I have always liked small things. As a child I collected miniature pencil erasers in animal shapes. Sheets of little stickers were a treasure, and tiny baby dolls were the best. I always sought out the runt of a litter of puppies and swiftly fell in love. As I’ve matured, my affinity for small items has continued. Each summer, I love to spend time combing Folly Beach, South Carolina for seashells and sharks’ teeth, and the smaller, the better.
I can’t really explain my attraction for small objects but it’s definitely part of who I am. Knowing this about myself helps me make sense of my fondness of one small box. No, I’m not talking about the box of delicious chocolates or the one that holds a fashionable pair of shoes. This one small box is red, green and white, adorned with the words Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child.
These small boxes begin to appear around late fall each year in churches around SC and the country. Families and individuals are asked to help fill one or more boxes to be sent to children who are in need across the globe. Volunteers place the small boxes into the hands of children who are in need either because of war, natural disasters, or poverty. These children need someone, anyone, to reach out to them in love. Proverbs 14:3 (NIV) says, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” The organization Samaritan’s Purse provides all of us with an incredible opportunity to live these words through Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.
146 million kids have received shoe boxes in more than 100 countries since 1993.
It’s really no surprise that as soon as I learned about the shoe boxes some ten years ago, I was enthralled with the idea. What really captivates me about the small boxes is their simple, but powerful purpose: to honor and serve God by delivering love and hope in the precious name of Jesus Christ.
Gifts from OCC are delivered by bike in Uganda. Photo credit: Samaritan’s Purse
Each year, my passion for these small boxes spills over into several shopping trips: one with my three daughters, another with my Girls in Action group from church, and another with my class of first graders. (Yes, even in my professional life I love the little ones.) I’m fortunate to teach in a private school where prayer and Bible study are part of the school’s fiber. In a small attempt to help my students develop a servant’s heart, each year my class celebrates Christmas in November as we collect monetary donations and venture into our very rural town to shop at the dollar store.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
– Hebrews 13:15 ESV
While searching for small items such as balls, crayons and notepads, the students squeal with delight as they choose objects for a small box of their own. After we return to our classroom, I watch with an overflowing spirit as the students carefully pack the boxes, write notes, and draw pictures for the unknown recipients. It’s always delightful to watch as six and seven year olds find pure joy in helping others. I stand in awe knowing that the mighty God I love will take this simple act of gathering the small and use it in more ways than I will ever know or understand.
Elephants in Zimbabwe deliver cartons of shoebox gifts. Photo credit: Samaritan’s Purse
But far more than trinkets, each child who receives a small box also receives the love of Jesus and may very well hear His name for the first time.
Through follow-up lessons in The Greatest Journey Program, Samaritan’s Purse provides an option for the recipient children to learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. This saving knowledge is the true gift of the shoe boxes. How incredible is it to know that not a single act of service done in the name of Jesus Christ, for His honor and glory, is ever too small, even when found in one small box.
Operation Christmas Child is on a mission to provide local partners around the world with shoe boxes filled with small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies as a means of reaching out to children in their own communities with the good news of Jesus Christ. Learn more and find specific shopping tips online at SamaritansPurse.org/OCC.
Susan Mikell, a resident and first grade teacher in the Low Country of South Carolina, is a wife and mother of three daughters. She thanks God for the lessons of loving and serving others she learned by watching her parents.