A Kite in a Shoebox Gift Helps Start One Girl's Soaring Journey of Faith

When a teen in Central Asia received a gift-filled Operation Christmas Child shoebox, the Lord used it to lead her to Christian community and discipleship.

Saliha* enjoyed a surprise beyond anything she ever imagined as she opened her Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift. The young teenager lifted the lid of her overflowing gift box to discover all sorts of fun things, including her favorite item—a kite! She looked forward to flying her new treasure to see it dart and twist high in the sky, but, unfortunately, she had no one close with whom she could share her joy.

Saliha was born into a traditional family in Central Asia, and her parents divorced when she was very young. Most of the time, her mother worked abroad to support her and her younger brother, so Saliha lived with her aunt.

During a difficult time, God used that kite in Saliha's shoebox to show her that God had not forgotten her.

“After I received the gift, I started going to church every week,” Saliha said. “I think that I immediately accepted Jesus into my heart. It happened very quickly—I did not have any doubts.”

Soon the people who introduced Saliha to her newfound Savior became extremely dear to her. She no longer felt alone.

“I can say that the church has become my home,” Saliha said, realizing that she's found a second family. “I could come to church and ask for help, talk to someone, and make friends. And so, it happened. I found quite a lot of new, good friends in the church.”

Saliha came to love her fellow believers and their joyful songs. Like her kite, she began to soar as a person, dancing in the winds of the Holy Spirit with joy and the love of God.

“I realized that He loved me and wanted to be my Best Friend. He knew I desperately needed love and friendship,” she said.

Learning to Teach God's Word

A year later, Saliha joined the children's ministry team at her church and received training in how to teach The Greatest Journey discipleship course, designed especially for shoebox recipients like her. When the future teachers went through the 12 Bible lessons they would teach the boys and girls, Saliha especially appreciated Lesson 7, which highlights the Luke 5 story of people who lowered their paralyzed friend to Jesus through a roof. The Lord not only healed the man on the mat, but forgave his sins as well!

“I always have tears when I read and watch a cartoon about this story,” Saliha said.

She also really appreciates the story of David, including his heroic defeat of Goliath, and his words in Psalm 23. Saliha said the latter has helped her through problems many times, especially when she was sick.

In addition to learning how to share God's Word with youth, Saliha discovered through The Greatest Journey training that she was also called to be a parent and a teacher. Today at age 22, she is already a happy wife and mother and is in her third year of studies at a university.

Training the Next Generation

She is grateful for how God captivated her heart for children's ministry, beginning with the Samaritan's Purse discipleship program.

“I still remember one my first students in The Greatest Journey, an 8-year-old named Ryana*,” said Saliha. “She was so special to me, though she didn't look special at all. She was meek and obedient and reminded me of myself when I was a young girl.”

Ryana went on to complete all 12 lessons of The Greatest Journey discipleship course and receive her own copy of God's Word at graduation.

After the course finished, however, Saliha didn't see Ryana again for some time. But that all changed when she got an internship at a public school.

“Ryana was in my class,” Saliha said. “I was very happy to meet her again. She recognized me and was very excited.”

Saliha prays that Ryana will continue to grow in the Lord and one day possibly even become a teacher as well.

Saliha's story of transformation began when someone prayerfully packed a kite in a shoebox gift. This creative item, however, was just the beginning. The Greatest Journey follow-up program helped her grow in Jesus Christ and share Him with others. As a teacher, she's helped many more children do the same.

Since 2009, more than 35 million children have enrolled in The Greatest Journey with 17 million of these boys and girls making decisions for Christ. Pray for these children to be strengthened in their faith as well as for the 1.7 million teachers who lead them.

*Name has been changed for security.