IT STARTS WITH A SHOEBOX…
Since 1990, Operation Christmas Child – an initiative of the Christian relief and development agency Samaritan’s Purse – has been blessing underprivileged children around the world with gift-filled shoeboxes wrapped and packed by children and adults in the UK. It’s a campaign that thousands of schools, churches and other organisations from across the UK get involved with between September and November each year. In fact, it is now the UK’s largest children’s Christmas appeal. The idea is simple. Children and adults wrap and pack shoeboxes with a range of gifts and take them to a convenient ‘drop-off point’. We collect these gift-filled shoeboxes and, after processing for export purposes, we send them overseas where local churches distribute them to children, on the basis of need alone. Each shoebox is an unconditional gift, given to a child with nothing asked for, or expected in return; no pledges, no obligation to go to church or attend classes; ‘no strings attached’. These shoebox gifts are an expression of God’s love to us, and the gift of His Son Jesus at Christmas. They give local churches the opportunity to show God’s love to children in a tangible way and, during the distribution event, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, perhaps through age-appropriate music, dance and puppet shows, or through a little book of Bible stories The Greatest Gift. The Greatest Gift, distributed with the shoebox, not inside it.
…THE JOURNEY CONTINUES
In some cases, after the shoebox distribution, children may be invited to attend a discipleship programme called The Greatest Journey. This is a voluntary follow-up course for children who have received shoeboxes through Operation Christmas Child, enabling them to interact with the Gospel, through Bible stories and Bible teaching. The mission of The Greatest Journey is to help local churches overseas reach children with the Gospel, to establish them in their faith in Jesus Christ and to equip them to pray for and share the Gospel with their family and friends. The Greatest Journey is a series of 12 lessons containing exciting Biblical content exclusively delivered and presented by trained volunteers from local churches, with training and all resources provided free of charge, at their request. Through this programme local believers are being empowered and enabled to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with children in their own communities. Children completing The Greatest Journey are awarded a personal certificate and many will receive a special copy of the New Testament in their own language, which also contains Old Testament stories, colourful illustrations, memory verses and other learning aids. In many countries around the world, Bibles are rare, or hard to obtain; these Bibles become instant treasures, not only to the children receiving them but to their friends and family as well. Not all children receiving shoeboxes will want, or be able to participate in The Greatest Journey, either by reason of their own free will, because there are no trained teachers in their locality to take the classes, or because resources for the children are not yet available – either in their local language or in sufficient quantities. To find out more about The Greatest Journey, click here.