Operation Christmas Child: Help for a hurting world

By Jordan Carey
Times-News correspondent 

Alicia Ariel and Jordan Carey inspect shoe boxes at the Samaritan's Purse Processing Center in Boone. / Geoff Gentry, Special to the Times-News

When Alex Nsengimana was 7 years old and living in an orphanage in Rwanda, he received a shoe box that came from halfway around the world. Alex, along with more than 4,000 other orphans, had been displaced after the devastating genocide in Rwanda in 1994. But through an organization called Samaritan’s Purse, Alex was shown that somebody cared for him, even if they had never met before.
Every year around the Christmas season, Operation Christmas Child, a project run by Samaritan’s Purse, receives millions of shoe boxes. Each box is a special Christmas present for a child in need, even though the boxes are usually delivered the following spring. Eight processing centers, including two located in North Carolina, receive shoe boxes.
Shoe boxes donated to Operation Christmas Child are given out to children just like Alex Nsengimana.
“When we were waiting to open the shoe boxes,” Alex said, “the people handing them out wouldn’t let us open the boxes until everyone in the orphanage had gotten their shoe box. It only took about five minutes, but it was a very long five minutes for a 7-year-old.”
Samaritan’s Purse estimates that more than 8,000,000 shoe boxes were shipped this year to countries all across the world. Operation Christmas Child has shipped cartons of shoe boxes to children in over 150 countries, sending with them the message of the Gospel. People such as Pastor Steve Disher, the chaplain for the Boone processing center, work with the volunteers every year to encourage them, and to pray over the shoe boxes.
“It’s a seasonal job,” said Pastor Steve Disher. “For about five weeks a season.”
Disher had been a rapid response chaplain for disaster relief before deciding to work with Operation Christmas Child.
“The shoe boxes,” he said, “are an opportunity to share the Word of God to children who might never have heard it otherwise.”
On days from Nov. 22 to December 17, volunteers from all over North Carolina and surrounding states, such as Ohio and Kentucky, come to process shoe boxes. Pre-inspectors, inspectors, tapers and “cartoners” are the different jobs volunteers get to do. Pre-inspectors go through the shoe boxes to find any monetary donations. Inspectors go through the boxes again, but to find any items that be inappropriate or harmful to the box or the child who receives it. Tapers seal the boxes shut with packaging tape and make sure the boxes have the correct label. “Cartoners” organize the shoe boxes into large, cardboard cartons, and try to fit as many as possible into them.
The hard work of the volunteers is paid off when a child receives the shoe box.
“All I needed was love,” said Alex, “and that love came through a shoe box.” Alex now works with Samaritan’s Purse, and says, “If you need to do something after you’re done with school, pack shoe boxes, watch the movie ‘Elf’ and eat popcorn.”
Other than Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan’s Purse has several other projects, such as their International Crisis Response, U.S. Disaster Relief, The Greatest Journey, Children’s Heart Project, and many others. Samaritan’s Purse has many volunteer opportunities, both year round and temporary.
To learn more about volunteering with Samaritan’s Purse or Operation Christmas Child, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.

Jordan Carey is a freshman home-schooler and a Teens & 20s writer.

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