Our second delivery was to a school. Like many buildings in the Dominican Republic, the rooms are open air. So, walking around the home-turned-school, we could see right into the classrooms. Their little bulletin boards with bumblebee nametags, stacks of notebooks, chalk boards and desks as familiar as any school at home.
Of course, all the desks were out of the room because they had carefully set them in the front grassy area for the shoebox delivery! They were facing us as we drove in and seemed perfectly patient and expectant for our arrival.
When Operation Christmas Child sets up a delivery, they don’t advertise that there are going to be BOXES! OF! GIFTS! They usually just let the community know (via the church or school) that there is going to be an event for kids about Christmas.
That gives them the perfect opportunity to tell the kids about Jesus and His gift to them. This day, our interpreters (who are simply amazing) sang songs (which I videoed and will be teaching to my kids and you soon!) and generally got the kids excited. After some singing to warm up the kids, one of my new friends and teammates, JJ Jasper from American Family Radio gave a quick gospel message and told the kids about Jesus and how these gifts were a reminder of His love.
Then the fun began! We handed out the boxes, counted to three and let the kids have at it! Since these kids were at their desks, it was so adorable to see their little heads buried in the boxes or peeking into a neighbor’s box.
I sat down with a few of the 2-4 year olds and helped them look through their box, open packages and generally try to understand what was going on. One little girl sat quietly and demurely waiting for someone to help her. Another girl looked at me with don’t-you-want-to-see-what-I-got look. Another little guy was as happy with every little toy in his box as if it was the only toy.
It was a sweet time. Kind of like that happy lull you get after you’ve opened presents and eaten breakfast on Christmas morning. Everyone is still in their pajamas, no agenda, just lounging around enjoying each other and new stuff. It felt homey and content.
Before leaving each distribution, OCC presents the leader of the school/church/etc with a gift (supplies, etc.) and takes time to pray with them. Jessica and I were able to pray with and talk to the teacher/director/supermama of the school.
We were so impressed and inspired by her because this school started when she began to homeschool her six children. Her neighbors saw what she was doing and asked if she would teach their children as well. Her school became so popular that now 84 kids attend and there are 5 teachers!
She said this building used to be her home and they would lift up the beds to have school so everyone could fit inside. Finally, an American missionary team came to build a second story onto the building so they could live upstairs and have school downstairs.
This delivery helped me see how OCC partners with local people. I felt almost like we were special guests at a school assembly. We came in to help make this school’s day a little easier and the kids’ day a bit more fun. We didn’t build anything or start any new programs. We simply shared the story of God’s greatest gift and reinforced it with the best object lesson ever: shoebox gifts. Operation Christmas Child made her school the most happenin’ place on the block. And made her school a brighter light to the community.