Operation Christmas Child (Shoebox Ministry)

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to travel to Atlanta with a group of forty from my church. We signed up to work a shift at the Operation Christmas Child Processing Center in Atlanta. Some refer to this as the ‘shoebox ministry.’

It’s always fun to travel with this group of teens. Many of these youth were my students in Sunday-School class in first grade. It thrills me to see them active and serving.


When we arrived at the hotel, God had arranged a divine appointment. I was waiting for the elevator with our group when a young man asked me, “Where are you from?”

I replied, “Franklin, Ky. We are here to work at the Operation Christmas Child Processing Center.”

His eyes sparkled. “I was a child who received a shoe box.”

I love how God pays attention to details when He arranges divine appointments. The young man introduced himself to us. “I am Renan and I am from Honduras.”  Our ‘Shoebox’ team leader Tammie is passionate about missions and plans to lead a team to a children’s home in Honduras in June.  She and her family served at the BMDMI Children’s Home in Honduras last year.

Tammie works tirelessly through the year to collect items for the shoeboxes. One week, she collected toothbrushes, the next week, a bar of soap. It’s not difficult for anyone to participate. Thanks to her efforts, our church put together over 700 packages.

Tammie_image (1)

“Every shoebox represents a person,” said Renan. “When I first opened my box, I saw a note and it said, ‘I love you.’ I lived in a village surrounded by people controlled by alcoholism and poverty. Because of the shoebox, I learned about Jesus and his love.”

hand“Don’t worry about what to put in the box,” said Renan. “Go to Walmart or the Dollar Store and pray as you shop. God will lead you. And pray over the box that a child who receives it will receive Christ.”

Today Renan is married to a missionary and lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I am thankful that God allowed me to be standing by Tammie’s side when he arranged for us to meet Renan.

I encourage you to make a shoebox for a girl or boy. Popular items to place in the shoebox include: a toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, comb, soap, washcloth, pencils, notebook, rubber balls, toothpaste, metal spoons, hard candy (candy that will not melt), plastic cups, sewing kits for older girls, and tool sets for older boys, knitted caps, ponytail holders, and small toys. I hope you’ll follow Renan’s advice and wander the aisles with a shoebox and pray as you fill it. For more details about how to build a box, check out this link: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/pack-a-shoebox-with-uncle-si/


There are nine processing centers across the United States. If you would like to volunteer or organize a group for next year, check out: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locations/


It’s easy to work at the processing center. First they train you. It takes about 10 minutes. There are six positions on the team. The warehouse is large but well organized. On Saturday, the entire center processed about 108,000 shoeboxes. Just imagine 108,000 thousand faces lighting up with joy.


While we were working last Saturday, the entire processing center took a break to hear the testimony of a young woman who had been a shoebox recipient. She too was from Honduras. She had grown up in an orphanage when she received a shoebox, and was thrilled to get a toothbrush. Before she had her own, she’d had to share one toothbrush with 25 other children. She also had a package of 10 pencils in her shoebox. A treasure, because she was given one pencil a year, and it was expected to last her through the year. She hid her pencils in fear that someone would take them. It was through this shoebox that she realized that someone cared about her and that Jesus loved her. God has big plans for this little girl who lost her family. She earned a soccer scholarship and attended college in the U.S. Today she is enrolled in medical school. She is the one standing on the ladder in the picture below.

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My niece, Terra, is serving as a missionary in Niger, Africa this semester. She has participated in the shoebox ministry for several years at home. She was delighted when the children she was working with in Africa received shoeboxes. They were chosen because they were attending her Kid’s Club and learning about Jesus.


I hope you’ll consider putting together a shoebox next year. You will bless someone and you too will be blessed. Remember each box is for a child who has next to nothing. But the most important gift he or she might receive is Jesus.

I’d love to hear from others who have participated in the shoebox ministry. Please leave a comment.


#operationschristmaschild #shoeboxministry #samaritanspurse #missions

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About shelia@sheliastovall.com

Shelia Stovall is a Southern, small-town librarian, and has an understanding of what women like to read. She is a member of ACFW and is currently the Treasurer of the Middle Tennessee ACFW Chapter. Shelia is a member of the Ky. Public Library Association and the American Library Association. Her short story, The Barber’s Sanctuary, won the fiction division of Kentucky Monthly’s sixth annual Writer’s Showcase in the November 2013 issue. Shelia is a weekly columnist for the Citizen-Times, based in Scottsville, Ky. Shelia’s Southern, small-town roots have given her an understanding of community and women's friendships. Her writing deals with difficult contemporary issues, but there’s always a thread of hope amid the calamity. Shelia is passionate about African missions and has traveled to Africa annually for the past four years. Community service is also important to Shelia, and she has volunteered as a crew chief for five years at Camp Habitat, (a Christian youth service camp that partners with Habitat for Humanity).

4 thoughts on “Operation Christmas Child (Shoebox Ministry)

  1. jane

    After working at the processing center,I will never pack a shoebox the same as I did before. It is so personal for the children who receive them.They can tell you every item that was in the box, even years later. It may be the only gift they receive.

    1. shelia@sheliastovall.com Post author

      I agree. Meeting Renan opened my eyes as to how important this mission is. We have so much and they have so little. It’s hard to believe something as a simple as a pencil is a treasure to the children receiving these packages.


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