Samaritan’s Purse runs their Operation Christmas Child collection each November. It’s time to get those shoeboxes packed!
My husband and I have been putting together Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes since we were newlyweds. We look forward to this outreach each November. It’s become a favorite family activity with our children as well.
Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. The ministry organizes a shoebox collection each Christmas season. Families from all over the United States and Canada are asked to fill shoeboxes with toys, toiletries, and school supplies. The ministry then delivers the shoeboxes to children all over the world all year long!
This past summer, we also had the wonderful opportunity to help out with an Operation Christmas Child distribution while we were in Costa Rica!
Here are 5 reasons why you should pack an Operation Christmas Child shoebox this year:
1. It’s a tangible way to teach your children about international missions.
Not many of us can afford to take our children on international mission trips all over the world, but Operation Christmas Child is a hands-on activity that can help us teach our children about how to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need in other countries.
As we pack the shoeboxes together, we can speak to our children about how Jesus has called His followers to spread His gospel message of salvation from our sins to every tribe, tongue, and nation.
2. It spreads the gospel to those in other countries.
When my husband and I first started packing shoeboxes, I really had no idea that there was such a huge gospel component involved in the charity.
Although families and individuals pack the shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, and toiletry items to meet the children’s physical needs, Operation Christmas Child actually inserts a brochure with the gospel message in each and every box!
While we participated in the shoebox distribution in Costa Rica, we saw firsthand how the local leadership gives a full gospel presentation to the children!
3. It’s easy.
Packing an Operation Christmas Child shoebox might be one of the easiest outreaches your family ever participates in: Although you can make trips to several stores if you want to, it’s possible to fill an entire shoebox with just one trip to the Dollar Store, Walmart, or Target.
Despite the ease, filling a shoebox can have an eternal impact if this small box of gifts can open the doors for children around the world to become life-long followers of Jesus.
4. It’s relatively affordable.
I say “relatively” because when we were living on a low income, it was, indeed, sacrificial to fill our shoeboxes.
Depending on where and when you shop (savvy shoppers will collect items for their shoeboxes based on sales and clearance items all year round!) and how full you fill your shoeboxes, each one can cost between $20-$30 to fill.
5. It’s fun.
Taking your kids to the Dollar Store or Walmart and watching them pick out items to fill the shoeboxes is just plain fun. In the early years, they might wonder why the toys aren’t for them, but it will afford you the opportunity to again and again teach them how giving is more important than receiving.
Find out more about Operation Christmas Child and how your family can pack a box here. If you do not have a collection site near you, you can also pack a shoebox online!
You can find good suggestions of what to pack inside your shoebox here.
Has your family ever packed an Operation Christmas Child shoebox?
5 Lessons I Learned at an Operation Christmas Child Distribution
Hi we live in Cornwall UK and my 4 children and I always pack shoe boxes every November. This year a few months ago as our money is very tight my younger two aged 4 and 11 decided that they wanted to pack their own box each by putting half their sweets and treat money each week by to save. they then when they had enough money with a little top up from me went and bought their items and chose to do the age group nearest their ages and they even had some money left over to go towards a third box , and boy were they proud. I put the money for shipping costs in for them . So after packing them and putting the lables on the top and an elastic band on each they proudly took them into school this morning with big wide smiles . So that’s 3 children a girl aged 5 to 9 a boy aged 10 to 14 and a girl aged 10 to 14 that will get a gift this year. I am one proud mum.
I am genuinely curious what you think about the following article. I greatly respect your blog and your work so please know this is an honest question I am interested in hearing your thoughts on. Thanks!
Should We Do Christmas Shoe Boxes?
People truly want to do the right thing. People want to be generous.
Christmas is a time for strategic and thoughtful giving, not what is easy or benefits us! As the October 31st season comes to a close, it’s time to gear up for a new one…charity! My favourite (note a tone of sarcasm here) is Christmas Shoeboxes. Let me be clear, my critique that follows here is not a criticism of the ‘motivation’ or reasons behind ‘shoeboxes’, but rather a hard look at the collateral consequences and some thoughts on a better way.
Let’s consider the average shoe box. The recipe is simple.
1. Watch a video in your church or school that yanks at your heart strings,
2. Buy a “wow” toy such as a doll, soccer ball with pump, or stuffed animal,
3. Mix together with other fun toys, hygiene items, and school supplies. No guns, knives, or breakable items and no candy of course because 5 out 5 dentists have advised that candy is bad for the teeth of children in developing countries,
4. Include a picture of ‘us’ so the child can see who their benefactor is,
5. Do it together with love, generosity and prayer, and
6. Be sure to include $10.00 to pay for shipping and the salaries of an army of North American staff who manage the logistics of 700,000 – 1,000,000 shoe boxes annually!
So, what is the problem? We feel good! We have brought smiles to a child somewhere in the world. A good humanitarian organization has a tool to do their work? Right?
Let’s begin to think about this from the first aspects of the recipe.
Buy stuff ‘here’ to ship ‘there’ violates the first principle of strategic and intentional international development. The first principle of growing capital, the foundation of an economy, is to support local economies. The ‘buy here, ship there’ approach actually destroy local economies. From the toy, to the hygienic items to the school supplies, the local economy is harmed by the influx of shoe boxes following the Christmas campaign. Consider the local markets, a seller of pencils or toothpaste knows there will be no business for these items for a few weeks to a few months. His children will not eat. Her business cannot grow. If you can’t visualize these local markets, spend a few minutes on Kiva to see what our micro loans support. Christmas shoe boxes put the businesses we help found with micro-loans out of business.
Put a different way, any type of ‘buy here, ship there’ charity which amounts to importing donated supplies that are distributed freely creates dependency and damages local economies. We must be generous, but we must do so in a way that aligns you with the market economy, and promote transactions that are dignified.
Second, let’s analyse for a minute, the ‘buy here’ part of the equation. We often we go to a dollar store or low end retailers for these product. The industry of ‘cheap toys’ is akin to the problems we see with ‘cheap clothing.’ Slave labour, child labour, unsafe working conditions, and low wages are the reality for the human beings who are making the toys ‘over there’ that we purchase and put in Christmas shoeboxes to send somewhere else ‘over there.’ The shear quantity of toys purchase for shoeboxes is its own and damaging economic engine. This analysis does not even take into account the poor quality of the product. This article is not long enough to explore the safety of these items, but a quick internet search reveals recalls that include safety concerns from faulty parts to lead paint. From a quality point of view, the soccer ball and pump given to a child is in the local garbage pile within a few days of the delivery of the shoe boxes. In economic terms, shoe boxes provide an opportunity to dump sub-quality products into underdeveloped and fragile economies without regulation or consequences.
I often consider Proverbs 3, which commands us to honour the LORD with our wealth, with the first fruits of all our crops, I am often struck instead by the quality of what we “throw away” to the poor. If we were to truly invest in the economic lives of people in developing nations, should this not begin with truly dignified and strategic plans for engaging with these fragile economic ecosystems?
Is there an alternative? Yes!
In your church, your school, or through your local international development agency there is another way. Consider this.
If a shoe box has a real cost of $40.00 to the person who assembles it ($30.00 for contents and $10.00 for shipping and distribution) consider donating those funds to projects that truly enhance a local economy. If your church can produce 200 shoes boxes, it could fund the installation a well for 200 people in an African community in need of clean and safe water. Eight thousand dollars could fund 2-3 teachers for a year in any underdeveloped country in the world (actually the number is more like 4-5). In these two examples of many, people have jobs, communities are enhanced and capital is injected into the economy that then produces a positive economic cycle.
But what about those children who don’t then receive the ‘joy’ of a shoebox? Well, if I accept for a moment that there is true joy in being a beneficiary of a shoebox, why not consider an alternative method. Through a local contact (a church or NGO in a developing country for an example), hire a number of locals to go into the local economy and purchase (with your donated funds) all the elements of a shoe box and put together these packages in country. These people would be paid a living wage of course (think much less than $10.00 to ship a shoe box), local markets and economy would experience growth and much needed product turnover, cultural sensitives would be managed by people in the culture and the local community manages who is the recipients based a true assessment of need or other factors local to that environment.
We need to end the patronizing and colonial aspect of international charity. We have to stop our damage to local economic eco-systems. We need to promote human flourishing through our charity (in all aspects from manufacturing to recipients).
We must be better than this. We need to be better than Christmas shoeboxes.
By Ray Sawatsky
This is Will (Erin’s Husband). I’ve never read this article until now. I do see his point and understand the merit in what he is saying. We have always been on board with supporting local ministries on the field and establishing relationships with missionaries who are already there. Creating dependency is a dangerous thing. In addition, I have heard from some missionaries that the shoeboxes aren’t always distributed as they should be. However, overall, I think the shoeboxes do serve a purpose and are presenting children with the Gospel. There are many, many ways to help. We can support various ministries that touch different areas. Shoeboxes are one way, and we should support the missionaries who are delivering these as well. Hope that makes sense.
I’ve thought about this too, but I think the article is misguided. Typically these children receiving the shoeboxes DO NOT get the items inside the box. They’re kids who’s parents are NOT going to go to the local person to buy pencils or clothes or whatever it may be because they cannot afford to in the first place. So really, you’re not upending anyone. I read on the Operation Christmas Child FB page about the stories they’re posting from real kids who are now adults that got boxes when they were children. The one boy from Panama, I believe, said he could never go to school because his parents could never afford to buy him the school supplies. When he got the shoebox, he got to go to school. Who was hurt? No one, because the parents weren’t buying the items in the first place. So no small business was damaged in the process. You can’t get anything from zero but zero. So I suppose that yes, IF a child was getting an item replaced that their parents would already buy them, it would be a problem. But when they’re in the mountain villages of places you’ve never heard of where there’s no one that even knows what half of the items in the shoeboxes ARE, they’re not hurting any local economy. If anything, I feel that the article posted takes away from one charity by guilting you into buying into another.
Although this comment was made in 2015. Please note the beginning, where he mentions “Kiva” the organization he works for. This comment has merit, but is misplaced and misguided. There are many many ways of helping people and just as many organizations to donate to. We should all do as the Lord guides us. We should not post comments criticizing programs that serve a purpose just because it doesn’t align with the cause we support.
What a great post! Thank you so much for sharing! I pack boxes with my 3 little ones every year. We love it and know that each box will be used as a wonderful tool for sharing the Gospel with children and their families. I have enjoyed reading the posts shared on FB by Operation Christmas Child and Samaritan’s Purse, showing how God is using these simple gifts as ministry tools for local churches. My family and I love OCC!
I am most interested in the lip balm and bar soap from Free Reign Farm. It hard for me to find things to use on my skin that I do not end up being allergic too.
I am ALL FOR the packing of the shoe boxes! I am against thieves who steal these boxes of gifts from the children for whom they are intended! You mentioned hearing from Missionaries who have said the shoe boxes aren’t distributed as they should be. In which country (or countries) have you heard this is taking place? Those of us packing the shoe boxes as well as OCC, have a right to know and should be made aware of this! Should DEFINITELY be reported to OCC! Can you explain more about what you have heard from the missionaries as far as what happens to the undistributed OCC boxes?
I’m not sure what all goes on. I’m sorry.
Jackie Owens Harris
As the project leader for Operation Christmas Child at Severna Park Baptist Church, Severna Park Maryland, I loved reading your blog article, 5 Reasons to Pack an OCC Shoeboxes.
We are strong supporters of OCC and believe in discipleship. May we may permission to publish your article either on our church website or in our bulletin?
Thanks so much for sharing.