Chances are you’ve heard of Operation Christmas Child, the ministry that sends shoeboxes full of gifts to children in need around the world.
You might have even packed a shoebox or two yourself in the past.
But have you heard the stories of the impact these simple gifts have made?
Here are the stories of young Anabel, Olesea, and Vladimir:
Anabel first received a shoebox full of gifts when she was nine years old.
As a girl growing up in the Dominican Republic, she assumed she was a Christian, but didn’t know exactly what it meant to trust Jesus.
That Christmas, Anabel prayed for God to send her a special gift — “something just for me.”
She wanted to see Him demonstrate the faithfulness and kindness that her parents spoke of so often.
“I knew that my shoebox gift was God’s answer to my prayer,” Anabel said. “To me, it was proof that God is faithful.”
While she didn’t fully embrace her faith until a few years later, Anabel admitted that her shoebox was what really sparked a desire to know God more and to follow Him with her life.
“The gift really started me thinking that since God is faithful to me, I needed to be faithful to Him,” Anabel said. “I needed that message of God’s love.”
Now an adult, Anabel packs shoeboxes every year, trusting that her gifts will end up where they are needed. She added, “I believe that God always will put the right box in the right hand.”
Olesea and her family lived in a small village in the country of Moldova. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the country’s economy was unstable and Olesea’s family struggled to make ends meet.
Although their needs were always provided for, they rarely had money for gifts and toys. “We made up our own games because we didn’t have toys,” Olesea remembered.
When Olesea was five years old, she and her siblings received shoeboxes at Christmas. It was a life-changing experience for Olesea, who “felt it was the most glorious day ever.”
“The thing that stood out to me the most was a pack of colorful markers,” Olesea shared. “I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I didn’t know some of the colors existed. I was so excited I jumped up and started running around the room.”
The blessings that Olesea experienced through her shoebox gifts changed her perspective on Jesus. “The day I received my shoebox I went from knowing about Jesus to actually knowing Him,” she said. “I began a personal relationship with [Him].”
Olesea now shares her relationship with Jesus through her career in nursing, and every Christmas she remembers to pack shoebox gifts for children so they can experience the joy that she felt so many years ago.
By the time he was eleven years old, Vladimir had experienced great tragedy already. His parents had died when he was nine, and his best friend’s family had taken care of him as long as they could, but he eventually went to an orphanage in Kiev, Ukraine.
At the orphanage, Vladimir learned about God, and he put his faith in Jesus, despite the hardship he had experienced.
When a collection of shoeboxes came to the orphanage at Christmas, Vladimir received a toy car and a Bible in his box. The simple, thoughtful gifts touched him deeply.
“When I think back to that day in the orphanage and all the gifts provided…I think also about how God cares for us and often shows His love through even the littlest things—like toy cars,” Vladimir remembered.
“God works in amazing and tangible ways through such ordinary things and ordinary people, and He used the simple generosity of people thousands of miles away to speak to me that day,” he continued.
“It was through those thoughtful little gifts I received that I finally understood that God really did care personally for me.”
Now an adult in the United States, Vladimir works to remind others that these simple gifts are a tangible way to show God’s love to those in need.
For more stories like these, and to learn how you can be part of Operation Christmas Child’s shoebox program next year, click here!