Special Report

A Project of Samaritan's Purse

Volunteers Shine During Shoebox Roadshow

Shoebox packers prepare gifts to bless children across the world.

Volunteers of all ages are the engine behind Operation Christmas Child. Nowhere was that more evident than on the 2019 Shoebox Roadshow when churches across the country showcased their heart for the Samaritan’s Purse project. During the roadshow journey, which was highlighted online through National Collection Week, we met just a few of the many thousands of individual shoebox packers and year-round volunteers who pour their heart and soul into seeing that God's love reaches children around the world.

In Louisiana, siblings Jordan and Paxton Ockman, ages 13 and 11 respectively, rally their town of Husser to pack shoebox gifts by setting up a table at a 15-mile-long community garage sale. They talk with people and share how they can join Operation Christmas Child in blessing children in need. The brother-sister duo also sells craft items to raise money to fill more shoeboxes. Through these efforts, the Ockman family has packed more than 500 shoebox gifts since 2012.

Friends of the shoebox club in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, pray over the 10,000th packed box.

Shoebox Club Packs 10,000 Boxes

Farther north in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, the Faith Community Church shoebox club packed its 10,000th shoebox. Founded in 2009 by then 8-year-old Evilyn Pinnow, the club is led by a board of directors made up of children. Today, about 40 children and their families work together to pack 150 shoebox gifts each month throughout the year.

Patty Congdon, the mother of one of the shoebox club's recent presidents, described the influence of a shoebox gift: “This is a game changer. It's not just an act of kindness—it can change a whole life.”

Each one of those 10,000 shoeboxes had to be delivered to a drop-off location to make its way to a child in need around the world. Don Freidig transported many of the church’s shoeboxes. “The Lord can use a little kid to accomplish a mighty work…[they] are catching a vision for missions. Things from this little town of Fort Atkinson will go around the world,” he said.

From combs to stuffed animals, the club asked God for specific items they needed to fill shoeboxes and saw Him provide exactly that item. Now 19, Evilyn said that the shoebox club “increased my faith in the Lord and that He can answer prayer.”

Evilyn's entire family serves together with the club. Her mother Josie has helped guide the group since the beginning. “It's brought us closer. The club really helped us realize the needs of others beyond our family.”

Manny Li became a Christian after volunteering at an Operation Christmas Child drop-off location.

Shoeboxes Lead to Gospel Opportunities Before They’re Sent

In Idaho, husband and wife team Manny Ma and Wen Li know the power a shoebox gift holds even before it arrives in the hands of a child overseas. After Wen became a believer in 2007, she told Manny about her new faith, but he didn’t want anything to do with it. For 10 years, she prayed and asked others to join her, asking God to soften her husband’s heart to the Gospel.

Three years ago, Manny offered to assist at an Operation Christmas Child drop-off location—just to support his wife. Amid the many shoeboxes dropped off while he volunteered, an 87-year-old woman brought in two, and then, an older gentleman gave him $20 to put toward the Samaritan’s Purse project. The gestures of these two people touched his heart.

When a daycare center also delivered shoeboxes, Manny said, “I realized that God's work has no age limit…It’s all God's work. At that moment, I decided I wanted to become part of God's mission.”

After giving his life to Christ, Manny joined Wen in serving as a year-round volunteer with Operation Christmas Child. As the couple works in logistics as central drop-off team leaders, together they continue to advance God’s Kingdom both here and abroad.

Both adults and children at Golden Prairie Church participate in packing shoebox gifts for impoverished children across the world.

A New Harvest for the Shoebox Granary

In Carpenter, Wyoming, with a population of less than 100, year-round church relations volunteer Jana Ginter rallies Golden Prairie Church to pack shoeboxes to bless children in need. Five years ago, the congregation of 70 filled about 40 boxes. But in 2019, they prepared more than 200.

“What I really like is that the boxes don’t just reach the child, they reach the family of that child, too,” Jana said. “That’s a great opportunity to witness. And that's why I like Samaritan's Purse so much. They do so much to help people and to reach them with the love of Jesus.”

As the church collected items for the cause throughout the year, however, they ran out of storage space. To solve the problem, Jana's daughter suggested they fix up one of the four run-down granaries behind their house. Although it was rotten and filled with rats, they rolled up their sleeves and worked to overhaul one of them into what they lovingly call the Golden Prairie Shoebox Granary—now home to their packing items as well as already prepared shoeboxes.

Jana sees the granary as a bit of a parable: “God wants to come in, grab hold of us, completely transform us, and give us new purpose—just like the granary which has now been repurposed for a different harvest, a harvest of souls for Jesus Christ.”