Shanika & Sherika and the Mittens

“We received mittens in our shoebox gifts in Jamaica at age 8. Before this, our father cut a notebook and pencil in half so we’d have school supplies.”

We grew up in rural Jamaica sharing most things, not because we’re twins but because it was a necessity for our family to make ends meet.

Our parents had us in their late teens. They couldn’t afford an ultrasound, so having twins was unexpected. Our mom and dad had to stop attending college in order to provide for us. They worked hard—our mom at home and our dad in sugar cane fields.

Both Christians, our parents had faith that the Lord Jesus would provide for our needs. Every morning, they gathered us together for devotions.

To enable both of us to have something to write on at school, our father cut an 8- by 9-inch notebook in half. He also broke a pencil in two and sharpened the lead with a knife because we didn’t have a pencil sharpener.

We wished we could have full-sized notebooks and pencils like some of our peers. Our wish came true at age 8 when we heard shriek after shriek of delight in the halls of our school.

Large cardboard boxes with a shoebox plane printed on them were delivered to each classroom. We were so excited about these huge brown boxes and were curious to see what was inside.

We rejoiced when we learned that they contained shoebox gifts for us. One of us received two full-sized notebooks! We shared what was in our shoeboxes so we would each have one. We also received our first calculator—a small, gray one we still love to use.

We received a pair of woolen mittens. We didn’t need them for warmth, since we lived in the Caribbean, but we put them to good use as pot holders. Our parents still have them at home in Jamaica.

We were glad to receive a game of jacks since previously we used stones or the balls from roll-on deodorant to play the game.

We also each received pencils and pencil sharpeners, as well as crayons, coloring books, and personal care items, such as combs, toothbrushes, washcloths, and soap.

One of our younger brothers also received a shoebox gift. He still has the flashlight he received in his box.

At first, we wondered who we knew that would send us these gifts.

We had learned the story of the Good Samaritan in Sunday School. So, when we saw Samaritan’s Purse printed on the tape that held the shoebox closed, we knew that Good Samaritans had sent us these gifts.

Through the shoebox gifts, we learned that you don’t have to be close neighbors in order to help each other. These gifts came from strangers.

The boxes of gifts ultimately reflected the goodness of Christ, showing us that the Lord graciously provides for us. We felt God’s love for us as we received them.

Earlier that same year, we both made professions of faith in Jesus Christ during an evangelistic crusade. We each stepped forward that night to dedicate our lives to Him.

The shoebox gifts and The Greatest Gift Gospel booklet that we received along with them helped us as new Christians to continue to grow in our faith. We read the booklet in Sunday School and together as a family before we went to bed. The lessons, which we read over and over, were such a blessing and comfort to us.

Our parents instilled in us how important it is to study the Bible and pray together. We talked and prayed through any issues that came up, seeing how God works through situations. We sisters still have morning devotions together.

Our parents are so proud that both of us graduated last year with business administration master’s degrees from Liberty University, a Christian college in Virginia. Our mom went back to school to earn a teaching diploma and our dad has certifications in food service, hospitality, and nutrition.

It wasn’t until we saw an Operation Christmas Child video at our church in Virginia that we realized those were the gifts we received. We knew that logo—the shoebox plane. And there was that word again—Samaritan. We raised our arms in joy and praise. We exclaimed: “We’re shoebox recipients!” We stood and shared our stories right then.

It meant so much to us to learn the background of how our boxes were sent—through churches! It also was moving to see how much church members appreciated hearing us talk about the lasting influence the gifts had on our Christian walk.

Then, we saw the shoebox logo again on our college campus. They pack shoeboxes there, too!

That’s when we knew we had to keep sharing our story, so the message of how God is working keeps spreading.

Shanika & Sherika Shanika & Sherika and the Notebooks

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