Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Packing Party 2019
Three hundred. That's how many gifts were prepared the night of November 17th. That means three hundred children who will receive the Gospel message in the simplest way, love. Love without exception or expectation, and in the name of Jesus. Admittedly, it was my first time attending the packing party and I was surprised at the turnout.
Despite the number of people, what could have been a horrible mess proceeded very smoothly. Tables had been set out and covered in eligible gifts with empty shoe boxes at one end and a marker for age range. Samaritan's Purse who, in 1993, took up the project from its original creators, designate the gifts for three age ranges, 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14, in addition to boy and girl. I planned on packing at least one shoe box for each group. With prayers said and food waiting, we began our task.
I started on the boys 5-9 table and filled my box with stationary, perhaps for a young artist or writer like myself, along with some hygiene essentials, small toys, utensils and whatever else I could reasonably fit. Then I followed the crowd around in an arc to the drop-off station on the far end of the gymnasium where my slightly overstuffed box was bound with a rubber band and placed in its corresponding stack. Samaritan's purse gives out millions of these gifts a year and I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that God has already designated which child is going to get the box I just made. Thinking about it like that makes me want to put together more personalized boxes and leave their trajectory in His hands. I returned to the tables and prepared a girl's box of the same age range and a boys 2-4. That was as far a I got; maybe twenty minutes had passed and the tables were already bare.
On the Samaritan's Purse website there's an interesting question on the FAQ page that asks: "Is this project forcing religion on the child who gets a gift?" The answer given is very insightful and you can read it in full here, but a couple things I'd like to highlight of it say they try to "demonstrate God's love in a tangible way" and "never be manipulative." Personally, I think these two things cannot be overstated from an evangelical standpoint. Whenever we approach someone with the Gospel, we have to do it out of love. If you've got that atheist coworker who loves to debate you, don't do it with a competitive mindset. There's not much to be gained for the kingdom if you "win" the argument by some mental trickery without demonstrating God's love. In the same vein, if you have someone close to you living in sin remember that the sin is a symptom and not a cause. Show love first. Samaritan's Purse expects nothing from the children who receive our gifts but they give them anyway because it's a knock on the door that says: "This is Love."
Well that's enough out of me. If you want to see more, and I mean a lot more, pictures from the event, then check out the church's Facebook Page. Remember as well that Samaritan's Purse collects shoe boxes all year round so no need to hold off on putting some together if the Spirit moves you.