Every year, through the Operation Christmas Child project of Samaritan’s Purse, churches and individuals pack millions of shoebox gifts—praying over each of these special boxes as they’re prepared for a boy or girl somewhere in the world. In 2019, nearly 70,000 of those boxes arrived in Botswana, a country in the southern part of Africa where hard-to-reach villages stretch out along the Kalahari desert. Since ministry started in Botswana 18 years ago, more than 1 million children have received shoebox gifts. Many of these children had never received a present before they opened their gift-filled shoebox provided through Operation Christmas Child. This means that at least 1 million children, and often the parents and families of those children, have heard the Gospel through Operation Christmas Child outreach events. The children who receive a shoebox gift almost always have a favorite item they point to, and many remember it even years later. And the items they receive in their shoebox often will be a blessing to others as school supplies, hygiene items, and toys are shared with siblings. What they also share with their family and friends is the joy and love they experience as they realize that someone on the other side of the world—a total stranger to them—has blessed them and is praying for them.Could it be that there is a God who loves them too?
The Greatest Journey Begins
Through shoebox gift distributions, churches have the opportunity to invite children in Botswana to a 12-lesson discipleship program called The Greatest Journey where leaders teach children from God’s Word. They learn that God created them, loves them, and sent Jesus Christ to die for their sins. More than 48,000 children in Botswana have enrolled in The Greatest Journey 12-lesson discipleship program, with 13,000 enrolling in the past year. We praise God that more than 15,000 children in Botswana have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior after hearing the Gospel through the ministry of Operation Christmas Child.
The Greatest Journey has had a life-changing impact on 13-year-old Kaone. She received a shoebox gift and started attending The Greatest Journey classes at a church near her home in Molepolole, Botswana. In her shoebox gift she received “a pair of socks, a book, pens” and they told her at the outreach event “that Jesus is the One who created everything on earth.” After enrolling in The Greatest Journey classes she learned more about Jesus. “I wanted to know more about Jesus. I learned that Jesus is the greatest in all the earth,” she said. “I gave my life to Jesus. I want to follow Jesus because He’s wonderful.”
‘The Fire in Their Family’
As children come to Christ in Botswana and other countries, they become ambassadors for Him to their friends, families, and communities. As God begins to transform the lives of children, those children become catalysts for change. Many families begin studying the Bible together or use The Greatest Journey lessons in their homes to learn more about Jesus. In many cases, all over the world, parents are coming to faith in Jesus Christ through the witness of their children. “Some children go to church because of their parents,” said an Operation Christmas Child teacher named Banyana Pheto in Molepolole, Botswana. “But here parents are coming to church because of the power of God in the life of their children.” Some little ones in Botswana return to homes where families are hostile to the Gospel for various reasons. Onalenna Moutlwiemamg, national discipleship coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in Botswana, says that The Greatest Journey teachers provide ongoing encouragement to these children as they persevere in the faith. “So often the children we meet actually want to hear the Gospel, but their parents don’t. We just encourage the children to go home, to continue praying, and to continue sharing with their families. We tell them that they are the fire of their families.” As volunteers throughout Botswana spend countless hours delivering gifts, making Gospel presentations, and providing discipleship training, the children of this land—even those in remote villages—are learning about the Father who loves them. A prayerfully packed shoebox may seem like a small thing, but in God’s hands it becomes something of eternal significance. Botswana is just one of well more than 100 countries that Operation Christmas Child works in each year. Please pray for the millions of boys and girls who will receive gift-filled shoeboxes over the next 12 months. We thank God for how He’s at work around the world.
Your Family Can Get Involved!!
Teach Them Diligently is excited to partner with Operation Christmas Child throughout the month of October to encourage all our families to pack at least one shoebox to send to a child who needs to hear about Jesus and experience the life change that comes when you meet Him. We would love to see your pictures and hear your stories as we come together for this cause. Please use #TTDShoeboxes to share your shoebox stories!
Samaritans Purse seeks to share the Gospel around the world! You can click HERE to learn more and see what you can safely pack in a shoebox.