Hi, my name is Julie. I live in the U.S. in Texas...and #ipackedashoebox for Operation Christmas Child. Here is my story of RECEIVING, HANDING OUT, and PUTTING TOGETHER shoeboxes over the past twenty years!!
Twenty years ago, in 1995, I was a missionary kid in Romania. Our family was probably the poorest money wise we had ever been that year as missionaries...as our few hundred dollars a month paid for our family of nine, our interpreter's family of four, our national pastor and his wife, as well as repairs and other work to get the old house we met in turned into a decent, if small, church building. Not sure how my parents managed, but money was definitely tight!! Just as an indication of how tight it was...my Christmas gift that year from my parents was a fleece jacket that I needed anyway. That Christmas a village in the UK sent shoeboxes...shoeboxes that were for everyone in our church, including our missionary family...shoeboxes for all ages, from baby through adult. It was amazing!! I honestly don't know if my story about RECEIVING a shoebox actually "counts"...as I don't know if the shoebox I received was actually an Operation Christmas Child shoebox (as there were many organizations from the UK sending shoebox gifts to Romania in those days). But to this day, whenever I eat a chocolate orange, I remember my shoebox and the items inside that made my own Christmas that much brighter. I still have somewhere in my sentimental items the Christmas card that mentioned what village my shoebox was put together in.
Ten years ago, in 2005, I was a missionary in Romania myself...working with two orphan organizations, mentoring teens, helping in summer/winter camps, and teaching English. I got to see first hand the smiles and excitement as I was able to help by HANDING OUT Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes...not only at a school, but also to the very children I worked with every week...at a group home for boys (that we went to every Monday evening) and at a girls orphanage (that we went to every Saturday morning). The squeals and excitement were amazing!! But what amazed me even more at the girls orphanage was what happened after the shoeboxes had been initially looked through and everyone was settling in to examine everything closer and begin playing with things. These little orphan girls who had practically nothing loved us so much for coming to spend time with them weekly...talking, listening, and playing with them...that they literally started trying to give us stuff from their shoeboxes to "remember them by"!! When we tried to refuse they would feel hurt. Eventually we agreed that each of us would accept one item to remember them all by. I took the little doll that the girls decided was gonna be for me from them home to the apartment I shared with another single missionary girl...an apartment where we were "roughing it" with no refrigerator, no washer, no oven...just a hot plate and sporadic heat and hot water. I set that little doll on a bookshelf...and it reminded me to keep things in perspective. I may have been "roughing it" but those little girls had pretty much nothing...yet they still wanted to share from their shoeboxes with me!!
Now, in 2015, my children and I have committed to PUTTING TOGETHER at least six boxes a year as a family (our boxes went to Ukraine this year)...and hopefully add to that each year as we can. I really want my children to learn how to care for (and to share with) those less fortunate. We hope to travel to the various mission fields I grew up on someday with our children...and I hope that they will someday get to experience helping to hand out shoeboxes as well. I would encourage everyone to do what they can, even if it is just one shoebox...because you never know but what your shoebox is the one to change a life in a big way!!