HIGH COUNTRY — The Boone-based Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse announced that it sent more than 10.6 million shoebox gifts to children in 112 countries and territories across the globe as part of last year’s Operation Christmas Child.
“Thank you again to everyone who participated in this global project — many who do so year after year,” Franklin Graham, the president of Samaritan’s Purse, said in a statement. “These simple gifts send a message to children worldwide that they are loved and not forgotten.”
According to Samaritan’s Purse, 8.8 million of the total number of shoeboxes were collected in the United States. As of Feb. 6, the total number of shoeboxes collected and distributed worldwide was 10,623,776.
“These simple gifts bring smiles to the faces of children around the world,” Samaritan’s Purse said in a statement. “Packed with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items, these gifts bring joy and are a tangible expression of God’s love. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 157 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories.”
The shoeboxes are for disadvantaged children aged 2 to 14. The boxes are prepared by gender and age category, 2 to 4, 5 to 9, or 10 to 14, with toys, hygiene items and school supplies.
Samaritan’s Purse states that more than 73,000 project leaders across the country volunteer to coordinate their church’s or group’s shoebox packing and collecting.
As part of the volunteer effort, more than 80,000 people volunteered at 5,000 drop-off locations across the U.S. during National Collection Week, the third week of November.
After drop-off location and processing center volunteers give of their time seasonally, Operation Christmas Child depends on more than 9,000 volunteers who serve year-round to encourage others to participate in the project.
“These roles range from logistics to leadership; these volunteers promote shoebox packing when most people aren’t thinking about Christmas, making it possible for millions of boxes to be collected each year,” Samaritan’s Purse stated.
As millions of shoeboxes are shipped overseas each year, Operation Christmas Child depends on national and regional leadership teams in more than 100 countries, who train, develop and coordinate partnerships with local churches year-round.
The international teams help deliver the shoeboxes to children in need by walking, biking, boats or even animal power such as horses and camels.
“These church volunteers distribute the gift-filled shoeboxes to boys and girls, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s greatest gift,” Samaritan’s Purse said.
The shoeboxes were distributed in 112 countries and territories on all six inhabited continents, including Native American tribes in the western United States. Some of the countries that received gifts cannot be listed due to security concerns.
As part of the shoebox gift, Samaritan’s Purse volunteers offer the recipients a 12-lesson discipleship program called The Greatest Journey. Samaritan’s Purse stated that in 2018, a record 3.96 million shoebox recipients took part in the program and more than 2 million children “made decisions for Christ.”
“Millions of children are coming to the Lord Jesus Christ through Operation Christmas Child and The Greatest Journey,” Graham stated. “These young disciples are sharing their faith, and the gospel is transforming families and communities around the world.”