This isn’t going to be what you were hoping for; a day where children from all over the area gathered together, heard a little bit about Jesus, and went off on their merry way. There was indeed some of that. But today was also a long and hectic day of handing out shoeboxes.

I know that the heart behind the gift givers (those that shop for, pack and send the shoeboxes) is one of love and service. I know because I was once a “shoebox packer”, back in my youth group days.

Let’s just say, in sum, that today’s experience was hard for us. 300 children came and received a shoebox full of gifts, and around 300 children went away crying because they did not receive a gift.
Living cross-culturally has taught me a lot about having an open mind. We all see things through our own set of “lenses” aka: our cultural grid. So when you step onto foreign soil, the life that you’ve always known has shifted, and is now something new. So I’ve learned a lot about not always judging what is different or “weird”. I’ve also learned to be open to various methods of evangelization and outreach, because God can and does work outside of what I would consider to be the “norm”.

So when we arrived in Cap Skirring, we jumped right on board with this “Enfant de Noel” (Child of Christmas, in French) project that our team members and some of the members of the cell group had been working on. Let’s just say that a LOT went into today’s distribution of the gifts, such as time, money, energy, approval from various members of the village, invitations, etc., and we are grateful for all the hard work that everyone put into today’s event.

I don’t know how we ended up only having 300 some boxes when there were a good 600 kids between the two different schools. It was heart wrenching to see kids walk away empty handed because their family was considered “better off” than the families of the other kids who did receive a gift. They are all struggling financially, to one degree or another. Plus, who are we, or the directors of the school, in this case, to pick and choose who should or should not receive a gift?

Little kids of all ages were jumping and screaming, as any child on Christmas morning would be, as they opened their boxes. Their name was called in front of the crowds of students, teachers, directors, missionaries, parents and grandparents to come forward and get their gift.
Yet off to the side, and throughout the crowds, sat many others that, for whatever reason, or technical mistake, did not hear their name called.

I know that life is unfair. I know that we can’t all have the same things in life. But this was a special day. A day where we stood up and said, “God is love! Salvation is a free gift! Come and take it.”
Again, the day wasn’t all bad. Some of today’s highlights were: taking lots of pictures of the kids with their shoeboxes, hearing a brief Christmas message, and how it’s Jesus that we celebrate, and watching many of the parents flip through the Gospel book that was handed out.

Do I like Operation Christmas Child? Yes and no. I love the idea of helping the least of these. Isn’t that, after all, what we’re commanded to do? It’s just that in an African context, money and possessions are such sensitive issues for those that are struggling on a daily basis. Food, water and daily essentials are the necessities! Anyone would love to be handed a box full of candy, crayons (the occasional MP3 player, or Canadian currency… a topic for another day…), but it’s hard to know how to be fair when there are just SO many people involved, without leaving someone out, or hurting someone’s feelings.

I guess all we can do now, after a long and hectic day, is leave it in God’s hands. There are some parents who are now upset because their child was left out. Let’s just hope that, somehow, someway, they will realize that there’s something so much more important than those shoeboxes. His name is Jesus Christ, and He’s the author and giver of all great things in this world, and in the next. He is the greatest gift of all time.

{This was the first time that the boxes came to this part of the country, so it was a first for a lot of people. We hope and pray that we can all learn from this experience, and that things will go smoother in the years to come.}

2 thoughts on “Shoeboxes

  1. Thanks for sharing guys. Sounds similar to our experience last week. We had 800 boxes and things didn’t go as planned. We couldn’t finish before nightfall and the kids started rioting and throwing rocks. Has definitely got me thinking about outreach and aid that comes from overseas.

  2. Wow, that is all I can think to say. I can’t even imagine being in your shoes and seeing and experiencing that! I will be praying that despite the physical possesions that they missed out on, that they didn’t miss out on the spiritual heavenly possesion of the Gospel message of our King! Love you guys and thanks for “standing in the trenches” through good and bad.

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