Franklin Graham Celebrates 25 Years of Operation Christmas Child at Charlotte Event

November 29, 2018 • United States

It was the third celebration event he hosted at shoebox processing locations across the country.

Franklin Graham, along with several hundred enthusiastic volunteers from across the country, celebrated Operation Christmas Child’s 25th year of sending shoeboxes to children in need with an energetic, praise-filled ceremony on Nov. 29. The event was held at the Samaritan’s Purse Charlotte Processing Center.

Franklin Graham at Charlotte Operation Christmas Child processing center event in Charlotte

“We want to dedicate these boxes to God for His glory to reach children for Christ,” said Franklin Graham. His daughter Cissie Graham Lynch (background) prayed for the children who’ll be receiving shoeboxes.

“We want to dedicate these boxes to God for His glory to reach children for Christ,” Graham told the crowd. Graham’s daughter, Cissie Graham Lynch, then reminded everyone that the most important thing packed in a shoebox is prayer. She then led in a prayer of dedication for the shoeboxes and their recipients.

Charlotte, one of eight collection centers across the U.S., is the city where thousands of the first shoeboxes were collected when the Samaritan’s Purse project began in 1993. It all started with a request that summer from a gentleman in England who asked Graham to help him send presents to Bosnian kids in need during the winter. Graham initially forgot about the plea but was reminded of it a few months later. He quickly got to work and, with help from Calvary Church in Charlotte, sent out an appeal for gift-filled shoeboxes. Over 11,000 were collected.

A quarter of a century later, the project has shipped more than 157 million shoeboxes to boys and girls in over 160 countries, sharing with them not only toys, school supplies, and hygiene items but also the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Full-Circle Story

Twin country artists Danny and Dennis Agajanian kicked off the silver anniversary program with a trio of joyful gospel songs. The Tommy Coomes Band followed with several uplifting Christmas numbers.

Next, shoebox processing volunteers participated in a trivia quiz about Operation Christmas Child’s history, which revealed some interesting facts. The Charlotte Processing Center, first established in 1996, has processed 37 million shoeboxes and expects to see approximately 2.5 million more come through its doors this year. Worldwide, the goal for 2018 is 11 million.

Dania Yadago shared with the volunteers how she received a shoebox when she was 5 years old living in severe poverty in the Middle East.

Dania Yadago shared how she received a shoebox at age 5 while living in poverty in the Middle East.

Dania Yadago then came to the podium and shared with volunteers how she received a shoebox 20 years ago when she was a 5-year-old girl living in severe poverty in the Middle East. Her family had fled their homeland to seek a better life and had no way to keep abreast of the news from there. They didn’t have money to purchase a radio so they prayed for one.

When Dania opened her shoebox, buried beneath a Beanie Baby, a Slinky, and various school supplies, was another box. Inside was a small radio.

The gift was “a divine orchestration from God,” Dania said. “God used a shoebox gift to show me His love.”

In 2010, Dania and her family moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. A couple of months later, Dania was invited by a lady at her church to help process shoeboxes for children at a center in Charlotte. Dania had no idea that Operation Christmas Child was located in the U.S. When she arrived at the processing center and saw Christmas trees and presents, she thought it must be “a Santa factory.” She was then stunned to see an Operation Christmas Child banner. She realized that this was a facility where shoeboxes, like her own, are processed. “God brought me full circle,” she said.

Volunteers Create Beehive of Activity

A quick glance around the parking lot at the Charlotte center reveals license plates from up and down the East Coast, as well as from the Midwest. For many volunteers, a trip to Charlotte is an annual event they wouldn’t miss. One such volunteer is Ken Dyke, a retiree from Ocala, Florida, who has been coming to Charlotte for the past six years.

  • We are thankful to God for every volunteer who helps process shoebox gifts.
    We are thankful to God for every volunteer who helps process Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts.

“I come because I love children,” Ken said, “and the shoeboxes are a tangible expression of God’s love to them. And through The Greatest Journey [Operation Christmas Child’s discipleship program] these children can make a decision for Christ. Kids’ lives are being changed and many in their families, too. The children who receive these shoeboxes will transform the world.”

Many folks came in groups and have been doing so for many years. A busload of 94 people, calling themselves the Great Lakes Mission, drove down from Ohio for the week to serve in the “beehive” of activity, as volunteer Sue Atkinson described the electric atmosphere.

“Kids receive pencils, crayons, and socks, things we just take for granted,” volunteer Denise Longnecker said. “But the joy on their faces when they get them is overwhelming.”

Ken Dyke, left, is a retiree from Florida who has come to Charlotte for the past six years.

Echoing those sentiments was Stephanie Seymore, a volunteer from New Bern, North Carolina, who has been serving in Charlotte for six years. In 2015, Seymore accompanied shoeboxes to Tanzania with Operation Christmas Child and saw firsthand the impact they make on children.

“It really is a simple gift,” Seymore said. “But when the children receive them their faces just glow.” Of course, she added, the most important aspect of the gift is that it opens an opportunity for the Gospel to be shared and for kids “to come to know Jesus.”

Before a local school choir from United Faith Christian Academy closed the celebration with a song, Graham told the volunteers that he wants to “raise up an army of evangelists” through the shoebox ministry and see “kids leading kids to Christ.”

Graham delivered similar messages this week at 25th anniversary celebrations in Denver, Colorado, and in Fullerton, California, where he dedicated the new Samaritan’s Purse Rocky Mountain and West Coast Ministry Centers.

You can still build a shoebox for this year. Go online and build a box today!