My favorite holiday tradition fits in a shoebox: Operation Christmas Child

The Operation Christmas Child videos typically turn me into a tearful mess, just watching children from around the world cheering and dancing because they receive one simple box for Christmas.

Maybe inside they find a toothbrush and toothpaste….or a toy car….or some hair clips.OCC2013

That’s enough to make them grin.

And it’s enough to make me cry at their grateful hearts.

This year, though, I’ve been enjoying the video that follows Uncle Si’s shoebox from Duck Dynasty headquarters all the way to India.  Sometimes I guess these videos can make me laugh instead of cry:

Every year, the organization Samaritan’s Purse collects shoeboxes stuffed full of goodies that they then deliver to needy children all over the globe for Christmas.

Oh how easy to forget, though, that the gift isn’t just the items we pack into a small box and ship out.

The gift is the testimony of God’s love–that our God sees them and loves them.

National Collection Week is in November, before Thanksgiving—this year, November 17-24! That means that we’re in the middle of prime shoebox packing season.

We’ve been packing shoeboxes as a family for several years and it’s by far one of my favorite Thanksgiving/Christmas traditions because it’s a reminder to be grateful.  It’s a way to shift our focus off of getting and onto giving.

This year, though, we tried something new as a family.  Every single time I went into the Wal-Mart to pile up on groceries, I bought a few items for shoeboxes.  It only added about $5 to $6 to my weekly grocery budget and I could do less or more as I needed to or was able to.

Each month, I picked some items to focus on.  Boxes of crayons.  Washcloths.  Toothbrushes and toothpaste.  Soap.  Pencils.  Stuffed animals (after Valentine’s Day).  Flip flops (gotta love summer sales!)002

My oldest daughter and I also made friendship bracelets all year long so we could send a handmade gift with the shoeboxes, and every time I made a bracelet, I prayed for the child who would receive it.

Lots of folks are better at crafts than me.  Some people sew dolls or carve out wooden toy cars.  Me?  Friendship bracelets is what I can do.

Then, every two months or so, I loaded up a bag of the supplies we had collected and dropped them off at our church where we have a room set aside for OCC supplies.

Next week, our church will host a packing party.  In addition to the individual boxes we can pack at home, we’ll use the bulk supplies we’ve collected as a church family and pack as many shoeboxes as we possibly can by working together.

My husband and some of the families at church even made a fun video about how packing parties are different from packing individual boxes.  Please check it out here:


Now that I know we’ll hold a packing party again next year, I can prepare all year long for the event instead of scrambling for items the last few months of the year.

I figure that by bringing in supplies little by little all year long, one family could give more than 100 boxes of crayons…..or maybe 200 washcloths…..or 200 bars of soap.  Plus 50 or so friendship bracelets, of course!
If your church has a packing party, would you consider picking one or two items to buy at the store each time you go?
I hope that you’ve packed a shoebox before and are making one again this year!  If not, here’s everything you need to know to get involved in Operation Christmas Child as an individual even if your church is not hosting a packing party!You can begin by learning more about the organization here, like:

If you make a $7 donation online to cover the shipping for your box, you can even print off a label that lets you track it here!!  A few weeks after delivery, they’ll send you an email telling you what country your box was delivered to and some general information about the needs in that area.  Our boxes two years ago ended up in Tanzania.

Most important of all, pray for the child who will receive your shoebox!  Prayer is so powerful.  Don’t just send stuff, send gifts along with time spent on your knees.

Here are some of my favorite OCC videos.

Matthew West shows the Great Lengths OCC goes to bring shoeboxes to kids around the world.

Scotty McCreery shows how to pack a shoebox.

TobyMac’s Christmas This Year OCC Video

Check out how excited this boy from Angola is to receive his shoebox!  This is my most favorite OCC video!

There are so many opportunities to give every holiday season, but this is my very favorite.  I hope you’ll make Operation Christmas Child a part of your holiday traditions, as well!

Do you have any great ideas or stories about Operation Christmas Child to share with us?

 

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

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