So, last week, I shared with you about Operation Christmas Child and some ideas for things to pack in your shoeboxes.
But, why? Why does it matter?
When I first learned about Operation Christmas Child, I thought it was a very easy thing to get involved with at Christmas time to do something nice to provide a Christmas gift for a child somewhere in the world. It didn’t take much out of my pocket, it gave me a reason to go shopping and it helped…what’s not to like?
But, as I’ve done more research and become more aware of Operation Christmas Child and what they do, I’m more than enamored, I’m SOLD!
Now, I’ve never sat at a shoebox distribution personally, but through the gifts of technology and social media, I’ve watched through Facebook live and Periscope and watched it go down. Imagine this – kids, all kinds of kids. Kids in the poorest countries in the world. Kids in orphanages. Kids in communities. Kids with parents and kids without. Kids sitting in a room, some in rows, some just scattered waiting in anticipation. Today, they think they came for things. And, they will not leave disappointed. But, before they get their shoebox, they hear a story.
They hear the story of Jesus. The life giving story of a free gift of eternal life. They hear about how God gave up His only Son and sent Him to earth live like we do. Really, more like they do. They hear the story of how He came as a baby to fulfill a promise. A promised Messiah that would save people from their sins and eternal separation from God. They hear how He lived a blameless life. How He walked and got dirt on His feet, how He sweated from the afternoon sun. How He knew heartache from the loss of a friend and how He knew love from a full table and the laughter of friends. They hear how His whole purpose for coming was to die for their sins. Even though they weren’t alive yet, He came to save them.
And, then with the most perfect illustration they talk about a free gift; the free gift of salvation. Just like the box they are about to be handed, full of items lovingly sent by a total stranger somewhere in the world, salvation is offered as a free gift for them to receive. Just like that, they have the opportunity for eternal life.
Then, over the course of several months, those who want to are enrolled in The Greatest Journey discipleship program. Its way more than a box of stuff that a kid might need. Its the means to open the door to conversation that can change their life and set them on a new course of faithfulness and growing spiritually.
A couple years ago, I was walking out of a planning meeting for OCC at my local church and I got a notification on my phone that a live Periscope (yes, back when that was a thing!) was starting in an African village. I walked to my desk and for the next 45 minutes, listened in through a crack, outside a metal building where children were sitting wall to wall and even in the yard out front as a teacher talked to them about making the choice of obedience every day.
Each one of those kids met Jesus through a shoebox.
That’s all the motivation I need!