Local church to hear testimony of power of Operation Christmas Child
ROME — Resurrection Life Church, 628 Floyd Ave., will be among local churches to host a representative of Operation Christmas Child Oct. 13-17.
Operation Christmas Child, a project of international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, delivers gift-filled shoeboxes to millions of children in need each year. For years, area families have packed shoebox gifts for boys and girls around the world.
One of these gifts reached Livia Young in Romania when she was a young girl. She is now visiting Rome area residents to share how the simple gift had a life-changing impact.
Young will be telling her story to local groups and churches. She wants to encourage residents as they kick off the upcoming collection season to fill more than 41,100 shoeboxes with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items — contributing to the global goal of reaching 11 million children in Jesus’ name.
“We’re excited about being asked to host this leg of Ms. Young’s speaking tour,” said Lynn Frei, director of Children’s Ministry at Resurrection Life. “We’ve been doing Operation Christmas Child for many years and seen many shoeboxes go through our hands, and occasionally we get to know where the boxes go.”
Young’s visit will the the third time church-goers will hear from a recipient of one of those boxes as an adult, Frei said.
“It’s really wonderful to see the impact receiving a shoebox has on their lives, and how it changed their lives. In some cases, it even saved their lives,” she said. “We’re hoping to get the word out to people who participate in Operation Christmas Child” about Young’s visit, “and if they don’t know about Operation Christmas Child, to make them aware. It’s a small thing to do that can have such a huge impact on the life of a child, as well as their families and even their village or country.”
Frei said when volunteers fill shoeboxes, they have an opportunity to learn what country they will be delivered to.
“Knowing what country the shoeboxes are going to is exciting, but to actually hear someone speak about the impact it had on their life to receive this simple shoebox, makes you want to do more and more. Operation Christmas Child is not just for churches, but other organizations as well,” said the Children’s Ministry director.
Growing up, Young lived in a Romanian orphanage among unloving fellow orphans and caregivers. Young said she vividly remembers how the simple shoebox gift she received changed her life at 12-years-old.
Among much-needed hygiene items was a pack of hair clips. Young was ecstatic — she wanted these special accessories for as long as she could remember. A friendship necklace was also in her shoebox. Young shared half of her necklace with a volunteer and new friend from the United States, Connie Satterfield.
Satterfield was in Romania for a mission trip and handed Young her shoebox gift. Five years later, Satterfield and her husband adopted Young. In 2010, Young traveled back to Romania to share the same love she received by distributing shoebox gifts in Romanian orphanages and poor villages.
“Receiving the gift could not have been more perfect timing, as I was longing to feel loved and cared for in the midst of my daily challenges,” said Young. “My shoebox is something imprinted on my heart that never goes away. It’s an unforgettable moment that I talk about every day. It had an everlasting impact — an eternal impact.”
It is because of that impact that Young said she chooses to continue sharing her story today as a national spokesperson for Operation Christmas Child.
“Sharing my testimony and experience is the best gift I can give…because many long to know how children have been impacted,” she said. “It brings me great joy to give back the unspeakable joy I experienced when I received my shoebox gift.”
Frei explained there’s a brochure that goes with Operation Christmas Child that tells volunteers how to pack it, encouraging them to include one “wow” gift.
“Personally, I do soccer balls for 14-year-old boys with an air pump because sometimes that’s an age group that’s under-served,” said Frei. “For smaller children, that gift may be a stuffed animal. ‘Wow’ items are important because some kids have never received a gift or even heard the name of God.”
Boxes may also include some hygiene items like toothbrushes, combs and brushes, soap and small trinket toys.
“It’s whatever we can get in a shoebox, and our church has been a drop-off center for quite a few years,” she said. “It’s quite a journey the shoebox goes on before it gets into the hands of a child. It’s an incredible ministry and opportunity to touch a family. They say one shoebox will affect up to eight people. It’s nothing of great value tangibly, but they do get a copy of the Gospel in their native language. It’s just an awesome thing.”
During Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week Nov. 14-21, local residents can bring gift-filled shoeboxes to multiple drop-off locations across New York to be announced in late October. Resurrection Life Church serves as one of those drop-off locations.
Those who prefer the convenience of online shopping can browse samaritanspurse.org/buildonline to select gifts matched to a child’s specific age and gender, then finish packing the virtual shoebox by adding a photo and personal note of encouragement. Boxes built online go to hard-to-reach countries.
Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, seeks to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world and, together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 198 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 170 countries and territories. This year, Operation Christmas Child will collect its 200-millionth shoebox.
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