God's love with children all over the world in desperate situations," Operation Christmas Child northern Utah area coordinator Alison Long explained. "It's a tangible expression of God's love to those children."
Irina Creek received one of those Christmas shoeboxes when she was 10 years old and still staying in a Russian orphanage. Aside from the presents, the orphans in that place were also introduced to the Christian faith and encouraged to lift their burdens up to God.
Looking back, Creek said she believed God was listening to her when she prayed for her and her sister to be adopted by a Christian family in America. Her petition was granted after a couple of years, and they were able to know the Lord better when they came to South Carolina to live with their new family.
Although Russia has stopped accepting Christian donations and missionaries, Creek was able to return to the orphanage and talk to the children there. She wanted these kids to see that "God is a god of miracles" who gave her hope during the time she needed it the most.
In July, Jaki Steward spoke to parishioners at a church in Hagerstown and shared how her life was changed after receiving a Christmas shoebox from Samaritan's Purse when she was still an orphan in Guatemala. She said her favorite item from the box was the toothbrush, since she previously had to share one with other children, the Herald Mail Media reported.
Steward, who is now a member of the First Wesleyan Church in Maryland, is trying to give back to the ministry which created a big impact in her life. She now helps pack Christmas shoeboxes for other children and travels to other countries to connect with volunteers for this ministry.