Operation Christmas Child has hit the mountain.
Grant Kierpa, junior class president, has worked hard to get not only every hall, but also local churches in the area, involved in this project. He is excited to see how it will impact Covenant’s community moving forward.
Operation Christmas Child began in 1993 through Samaritan's Purse. Since then, they have sent over one hundred and forty-six million shoeboxes to children in more than one hundred countries. The shoeboxes are filled with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items, which are distributed to children through local churches in countries affected by natural disasters, war, and poverty.
The goal is two-fold: demonstrate God’s love to individual children and help local churches spread the gospel. The churches who participate in the program are taught how to use the shoeboxes as a resource for evangelism. Churches are expected to share the gospel before distributing the gifts and then offer a follow-up children’s discipleship program called “The Greatest Journey,” where children receive a New Testament Bible upon completion of the program.
Although on the outset there may be no apparent concerns, here are three thoughts to keep in mind as you consider participating.
1. You are not saving souls. One of the first things you will read on the Operation Christmas Child site is, “The Amazing Journey of a Shoebox Gift Begins with You and Results in Evangelism, Discipleship, and Multiplication,” and again a little further: “It all starts with you!”
It may be tempting to think that by simply buying a toy and some toothpaste you have actively participated in the salvation of children all across the world. Be careful. This kind of mentality enforces a huge savior complex and puts the whole emphasis back on you.
Local churches are the catalyst for spreading the Christmas shoeboxes, and the gospel, within their communities. Thus, the effectiveness of your gift is more dependent on the how the church carries out the program and their relationship with the community than on what gifts you packed inside. Although God may use your shoebox, He is not dependent on it to spread the gospel, and neither is the local church.
2. You are not ending poverty. How easy it is to conjure up images of poor children living on the streets, grinning joyfully because, as Operation Christmas Child put it, “Their shoebox is the first gift many children have ever received!”
But again, let us put into perspective what simply buying a toy and some toothpaste does. You are not ending poverty. What you are supplying is momentary, though legitimate, happiness for a single child.
Jed Williams (‘20), an international Guyanese student, remembers how excited he was when receiving his shoebox. "It was the best thing ever!" he exclaims with twinkling eyes. He remembers throwing out his own toothbrush and excitedly replacing it with the new one, which he remarked was so little and cute. At the time, he did not know where the boxes came from, or even that they were associated with Christmas considering the boxes often arrived around Easter.
Having experienced the joy of receiving Christmas shoeboxes, Jed is relishing the opportunity to be on the sending end. Helping bring a child happiness is truly something special, but let us remember to put the effects of our efforts into proper perspective, which leads us to the last point.
3. You have not done enough. Often we have strong desires to be apart of something bigger than ourselves but do not know how or where to begin. Operation Christmas Child is an easy way to get involved in something outside yourself while still feeling very personally involved.
It does not cost much of your time and money, yet the potential results are exciting. However, do not forget to ask yourself what happens after the toy breaks and the pens stop working. What are the needs of the local church the other fifty-one weeks of the year? How is the gospel being spread and the love of Christ being demonstrated even within your community?
Ultimately, this article is not to dissuade or persuade you to participate in Operation Christmas Child, but to encourage you to thoughtfully check your heart and motives and to hold all things in perspective. Operation Christmas Child may be a great start in thinking and acting outside yourself—but don’t stop here! Think harder. Act more.