The experience has been amazing but now the short trip is coming to an end.
The question is: Does it really make a difference?
As I’ve watched several groups of different kids open their shoe boxes with laughter and squealing joy I found myself thinking back to Christmas mornings when our boys were little and the way they would tear through every present until they were all opened.
Did all of our hard work and money as parents really make a difference in the lives of our kids?
I realized the answer is yes. It does make a difference. Even though the toy cars and magic kits and bicycles didn’t last forever, the memories they have of us being together as a family on Christmas will endure. The memory of a loving mom and dad will stay with them.
And they know we did all of this for two reasons.
Yes, to show we loved them but most importantly to know we celebrated the birth of Jesus and the difference He makes in our lives.
So what about these kids? What difference do a few toys and toothbrushes and stuffed animals make when most will never see the person who packed the box?
Many of these babies will never know the warmth and security of having both a loving mom and dad. As we spent time with them, it became more apparent that many of them laughed and shouted while opening a box but soon would have to go back to a very, very different home life.
A life with a lot of domestic abuse. And often worse.
But the shoeboxes DO make a difference. They are simply the tangible evidence that each of these precious children has a father in heaven who loves them dearly and if they choose, they can look forward to an eternity spent with him through the gift of Jesus.
1 Corinthians 4:5 tells us that the Lord will “bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.”
Our children grow up and raise kids of their own; their families will celebrate gifts given in love and in the name of celebration of Jesus. and they’ll remember.
For the kids of Trinidad and the many other Operation Christmas Child distribution locations, the memories of a moment when someone said, “Jesus loves you and so do I” can make a lasting impact in their lives as the Lord uses it for His purposes and His glory.
Franklin Graham likes to say, “The most important thing you can put in a shoebox is prayer.”
I know shoeboxes from our church and all over the United States are prayed over by the sender. We trust God to take these simple gifts and use them for amazing things.
Still not sure if they make a difference?
One of the places where we distributed boxes yesterday was a simple community center in a rough part of town. Most of the children were late arriving but culturally, it was no big deal.
Up to the door of the building crept a six year old boy named Malachi. One of the women on our team tried to welcome him in but when he saw the other children he refused to enter.
You see, Malachi’s father is in prison and his mother died of AIDS two years ago. Malachi didn’t want to come in because most of the other children had their moms with them.
Slowly, Malachi was coaxed into the room. The woman explained to him about the shoeboxes and said he too could have one of the boxes.
When he still didn’t respond much she asked him what kind of things he really liked and he replied softly, “I like Spider Man.”
She responded with, “Well, Malachi, let’s pray God gives you what you want.”
A little while later, after a gospel presentation using puppets and some prayer time, each of the children went forward and received their own shoebox. Finally, on the count of three all the kids opened the boxes at the same time.
Squealing, laughter and shouting filled the room as each child opened their own personal gift. Toys and shoes and candy and clothing everywhere!
And over in the corner…Malachi opened his box. A big smile filled his face as he stared into it. Almost everything in the box was Spider Man! Stuffed action figure, stickers, crayons and coloring books.
All Spider Man.
And Malachi was thrilled!
Somewhere in Alabama, a family had packed a shoebox for a little boy age 5 to 9 and then prayed that God would use it to draw the child to Him.
And it worked.
Malachi was loved into the room, a little boy carrying a burden of grief which no six year old should have to endure, and he listened to the speaker tell all the kids that no matter what happens in their life Jesus always loves them.
And then the Lord told Malachi the message was true. Malachi will now participate in a twelve week age-appropriate discipleship course called “The Greatest Journey” and hopefully fully understand what a precious offer our God has made for him. Hopefully he will grow to believe that no matter how unfair life has been so far there is hope to be found in a relationship with Jesus.
Malachi’s face settled it for me.
Believe me, the shoe boxes make a difference.