by Madison V. Fisler
Dec. 9, 2013. At 10:30 a.m. this morning, Operation Christmas Child held a Community Celebration at the Operation Christmas Child Headquarters in Boone. Franklin Graham, High Country kids, families and volunteers all gathered at the processing center to celebrate the 750,000 gift-filled shoeboxes to be processed this year at the Boone center to be delivered to needy kids overseas.
Hundreds of volunteers from as far away as Washington state and even the Middle East came out to help spread hope with shoeboxes.
The celebration took place at 139 Milton Brown Heirs Road and included live music from the Operation Christmas Child Choir and the Tommy Koontz Band as well as personal testimony from Alex Nsengimana, a Rwandan shoebox recipient who knows how the gift of a shoebox can bring hope to a child in need.
Operation Christmas Child, headed by Franklin Graham, is a project of international Christian relief and evangelism organization Samaritan’s Purse. To date, the operation has collected more than 100 million shoebox gifts since its beginnings in 1993. This year, Operation Christmas Child is celebrating its 20th anniversary and hopes to collect another 9.8 million shoeboxes this year to distribute to needy children around the world.
“I want the world know know about God’s love,” said Graham. “The simple act of filling a shoebox can make such a difference in a child’s life. There are more than a billion children to reach and we value every single shoebox. Over the years this operation has grown and expanded to 110 countries and ten million boxes this year. We never have too many.”
In fact, there is an airplane leaving New York on Thursday with a shipment of the shoebox gifts to the Philippines,which was ravaged by a storm earlier this winter.
“These kids have lost everything,” said Graham. “We have to stop and love the children. Christmas is about giving.”
Alex Nsengimana, a Rwandan shoebox recipient from years ago, was also present at the event and told the story of his own shoebox gift and the hope that it gave him.
“My family was killed in the war, so I went to live with my aunt who took me to an orphanage,” Nsengimana said.
“I would ask myself why I was alive. And then one day we got shoeboxes. We saw all of the toys and clothes and school supplies and hygiene items and it planted seeds of hope and love. I got a candy cane and a comb, which I kept for years and never tasted. It put a smile back on my face.”
After joining the African Children’s Choir, Nsengimana was given a very unique opportunity.
“I had been given an opportunity to go back to my orphanage and deliver boxes. As I stood there, I kept remembering the joy I felt when I got my box. My favorite moment was translating letters to the children.Their faces lit up with joy. I am telling you this so you know the other side of the story. There are so many children, let’s reach more, shall we?” said Nsengimana.
The shoeboxes were finished up and placed in big boxes which were then taped up by volunteers for shipment. Boxes upon boxes filled up the facility, with smiling faces and happy laughter filling the air, with an errant Christmas carol or “God Bless” sounding every so often.
If you did not get the chance to attend the community party, check out these pictures of the event to see what you missed.
Photos by Madison V. Fisler
For more information about Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child, click here.