TDekker web thumbSome say that the icing is the best part of the cake.  It is certainly the most attractive part, but not necessarily the substance of the cake.  A cake without icing is still cake, but icing on its own is not cake…it’s just icing!

The same can be said about Operation Christmas Child: on the outside, the shoebox of gifts is the best part!  It’s the most visual and attractive part of the ministry, but it isn’t necessarily substance of the process.

I sat down with Tracy Dekker to get a better picture of what the ministry of Operation Christmas Child does.

Having been involved in Operation Christmas Child for many years, it wasn’t until Tracy began leading the OCC movement at NCPC with her son, Christian, that she knew she wanted to be involved in the ministry more closely.  “I was looking for an outreach project for Christian to do for homeschool that would help him focus on others and thought OCC was a great opportunity.  He got really into it and has helped the past few years.  I had participated at my past churches by packing a box or two every year, but I felt that I wanted to be involved more after going to the processing center last year and meeting the area director who encouraged me to get involved.”

Tracy went on to explain what she loved most about the ministry.  “I knew that the boxes were all packed with a tract, but at the processing center I learned that when the boxes are delivered to the children, a gospel presentation is given FIRST and then the box is the icing on the cake; the bonus.”  Tracy explained that a lot of these kids don’t even really understand what a gift is - receiving something with no expectations for anything in return - and that some would be so happy that they would just sit and hug their box tight before opening it.  This is a great way to convey the free gift of eternal life in Christ; the kids hear the good news, and then experience a tangible act of free giving.  “I like that.  Toys last a little while, but faith lasts forever.”

graphics gallery2But, the ministry doesn’t stop there!  Samaritan’s Purse has trained and equipped leaders in each area to teach a Bible study program (called The Greatest Journey) to the children.  “They graduate from the program with full graduation cap and gown!  I just think that’s great!  Every child that receives a box will not walk away without the gospel being presented to them or without knowing that they are loved.  And we are talking millions of boxes!”

Last year, the mid-Atlantic region (our region) sent over 1 million boxes, contributing to the total 10.4 million boxes sent worldwide!  With over 500,000 volunteers, Samaritan’s Purse has reached millions of children through the ministry of Operation Christmas Child.  To date, over 1.1 million children in 90 countries have trusted in Jesus Christ after receiving a shoe box from Operation Christmas Child!

“I just think it’s cool to be a part of something so big that reaches so many with the gospel.  If our church can contribute a small amount - even one box giving the gospel to a child - that’s great!  We are doing ministry!”

Tracy told me a story about a child who had lost a leg due to stepping on a hidden land mine in their country.  When that child received a shoebox, there were flip flops inside.  The child had a friend who had also lost a leg, but the opposite one, so they shared and both took a flip flop.  “How cool that the box they received was prayed over and came to that exact child and prompted the two of them to buddy up and help them both out.  These shoe boxes reach all aspects of life for these children.  It gives them a livelihood.  Maybe a little sewing kit enables a child to make small things to sell or trade, maybe a few tools help a child repair something in their home that they rely on.  The boxes go a lot farther than just being a gift.”

4 H feature imageWhen asked how our church can help, Tracy encourages everyone to participate if the Lord puts in on their heart.  “I don’t want people to feel like they have to, but rather thank the Lord that we can participate!”

There are many ways to contribute to the ministry without having to run anything or be in charge of anything.  Involvement can include making or donating items to be packed, packing a box on your own or with a friend, giving money to help cover shipping costs, and praying over the boxes, knowing that with each box a child will hear the good news of Jesus Christ!

The shoe boxes may be the gift that is physically given to children all over the world, but it’s important to remember that the substance of the gift given lies in the gospel presentation, along with the teaching and guidance offered to the children.  Long after the toys break and the toothpaste runs out, their faith in Christ will remain.