Manar and a Teddy Bear

Manar and a Teddy Bear

Several gifts in my shoebox have become decades-long reminders of God’s love.

My name means beacon. I was born to Christian parents in a Middle Eastern country whose majority aren’t followers of Jesus, and my name was a testament to being a light for Christ. But for a kid who had reached 5’11” by age 12, it took on a different meaning among my peers at school.

Teased for my height and for being a "church boy," my schoolmates would call after me and say, "The beacon is walking. You need a light over your head."

In retrospect, being called a lighthouse wasn’t entirely off the mark since God wants believers in Him to shine His love to others.

Shining Light

At age 13, I received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift that seemed to radiate with God’s love.

I thought there would be only one item in the box but was astonished to see that it was full of gifts. The toy store came to me!

The first thing I saw in the box was a stuffed animal—a bear wearing a red sweater. There also was a football, an Etch A Sketch, crayons, a monkey-shaped keychain, and a note from the sender that said, “Jesus loves you and I’m praying for you.”

I felt the love of Jesus through the shoebox. It taught me how God is great, that God thought about me and sent me that gift.

That thought stuck with me. Wanting other children to experience the joy that I had through this gift, at age 18 I decided to make my own version of shoebox gifts for my neighbors’ four children. I rounded up the shoeboxes from my house and filled them with locally available items, delivering them on Christmas Eve.

Lasting Reminders

For 20 years, I kept the stuffed bear, which I still have, by my bedside as a reminder that Jesus cares for me and knows my hopes and dreams, from the biggest to the smallest.

My big dream was to become a doctor. While attending medical school, I carried the monkey-shaped keychain from my shoebox gift with me as an encouragement to continually rely on God. I still have this keepsake as well.

Having long-lasting shoebox gifts like these serve as reminders of God’s love and underscores the importance of packing quality shoebox items.

I achieved my goal of becoming a doctor in my home country. I worked as a general surgeon until unrest in the country resulted in me relocating to the U.S.

When I first came to America and saw shoebox gifts being packed at the church I attended, I immediately recognized the Operation Christmas Child logo and said, "I remember that box! I received one."

I’m now an Operation Christmas Child project leader at the church and encourage others to pack shoebox gifts to bring joy and the hope of the Gospel to children. I enjoy using Follow Your Box tracking labels to discover the country destination of shoebox gifts.

The light of God’s love that I felt at age 13 when I received a shoebox gift continues decades later each time I look at one of the items from my box.

I even get a sense of it when I see toys and school supplies on store shelves. The sight fills me with appreciation for how God shined His light in my life through a shoebox gift.

I remember how the gifts in my shoebox put a smile on my face. There’s a lot of hope, a lot of joy, when kids get a shoebox gift. They’re going to feel the love you’re sending with that shoebox, that you’re sending a shoebox full of love and prayers.

Please pack it with all your heart, all your love, all your joy. That child, they’re going to feel that love from that shoebox.

Young Manar with Family Young Manar with Rocking Horse Manar with microphone

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