Every year as pumpkins are ripening on the vine and the morning air makes you snuggle a little deeper into the blankets, our family revs up to participate in one of our favorite ministry projects – Operation Christmas Child.
If you are unfamiliar with operation Christmas Child, watch this clip for a short introduction:
Operation Christmas Child brings shoe boxes filled with gifts and the love of Jesus to kids all over the world who live in poverty. It is so easy to participate in Operation Christmas Child and I want this post to be a resource for anyone interested in participating. These shoe boxes change lives.
My husband and I had the pleasure of listening to a young man speak at one of the Youth Worker’s Conventions we attended. This young man had, himself, received a box when he was growing up. He received a candy cane in his box and had never tasted anything like it before. He spoke of how that simple shoe box introduced him to Jesus and changed his life forever. You can read his full testimony below: Alex and the Candy Cane
- Alex and the Candy Cane
- Yuliya and her Stuffed Puppy
- Luis and a Lamb
- Izabella and a Snow Globe
- Khin Khin receives a Box
- Ted and a Wash Cloth
- Nanor and a Doll
- Elvina and the Chewing Gum
- Livia and the Hairclips Part 1 and Part 2
- Devon and a Shoe Box
- Irina and a Pencil Sharpener
- Timur and the Toothpaste
- Yuri and a Photo
How to Get Involved:
- Find a shoebox. If you don’t have a shoebox, you can also use a plastic shoebox-sized container with a lid. Make sure the plastic is strong enough that it will not crush during shipping. If you are organizing this for a large group, you can order pre-printed boxes in packages of 100. Our church orders these boxes, so these are the ones we use each year.
- Pray for the child who will receive your box. I even pray that God will help us pick the right items at the store that this child wants/needs.
- Fill the box. See below for lots of helpful links on how to fill the shoeboxes. Basically you want to provide one quality toy, hygiene items, school items, clothing items, and anything else you can squeeze into every nook and cranny. We’ve developed many tricks over the year that I will share with you below.
- Write a note. Write a note to the child who will receive your box. Tell them Jesus loves them and send a picture of your family!
- Print your label. Go online to the Samaritan’s Purse Website to print your label so you can track where your box ends up. They request we donate $7 for each box to help cover the cost of shipping. If you are old fashioned or unable to print a label online, no worries. Just write a check for $7 and put it with your box and proceed to the next step.
- Find a Drop-off Location. There are over 4,000 drop-off locations around the U.S. You can find the closest one to you by entering your zip code here. Boxes are usually do mid-November. Check the website for the particular date each year.
What to Pack
So you’ve got your shoebox, and you’ve prayed for the child who will receive it. Now for the fun part! Shopping! I find just as much joy, if not more, in shopping for these shoe boxes as I do in shopping for my own children. This year was especially fun because my kids are now old enough to really participate in the experience. We have a big talk before heading out that these gifts are for other kids, not us (something we struggled with in the past). We watch some You Tube videos first so my kids can have a better perspective of what is going on. Some videos we like:
We have two boys aged 5 and 3.5, so we filled two boxes this year for two boys of similar ages. Next year we will add a third box for a baby girl. I think this really helps my children understand that there are little children out there just like them who may be receiving their first Christmas present and hearing about Jesus for the first time.
In preparing for our shopping trip this year, I read some really great articles from people who have gone and helped distribute these boxes. They suggested items that are good to pack and items that are not so good to pack. I’m guilty of packing pretty much every item on the no-list in the past (play-doh, stickers, etc.), but I just do the best I can with the information I’m given.
Here’s a great article to refer to on the best things to pack/not pack:
You will want to include one WOW item in your box. These can include:
- deflated soccer ball with pump
- doll (not porcelain)
- a nice toy
- musical instrument (harmonica, recorder, etc.)
- outfit (source)
Then you will want to fill it up with other items such as:
School supplies (Did you read the testimony above about the child who was able to attend school because of the supplies she received in her box?)
- pencil sharpener
- solar-powered calculator
- coloring book
- post-it notes
- jump rope
- battery-operated toys with extra batteries
- beads and string (to make necklaces)
- water color paints
- travel-sized games (that are easy to figure out if they can’t read the language of the instructions)
- bouncy balls
- deck of cards
Hygiene Items (cannot be liquid)
- bar of soap
- soap holder
- toothbrush holder
- first aid kit
- dental floss
- hair clips
- shampoo bar
- bobby pins
- small hand mirror
- nail clippers
- wet wipes
- hard candy (probably not chocolate since it could melt in transit)
- flashlight with batteries (many kids live with no electricity, so this is a really useful and practical gift. I’ve even seen hand-crank flashlights on Amazon that may be an even better idea.)
- cup and plate/bowl
- plain t-shirt
- solar-powered watch
- tools (measuring tape/screw driver)
- fishing supplies
- sewing kit
Tips and Tricks for Fitting it All in:
Over the years I have honed my skill of stuffing these shoe boxes. Some tricks for fitting it all in:
- Open the packaging. I have found that by taking the toy truck (or whatever) out of the packaging, I have more flexibility with how to fit it in the box. Obviously some things, like tooth brushes, should stay in the packaging.
- Fit things inside of things. Because I don’t open the toothbrush packaging, it won’t fit inside the toothbrush holder. Therefore I have the empty space inside of the toothbrush holder that is perfect for fitting in pencils or pens!
- I always like to buy paper to go with the crayons and pencils. However, I learned a long time ago that paper is really hard to fit into a shoebox without folding. However, in the office supply area of most stores you can find tiny pads of white paper for taking notes that fit perfectly.
- For clothes, it’s all about how you fold/roll the items. Check out the Konmari method for folding clothes, you’d be amazed how little space a whole outfit can take up!
- Buy small hard candies that you can fit into any unused nook or cranny. Now usually I’m a real food kind of gal, and I don’t believe in giving things to others that I wouldn’t give to my own kids, however I have read so many testimonies of kids who received their first taste of candy from these boxes and I would hate for the recipients of our boxes to be the only kids not to receive candy. That’s just my two cents on the candy issue.
For even more resources from around the web, check out my Operation Christmas Child Pinterest board.