Operation Christmas Child- Making a difference for children in need for 25 years!

As Christmas approaches, the children of illuminate kids are focusing on giving back by participating in Operation Christmas Child! Did you know that Operation Christmas Child has been making a difference for children in need for 25 years? As the service project turns 25 years old this year, we thought you would like to hear a little about its history!

“Since 1993, Samaritan’s Purse has partnered with local churches around the world to deliver 157 million Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts to children in need in 160 countries. Each one – packed full of fun toys, school supplies, and hygiene items by a family or individual – is sent with prayer that the child who receives it will experience God’s love through their simple gifts. 

From Small Beginnings, Operation Christmas Child Grows

During the summer of 1993, Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham received a call from a man in England asking his help on behalf of children in Bosnia who were suffering because of a brutal civil war. The Englishman specifically asked for shoeboxes filled with gifts to deliver to these little ones at Christmas. Samaritan’s Purse was already working in Bosnia, and Franklin had been there three times in the previous year, so he was eager to help.

Christmas, however, seemed a long way off, so he put this request aside.

Not long before Thanksgiving, he received a call back from the man in England. Quickly reminded of his promise, Franklin assured him he was working on it.

Franklin then called his friend, the late Ross Rhoads, who was serving as senior pastor of Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He asked if Ross and his wife Carol could fill a shoebox with items for a child, show it to their congregation, and ask them to do the same—in order to share the true meaning of Christmas with the children of Bosnia.

Ross and Carol were eager to assist, and the response was overwhelming. Shortly after Thanksgiving, Ross called Franklin to report that 11,000 shoebox gifts were now lining the hallways of his church! Combining these gifts with more from our Canadian office, Samaritan’s Purse sent 28,000 shoebox gifts to children in Bosnia that Christmas. Ross and Carol Rhoads traveled to the war-torn nation to help us distribute them.

Today, through the countless prayers of many and the service of thousands of volunteers around the globe, the project has grown to include eight shoebox-packing countries in addition to the 160 that have received them.

“When I agreed to send shoebox gifts to Bosnia in 1993, I never dreamed it would grow into the project it is today,” Franklin said. “We praise God for allowing us to touch the lives of so many children and their families with the Gospel of Jesus Christ over the past 25 years.”

Through gift-filled shoeboxes, we are bringing good news and great joy to children in Africa, Asia, Europe, Central America, and South America. Boys and girls are coming to Christ and leading their families to follow Him, too. Churches are being planted and new generations of evangelists are rising up through The Greatest Journey, our discipleship program just for shoebox recipients.”

Help celebrate 25 years of ministry by packing a shoebox. Don’t forget to bring your packed shoebox to church this Sunday, November 11

Melanie Hall