It’s hard to believe the holiday season is right around the corner. In an effort to combat the overly materialistic hue Christmas has taken on, some commentators will bemoan the tradition of gift-giving.
I won’t be one of them.
Don’t get me wrong – I agree that, far too often, we’ve allowed Christmas to become what it’s not. It’s obviously not about running over fallen shoppers to get the “it” toy for a son or daughter.
Operation Christmas Child understands that, in the right context, Christmas presents can provide Christians the perfect opportunity to share the Gospel. You’ve probably heard of this yearly effort, one of the best-known outreaches of Franklin Graham’s international relief ministry, Samaritan’s Purse.
Every year, Operation Christmas Child oversees a huge effort to collect donated shoeboxes filled with gifts that are then distributed to children around the world. Since 1993, more than 100 million boys and girls in more than 130 countries have received a shoebox.
The great news is those precious kids receive much more than a box filled with toys. Operation Christmas Child works with local churches to put on age-appropriate presentations of the Gospel at the events where the shoeboxes are distributed. God uses these gifts and programs to deeply impact the hearts of the participating children.
After promoting Operation Christmas Child for some years, Focus on the Family has been more closely partnering with the group for two years now. We do it because we share a goal – to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 11:15). Evangelism is one of our six guiding principles, and we know that supporting Operation Christmas Child helps us live that out.
Earlier this year, a small team from Focus went on an Operation Christmas Child gift-giving trip to Dakar, the capital of the African nation of Senegal. The region had recently been devastated by flooding, making life in this poverty-stricken area even more difficult. Our team expressed how glad they were to be able to give the more than 100 children gathered a bit of joy after the tough times they had endured.
Today's post features some of the pictures that Jeremy, one of our staffers, took during this visit to Africa. I'll share some more and will caption the pictures with the explanations he gave me. I’ll finish today’s blog post after the pictures.
“The intensity of this girl’s eyes expresses how hard it is living in flooded slums with little hope.”
“Young children excitedly wait for their boxes.”
“This young boy dressed his best to receive his very first gift ever."
“This young girl lives in a remote village outside of Dakar.”
“This Muslim man appreciated the generosity shown towards his son so much he allowed the boy to participate in the Christian church.”
“Two young boys back at their village."
“This little girl holds on tightly to the letter that someone included in her shoebox. It seems that is what she appreciated most.”
Real children are blessed by Operation Christmas Child. Real boys and girls – like your kids and grandkids – who need to hear about Jesus. Your generous donation of a shoebox helps them know that He cares for them.
Shoebox collection week will be held from Nov. 18 to 25 this year. I encourage you to consider packing a shoebox or two as a family -- the Daly family will! We feel it's a great way to model to your children the importance of sharing your faith, and of being the hands and feet of Jesus here on Earth.
For a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family, we will donate a musical plush lamb to put inside Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. You can safely donate online.
One final note: Focus’ partnership with Operation Christmas Child includes a free PDF booklet that we created together. It explores the importance of serving others as a family or as a couple. The PDF also features a section on children serving, links to heartwarming videos, and ideas on hosting a shoebox packing party. You can access the booklet by clicking here.