It’s the time of year for “brown paper packages tied up with strings.” For people who pack and send Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts, that means brown cardboard shipping boxes filled to the brim with boxes of toys, hygiene items, school supplies, and other necessities, which stay on our list of favorite things all year long.
Every time the boxes begin their journey across the globe, it’s a cause for celebration! Special gifts wrapped with love and prayer are on their way to children in Jesus’ Name.This is why shoeboxes are some of our favorite things.
For many of the children who receive them, the gift in itself is special. For some, it’s their first gift. For others, their concepts of the world and who God is expand after discovering that someone they don’t know cared enough to send them a gift simply because of Jesus’ love. Even the simplest of gifts can mean the most.
Here are items from our gift suggestion lists that children in Paraguay were excited to receive in their shoeboxes earlier this year.
A great way to start packing a shoebox gift is by including a medium to large item that will capture the child’s attention the instant he or she opens the box. Include items that children will immediately embrace or that make them say “wow!”
Whether laughing, hugging the new toy, or showing it to friends, children in a wide range of age groups love to receive stuffed animals.
A girl, dressed in pink, heads home with her new doll—also wearing pink. The doll’s flexible fabric legs enabled the large toy to fold into a Samaritan’s Purse pre-printed shoebox.
Whether it’s a soccer ball, football, baseball, basketball, or tennis ball, sports toys for a child to call his or her own makes that child feel special. One boy with a soccer ball also received a manual air pump, which is important to include so that the child can re-inflate the ball.
Many school-age children are as excited to see a bunch of pencils, pens, crayons, and notebooks in a shoebox as they are to see the toys. In many areas of the world, if children don't have school supplies, they don't attend school because they don’t have the tools necessary to do their schoolwork. When you shop for shoebox school supplies, don’t forget extra erasers and a manual pencil sharpener!
Eight-year-old Maxi’s favorite thing in his shoebox was a dinosaur toy, which two brothers, ages 4 and 6, from Lincolnton, North Carolina, selected for a shoebox their family packed. They included a note: “Dear New Friend, We thought long and hard about what to put in your box. It’s hard to know exactly what, but we put things we love the most. Our two boys did most of the work themselves. We hope you enjoy these items and that they bring you lots of joy.”
Sunglasses are always popular with the kids and useful in cold and warm weather. In some higher elevations, the sun’s bright rays can seem stronger when accompanied by cold wind and freezing temperatures.
Bandages, toothbrushes, washcloths, and soap may seem like simple gifts, but many children don't have access to these items, especially fun specialty ones geared toward children.
Remember to include a photo of you or the group who packed the shoebox gifts! Pictures transcend language differences. Including a message to the child about Jesus’ love for them can have an impact as well.
Consider including a name and address, even if it’s a church/group address or a generic email address, so that if the child is able, he or she can correspond with you. Remember that the cost of mail services can be prohibitive or inaccessible in some areas, so you may not hear back from the children; it may even be months or years before they respond.
Wrapping a shoebox in Christmas paper is a fun, festive way to decorate your box. Remember to wrap the lid separately from the rest of the box so it can be properly inspected and prepared for shipping.
Prayer is the most important thing you can include in a shoebox gift. The most important thing a child can receive from the gift is learning they can pray, too, and believe in Jesus as Lord.
Local Christian believers are the ones who typically distribute the vast majority of Operation Christmas Child gifts. They identify communities that lack a Gospel witness or ones in which outreach events will help local congregations or ministries reach more families with the Gospel. These believers distribute The Greatest Gift Gospel booklets to children receiving shoebox gifts, explaining the message of the Gospel in a way that is easy for children to understand.
Local believers are also trained to lead The Greatest Journey, a children’s Bible study which is offered to many kids after they receive their shoeboxes. The discipleship course provides a local connection between children and church leaders, as well as long-term investment in communities. In this way, it helps establish churches where there were none and strengthens existing churches by training church members as teachers in evangelism and discipleship.
You can Build a Shoebox online any time of the year. You also can purchase gift cards for family members and friends to join in the fun of building shoeboxes online. For those who like to shop seasonal sales and get a jumpstart on collecting items for shoeboxes you pack yourself, refer to our Year-Round Packing Ideas for the #OCCitemofthemonth.