By Debbie Carollo
I love Christmas shopping for our family. The earlier in the year I begin, the more creative I can be and the easier it is on the checkbook. I cannot wait to see them open their stockings on Saint Nicholas Day and their gifts on Christmas Day. But there are two kiddos I shop for each year that I will never get to watch open their gifts, and that’s okay. Some years those kiddos live in the Philippines; other years somewhere in Central or South America. How is that possible? Through Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse.
Since Operation Christmas Child began in 1990, over 61 million shoebox gifts have been delivered to children in more than 135 countries. Are you wowed yet? Not only are these kiddos blessed with the love, care, and small gifts put into each box, but they also receive an opportunity to hear about Jesus. Local churches are able to reach out to children and their families with shoeboxes, giving them the news that strangers from around the world love them, and then give them the Good News, that Jesus loves them! For more information, visit Samaritan’s Purse online.
Our family has been filling shoeboxes for OCC for a number of years now. Back in the days when our kiddos were younger and still living at home, they joined me on my shopping excursions. Our two boys would choose items for a little boy, and our two girls would carefully pick the perfect things for a little girl. It was a great opportunity to get them thinking about other children at a time of year when visions of sugarplums and gaily wrapped toys danced in their heads. And they loved it!
Now it is myself, my husband, and our youngest daughter shopping for the shoeboxes. We usually begin in August, when the back-to-school sales are in full swing, and many school supplies are a “steal of a deal.” Often, the children receiving the shoeboxes don’t have their own supplies, so these are always must-have items for our boxes. Crayons, sharpened pencils and sharpeners, pencil pouches, erasers, pens, washable markers, rulers, scissors, and glue sticks are just some of the things we include.
We add in notepads, sticky notes, coloring books, socks, hats, gloves, jump ropes, puzzles, hard candies, gum, mints, and hygiene items: toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, washcloths, combs, brushes, band aids, etc.
For the boys’ boxes, small footballs, bouncy balls, stuffed animals, yo-yos, toy cars, and jumping jacks are all ideas for a personal touch. Dolls, stuffed animals, hair barrettes and scrunchies, and stickers are ways to delight the girls.
Since you choose a specific age bracket (2-4, 5-9, 10-14) and gender, you can really personalize each box and see how God moves your heart. As you can probably tell from my lists above, we generally pack for ages 5-9. I think the 10-14 bracket gets the fewest shoeboxes. Perhaps we will change things up a bit this year and come up with some ideas for older children!
There are some items that you are not to include: liquids or lotions (what a mess that could make), chocolates (they will melt), food (it will spoil), army or other military/war-type items (these children have likely seen more than enough violence and/or war for their lifetimes already).
We usually find all our items on sale or at the local dollar store. If we pick up things here and there, or even make some items ourselves, we can pack boxes fairly inexpensively. Another cost-saving thing I like to do is buy multi-packs of gums and mints, and bags of individually wrapped candies, and then divide them between the two boxes in sealed sandwich baggies.
Operation Christmas Child asks that you use a standard sized shoebox (not too big) and also include $7 in each box for shipping, if you are able.
For excellent step-by-step instructions, and a more detailed list of suggestions, as well as prohibited, items, visit the website. The website has all sorts of wonderful resources, including ideas on how to involve your church or community group and throw a “packing party.”
There you will also find the option to pay for your box(es) shipping fee(s) online. When you take advantage of that tool, you are then able to print out labels for your box(es) with information enabling you, through Operation Christmas Child, to track the box(es) and be notified when, and where, they are delivered. That is how I know ours have been to the Philippines and to Peru. I highly recommend this option. You can even turn it into a geography lesson with your kiddos, studying a bit about the country where your gifts were sent.
Wherever the gifts end up, I know that God has chosen the perfect kiddos to receive the boxes I have packed. I follow OCC on social media, and they share wonderful stories of how, time after time, the exact items a child needed or wanted were in their personal shoebox. Isn’t God awesome?
Now please excuse me; I need to finish my shopping!
Debbie savors life with her hubby and youngest daughter on their transplanted-to-the-suburbs Sonflower Ranch. Writing, gardening, quilting, petting cats, and partaking in “kitchen therapy” are her favorite to-do’s, but spending time with family trumps them all. For more ranch life antics, visit her personal blog at sonflowerranch.wordpress.com.