It’s just a simple shoebox, a bright green and red rectangle filled inside with a plush toy, and more. But outside this modest container is a story of good news and joy.
“After I returned from my Rwanda distribution trip in 2014, I wrote a poem,” my cousin, Marilynn Luginbill Sanders, said about her travel as the Operation Christmas Child South Central Georgia Area Drop-off team leader. “My heart was filled with so many wonderful memories of seeing the children’s joy when they opened their shoeboxes.”
Each year across America, plus 10 other countries, countless Samaritan Purse ministry Christmas shoeboxes are filled to the brim inside by caring individuals – people with a big heart – and then dropped off at OCC designated locations. But the story doesn’t end there. When the gift-filled packages leave for their destinations in developing countries, the story outside the shoebox has only begun.
Here is a firsthand poetic account about the power of a simple shoebox and its far-reaching love.
The Other Side of the Shoebox – Marilynn Sanders:
Each year I pack my boxes, always wishing that I could be; On the other side of the shoebox, when given to a child in need; I always pray that I’ll pack it just right, I pray for the girl or boy; I imagine their squeals of laughter, their smiles and their joy.
To go on a distribution trip, a thought only in my dreams; But I hoped and prayed God’s will be done, for me to join a team; Then one day I received a phone call, it was an answered prayer; I’d been selected to go to Rwanda, to hand out boxes over there.
In preparation for my trip, I learned of Rwanda’s troubled past; I learned of their love and forgiveness, the hatred that didn’t last; I learned of their restoration, their investment in their youth; Their children are their future, they’re learning the Word of Truth.
We visited a classroom, ‘The Greatest Journey’ was being taught; The teacher was enthusiastic, the children were learning a lot; They were focused on the lesson, and followed in their books; They were happy to learn from “TGJ”, you could tell so by their looks.
At each of our distributions, the children would dance and sing; Their beautiful voices and lively moves, talents fit for our King; Their lives are surrounded by poverty, some things they never get; But these children were still so happy, something I’ll never forget.
When it was time for the countdown, the infamous “1 ... 2 ... 3!”; The children sat patiently waiting, with the gifts upon their knees; At the count of “3” the lids flew off, with lots of squeals and noise; As their fingers touched the objects … toothbrushes, pencils, toys!
One little girl surprised me, when she extended my arm out wide; Then wrote her name in pink marker, that made me happy inside; Interacting with the children, and seeing their happy faces; So many times I thanked our Lord, for showing us His graces.
But I couldn’t help but notice the little boy, the one who didn’t open his gift; Who sat there with hands holding the box, but the lid he didn’t lift; I wondered if he was just overwhelmed, and didn’t know what to do; So I sat by his side and helped him explore, the gift and all things new.
Many of the children were puzzled, and didn’t know what an item was;They’d bring me their gift and I’d show them, just what that item does; Girls loved the dolls and jump ropes, balls and cars were a hit with the boys; School supplies were a favorite, and they all liked things that made noise.
But one thing I learned that will help me, when I shop for the boxes I’ll fill; Is to keep the items simple, nothing that requires skill; I’ll pass on the toys with small pieces, and things that are made of goo; I’ll pack a focal item, and things that they know what they do.
The trip to Rwanda was life-changing, for me and for all of the others; To experience the love and friendship, of our faraway sisters and brothers; To experience the power of a simple gift, to see how it can change lives; To realize the urgency in reaching out, so the love of Jesus thrives.
The emotions of a distribution trip can go from very high to very low; The room is filled with laughter; the kids can really put on a show; But just outside the open window or on the other side of the gate; Are children without boxes, no choice but to wait.
This year I’ll pack more boxes, so more boys and girls will hear; About a God who loves them dearly, and wants to hold them near; I’ll be shouting from the rooftops, and sharing this trip with others; So that more will be encouraged, and pack boxes for our brothers.
Many feel that dropping off boxes, in November of each year; Is the end of the shoebox project, but let me make it clear; That’s just the start of the journey, so much more will come to pass; Before it meets a child’s heart, and lives are changed at last.
Operation Christmas Child shoebox collection dates are November 13-20. Visit samaritanspurse.org to find the nearest drop-off location.