By Stacy Knoderer
For those who celebrate Christmas each year, the act of gift giving is an important part. Yet, when most people think of giving gifts they think of giving to those they know. What if this year you wrapped a gift and gave it to someone you did not know? Operation Christmas Child makes it possible. Not only are the people who receive these gifts people you are unlikely to know, but are children in poverty.
Angie Azouri, a junior political science and psychology major, has made a box in the past, and has fond memories of the experience.
“Every time I participate in Operation Christmas Child, I realize that some of these children are going to receive gifts for the first time as well as the thought that someone in Heaven and Earth loves them. It’s an incredible thought,” Azouri said.
Other students have had a more personal connection with the organization. Chelsea Hays, a 2013 graduate who works as the listener and digital engagement coordinator at Shine.FM., won a trip to Barranquilla, Colombia in South America while at a radio conference. On the trip, she helped distribute boxes for Operation Christmas Child.
“It was incredible to see the smiles and laughter on the face of each child as they opened their boxes. They were filled with joy.”
According to Hays, during the distribution the children sat and listened to Bible stories, skits and music the local church put together. Once all of the children had received their boxes they raised them in the air and thanked God. Then the countdown began before they could open them.
It was seeing the children open the boxes that meant the most to Hays. “It was incredible to see the smiles and laughter on the face of each child as they opened their boxes. They were filled with joy,” she said.
Hays also learned a great deal about the organization, and how the distribution process was made possible. “While on the trip, I learned that only 1% of distributions were done by outside teams and everything else is done by volunteers in the local churches,” she said. “It was absolutely incredible to see the love and dedication of the people in each church we visited. They were truly doing this to honor the Lord and invest in the lives of the children in their community, they are true Kingdom builders.”
While living in an orphanage in Vladivostok, Russia, Marina Bianco, then seven years old, received a box, and it meant the world to her.
“I opened my box and was shocked to see all of the gifts in there,” Bianco said. “It was an amazing feeling knowing that these gifts were mine. At the orphanage, no one had ever told me that I was special or that I was someone. I never felt loved, but receiving this box gave me hope.”
During her time at the orphanage, she used her washcloth and toothbrush she received frequently, and loved the stickers in her box. They were her favorite part.
For a child like Bianco, a box from Operation Christmas child can truly make a positive difference in their lives. To find out how you can help, tune in to Shine.FM in the month of November, when Operation Christmas Child will be featured as November’s Difference Maker, or visit the Operation Christmas Child webpage at http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/.