Operation Christmas Child Close to 100 Millionth Shoebox

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While Christmas may seem far away, Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham visited London recently to help schoolchildren wrap and pack shoeboxes.

The effort is part of this year's Operation Christmas Child campaign, a Christian charitable effort that will reach a milestone this year.

For more than 22 years, Operation Christmas Child has sent shoeboxes full of goodies to children in more than 100 countries.

Samaritan's Purse expects to reach a milestone this year by distributing its 100 millionth shoebox.

Graham recalled the impact one shoebox had on the life of a little Russian girl who desperately needed a pair of shoes.

"She had prayed that God would give her shoes for Christmas, and her father said that he couldn't afford them," he said. "And Operation Christmas Child came to her little area and of all the boxes and she opened them, the box that she got had a pair of shoes in that box that fit her."

"Of all my life of a hundred million shoeboxes, I've never seen a pair of shoes in a shoebox and that's a God thing," he said.

Graham said the shoeboxes are like snowflakes: No two are alike. Each one is important because it assures a child that God loves and cares for him or her. He hasn't forgotten them.

More than eight million shoeboxes will be collected this year by volunteers around the world.
 
Volunteer Margaret Parry, at Bridge Church in Liverpool, is hoping her efforts this year will show children receiving shoeboxes that someone cares for them in the United Kingdom.

"My hope is that as they grow up, they come to know the Lord as their Savior, and they can appreciate that someone is thinking of them in another country and wants to let them know that we love them like we love our own children," Parry said.

For the past 17 years, Parry volunteered countless hours of her time to Operation Christmas Child. Many people have asked what motivates her to do this.
 
"The motivation is the children at the other side of the world that just haven't got anything," she said. "And it gives you great pleasure to be able to just give them that gift in a box that gives them so much pleasure, and our children just don't appreciate what they've got."

Graham said it's the prayers of volunteers, like Parry, that go with each shoebox that make a difference.
 
"I believe that when we pray as we pack the boxes, as we give the boxes, if we pray for the child that's going to get that box. This year, we have 8.2 million praying," Graham said. "Let me tell you something, God's going to hear those prayers."
 
So as thousands of volunteers, like Parry, do their part to help Samaritan's Purse reach their 100 millionth child, their biggest prayer is that every child will receive the greatest gift of Christmas into their hearts this year: Jesus Christ. 

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Peter Wooding

CBN News United Kingdom Correspondent

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