Receiving gifts was a concept that Yuliya Shubina wasn’t accustomed to as a child. Shubina grew up in a Third World country in Central Asia and receiving gifts was impossible, she says.
But all of that changed for her when she was 9 years old and received a “shoebox” from Samaritan’s Purse around the holiday season in 2001. That shoebox, or purple plastic container in Shubina’s case, was filled with gifts like glittery pencils, a blue notebook with a red ladybug on it, a long-sleeve shirt and a stuffed puppy. The stuffed puppy was the nicest toy Shubina had as a kid, but what stuck out to her from her shoebox was a letter from the family who donated her gifts. The letter said the family was praying for her and that there is a God out there who cares for her.
“I just couldn’t comprehend why a stranger would give an incredible, quality gift,” said Shubina.
Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization that provides aid in more than 100 countries, has been giving shoebox Christmas gifts to children around the world since 1993 through its Operation Christmas Child project. Operation Christmas Child is a mission through Samaritan’s Purse to provide small toys, hygiene products and school supplies to children in need outside of the United States and to children living on Native American reservations in this country.
“We’ve been given so much, and this is just a great way to give back and to give up ourselves, our time and resources,” said Cheryl Johnson, who has volunteered to pack the shoeboxes four times.
There are currently eight Operation Christmas Child processing centers in the country — one of which is in Douglas County northwest of Parker at the Samaritan’s Purse Rocky Mountain Ministry Center. Since the project started, Samaritan’s Purse has donated more than 168 million shoeboxes to children around the world.
Barb Peterson, a volunteer for Operation Christmas Child, personally saw the impact the shoeboxes have when she went to Ghana. She saw children who were overwhelmed when they received their gifts. Peterson says the school supplies made a significant impact, because many of the children didn’t have a pencil or paper.
“(Operation Christmas Child) allows us to connect with our international partners and support them in a very tangible way. It’s a worldwide connection,” said Peterson. “We have so much that we can share with those who have very little.”
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