Gift that lasts a lifetime: Recipient of Samaritan’s Purse shoebox project shares story

By Kaitlyn Parham
Times-News correspondent

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Alex Nsengimana, 29, was once an orphan in Rwanda. He now works at the Operation Christmas Child Processing Center in Boone. [Ginger Canovai / Special to the Times-News

   Operation Christmas Child, a project through the Samaritan’s Purse organization, plays a substantial role in showing children in Third World countries God’s ceaseless love for them, even during hardship and tribulation.
Using shoeboxes filled with gifts such as toys and books, Operation Christmas Child witnesses to children in need throughout all parts of the world. This commendable organization has collected and delivered more than 135 million shoeboxes to children in 150 countries and territories since it began in 1993.
For 29-year-old Alex Nsengimana, life hasn’t always been easy. Throughout his early childhood, Nsengimana witnessed the growing hatred that festered between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes in Rwanda, and was only 6 years old when the Rwandan genocide commenced. After closely witnessing members of the Hutu tribe take his grandmother’s life, as well as his two uncles’, Nsengimana and the remainder of his community ran for their lives — dangerously seeking shelter under trees and in abandoned school buildings.
After spending nearly a year in an orphanage along with more than 250 other Rwandan children, Nsengimana received a shoebox from Samaritan’s Purse — a gift that brought him hope and assurance of God’s boundless love during times of desperation. Nsengimana recalls the feeling of joy that overcame him, sharing with students at Burlington Christian Academy that he and the other Rwandan children “could not contain the joy that (they) had toward receiving a gift for the very first time in (their) lives.” Nsengimana specifically recalls the items in his box that he treasured the most, including a candy cane and a small Bible.
Today, the Operation Christmas Child project has more than 500,000 volunteers worldwide that aid in the process of collecting, shipping and distributing the boxes, including Nsengimana. Nsengimana presently lives with his wife in Boone, where he works at an Operation Christmas Child Processing Center, giving back daily to the organization that positively impacted his life decades ago.
“At a time when I had lost everything and almost everyone, that gift reminded me of God’s love,” Nsengimana said, emphasizing the ability of the simple and compact gift to make a true emotional impact on its recipient.
Alex Nsengimana left his young listeners with a message of forgiveness, genuinely stating that “the person who killed my uncles and my grandmother is created in God’s image, and God loves them just as much as He loves me.”
Despite the trials that he faced throughout his childhood, Nsengimana recognizes the power of God’s love, sharing with his listeners that “God can use something as small as a shoebox to change a kid’s life.”

Kaitlyn Parham is a rising senior at Burlington Christian Academy and a Teens & 20s writer.

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