For many years, churches around the world, including Shiloh Seventh Day Baptist, have participated in the Operation Christmas Child shoebox ministry. Through this international Samaritan’s Purse ministry, our church was able to reach children in Tanzania, Ukraine, Mali, and “a hard-to-reach area” with the 253 shoeboxes that were filled this year. Since we began several years ago, we have filled 2,837 shoeboxes with many items: toothbrushes, pencils, toys, soccer balls, dolls, soap, washcloths…the list is endless.
Throughout the year, our church collects “loose items” and monetary donations for shoeboxes. We meet on a Sunday in November to hold a “packing party” where all the purchased items are laid out on tables and everyone takes turns walking around the room to fill empty shoeboxes. We pray over the boxes after they are filled and off they go. They are on their way to a child where they will deliver smiles and the awareness that there is someone praying for them and that that child is loved. Many people are familiar with Operation Christmas Child and believe that is where this ministry ends. Here is the “secret”… it’s NOT! The shoebox is only the beginning. And no, it’s not actually a secret at all. It is just the part of the ministry that most people are not aware of. After a child receives a shoebox, they are enrolled in a twelve-lesson discipleship program. This pro-gram is provided in each child’s native language, usually by local teachers who have been trained in the program by Samaritan’s Purse. The children learn about who Christ is and what He did for each one of them through Bible stories and scripture memorization. They are taught how to follow Him and to apply His teachings to their daily lives. And as we are called to do, they are taught to share the Gospel with their families, friends, and villages. The Greatest Journey concludes with a graduation cere-mony where each child receives a Bible (Old and New Testaments), a Biblical dictionary and a map of Bible lands. These tools, along with the knowledge they received, equip these children to be faithful followers of Christ. Since 2009, more than 14.9 million* children have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior while enrolled in the Greatest Journey.
If you happen to pack a shoebox this year, keep in mind that for each box packed, another child has the opportunity to participate in the Greatest Journey. Sure, it is great to receive a new flashlight and a yo-yo, but the REAL gift is Jesus. And this program delivers just that. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” —Matthew 28: 19-20