In 2008 our family joined a mission team from one of the churches in Brandon to share the love of Jesus to the very poor in the city of Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico.  It was in one of the churches at the heart of the city where our team had the privilege to help distribute the iconic green and red shoe boxes of Operation Christmas Child.  Families were waiting outside the doors of the church while we helped to unload the truck filled with these shoe boxes, and as the doors opened to invite them in children and their parents poured into the sanctuary to stand in line.

One particular boy, about 10 years old, caught my attention.  His father carried him in and propped him up against the wall close to me. It seemed he was in a trance. When we asked the father what happened to the boy it was difficult to understand his explanation in thick Spanish. Either the boy had had a seizure, or his parents drugged him, because in that area buying drugs was cheaper than buying food, and at least the drugs took the hunger pangs away.

I sat down beside the boy and stroked his hand and sang to him, all the while praying that God would wake him up so he too could stand in line for his shoe box.  It took about half an hour before the boy woke up enough to stand up and walk with his father's help to the lineup of children.  And yes, he received his shoe box filled with gifts perfect for a 10-year-old boy and he was happy.  And so was his father who came up to me later and hugged me and thanked me for taking care of his son.

This is the kind of joy that is unique to the Samaritans Purse Ministries and Operation Christmas Child, launched every year in November.  This year Samaritans Purse Ministries is celebrating 30 years of providing shoe boxes for children around the world in war-torn and third world countries.  The national collection week is coming up quickly, November 13-19th at thousands of locations across Canada.

Jacki Enns is the collection and distribution coordinator for Killarney.  Enns says the area churches have shoe boxes available for folks to pick up and fill, and then all Killarney boxes are brought to the Killarney Mennonite Church over the course of the week to be transported to Brandon's Faith Fellowship Church on November 20th.  From there they are transported to Calgary, where the boxes are checked over for appropriate items and where inappropriate items (such as candy, liquids, toothpaste, or anything related to war) are removed.

The incentive began in 1993, when Samaritans Purse President Franklin Graham, (son of Billy Graham) received a phone call from a man in England asking if he could help fill shoe boxes for children in war-torn Bosnia. Franklin asked Pastor Ross Rhoads of the Calvary Church of Charlotte to help, who put out a plea to his congregation. Within weeks of his request the church had collected 11,000 shoeboxes.  Because of this church's incredible generosity, Samaritan's Purse sent 28,000 shoebox gifts to children in the Balkans that Christmas.

"This year Operation Christmas Child is celebrating its 30th year and so this year we are aiming for another 11 million shoeboxes to be delivered to these war-torn countries," shares Jacki Enns, "so that we can share Jesus' love with these children."

The Killarney area fills anywhere between 300-500 shoeboxes, "and we say a prayer over the boxes before they get transported to Brandon," adds Enns.  Something to note is that if you're not able to fill a complete box, or you are able to donate multiples of certain items (such as toothbrushes, matchbox cars, crayons, etc) then the distribution centre can use those items to build more boxes.

Age categories are boy and girl 2–4-year-olds, boy and girl 5–9-year-olds, and boy and girl 10-14 years old.

"I love packing for boys! I have two boys so for me it's very easy to take them out shopping and then know what items they would like to be able to open in a shoe box," explains Enns. "But, some of the items that we really like to include is ivory soap.  Ivory soap is the only bar of soap that floats. Very often when these men, women and children go down to the lakes, rivers and creeks, to wash themselves and their clothes, they use the soap and Ivory soap is the only one that doesn't sink. So, if you can, include a bar of Ivory soap!"

Every year since, Samaritan’s Purse has collected shoebox gifts filled with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items for children around the world. Since 1993, more than 209 million children in more than 170 countries and territories have received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox. The project delivers not only the joy of what, for many kids, is their first gift ever, but also gives them a tangible expression of God’s love.

Please listen to more with Jackie Enns below!

Please visit the website below for more on Operation Christmas Child, and a suggested list of items for each of the age categories.

Operation Christmas Child - Samaritan's Purse Canada (samaritanspurse.ca)

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