I was scrolling through Facebook the other day and saw a picture of my friend Amy. Amy is the former Team Distribution Manager for Operation Christmas Child. She led my trip to the Dominican Republic along with about 8-9 other trips every year. She’s the woman who goes into these communities, schools and churches and organizes the whole shoebox shebang.
Anyway, here’s her picture:
But the best part is her caption, “It’s National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child. Two years ago in Zambia, there weren’t enough boxes for all of the children that showed up. I sat outside with them and told them about Jesus while their friends were inside receiving a gift. They never got a box. Would you pack a box this week, and then another?! What a dream to have enough boxes for every child in the world.”
I could not get this picture out of my head. After breakfast, I showed the kids and watched them stare with wide eyes at actual kids who were not getting any gifts for Christmas. Before Les left for work, I showed him, too. I felt my must-share-with-everyone thing rise up in me.
So, I emailed Amy and said, “Can I share this with my readers? Pllllleasse?!” She messaged me back right away and said PLEASE DO! Apparently, that entire trip to Zambia, they were dreadfully short on boxes because more kids showed up than they expected.
Why? Because an American (especially a pretty blond) had never been in their area before and everyone wanted to see this novelty! They were so into her hair, she finally just let them get their fingers right in and explore!
She said, “I ended up talking with about 50-100 kids at several different churches, but there wasn’t space or boxes for them. We talked about Jesus. I shared the gospel. We played silly games. And of course the most important part is hearing the gospel, but them not getting gifts BROKE my heart.”
It breaks my heart, too. I packed my first shoebox in 2009 and documented it right here on this blog. Since then I’ve worked in the Processing Center for OCC, delivered boxes in the Dominican Republic and been an advocate here on my blog. This year, we’re hoping to pack 40 more boxes. That’s 40 kids–maybe THOSE 40 kids in Zambia who will receive a gift and learn about the greatest gift of all, Jesus.
If you’re still on the fence about packing a shoebox, let me give you some quick and fast tips on packing the best box ever:
1. Pack a Gender Neutral Box
When I was in the DR, we went to two distribution parties where we ran out of boy boxes. We had to open up the extra girl boxes and see which ones would be appropriate for a boy to receive. So, even though a pink princess box looks fun, why not do a box full of all kinds of treasures–notebooks, puzzles, crayons and toys that all kids would appreciate!
2. Pack It Tight
If you’re gonna pack a box, let’s pack it up! We love to buy little containers, cups and zippered pouches because then we can fill them with small erasers, pencil sharpeners, lip balms, stickers and hair clips before packing them in the box!
3. Play Tetris
Pack your box with some spatial reasoning and get even more stuff in the box than you thought possible. Put the stickers and notebooks on the bottom. Wrap the soap with the washcloth. Slide the pencils into the sides. Stack up the playing cards and boxed toys tightly together. And if that means you need to take something out of the packaging, do it! It’s better to fit more stuff in than to “prove” it’s new by keeping it in a large bulky wrapper.
4. Don’t forget the Bare Necessities.
Make sure every box includes some kind of toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, brush/comb, soap and washcloth are our faves) and some school supplies (some kind of notebook, pencil/pen, crayons/colored pencils/markers).
5. Shop Around
The Dollar Store isn’t always the best deal. You can get full-sized AIM toothpaste at Walmart for 89 cents and 8-count crayons for 90 cents on Amazon. You can buy packs of playdough that have 4 containers inside and spread those out to 4 boxes. I found dresses for $2 at Walmart last week!
6. Add Prayer
An actual child is going to get the box you pack. A real kid! Pray for that child. Pray as you pack the box. Think about what they might think when they see each item. Pray God will use those small gifts to bring hope and light to their life.
And I’m going to echo Amy’s plea: