What is so special about a
shoebox? Forget the box
itself—it merely serves as a
vessel in which the true gift arrives.
The contents cradled inside that box
can provoke a sense of hope for the
less- fortunate children in countries all
over the world.
Samaritan’s Purse, a
Christian humanitarian organization,
has been working with local churches
and ministry partners since 1970
to deliver the shoebox gifts to
spread implacable hope to children in
the darkest corners of the world.
Since the official establishment
of Operation Christmas Child in 1993,
more than 100 million boys and girls
in over 130 countries have experienced
hope through the power of a simple
shoebox gift. OCC reaches out to
hurting children and allows them to
be exposed to Christianity through the
shoe box program.
Last year nearly 8.6 million
children received such an opportunity.
Items that are packed in the boxes
include school supplies, toiletries,
small toys, candy, shirts, caps,
underwear and socks.
Grace Community Church in
Tempe is helping to locally coordinate
Operation Christmas Child this year.
The team serves Tempe, Chandler,
Mesa, Gilbert, Apache Junction, Gold
Canyon, Queen Creek, Florence, Casa
Grande and other areas of southeast
For the Tempe OCC operation, the
goal is to reach 17,000 boxes compared
to last year’s 15,855—then declared an
exceptional result. National collection
week will be Nov. 18-25 at Grace.
The church hosted the OCC
season kick off event Oct. 3 with a
touching celebration. The evening
consisted of informative tips and
details regarding the project and a
memorable monologue from Yuri
(Judy) Lopez, a Honduran orphan who
once was a shoebox recipient in her
Lopez and her twin sister were
abandoned by her parents when they
were just babies. At the age of two,
she was separated from her sister and
other siblings when she arrived at a
Honduran orphanage where she stayed
until the age of 16.
At one point, in order not to be
thrown out on the streets due to her
age, she became the orphanage’s sole
cook for 140 children, using any small
amount of her spare time to play
Lopez was six years old and in
second grade when she received her
first gift ever.
Some of the treasures inside the
box were a blue radio, school supplies,
a notebook, candy, a tube of tasty
toothpaste, a towel, soap, a picture of
the shoebox sender (a young American
girl), and a note with an inspirational
“I was so excited when I first got
the shoebox gift. I never had candy
before and I thought the toothpaste
tasted so delicious I ate the entire
thing,” Lopez said.
Although Lopez and the rest of
the children were beyond grateful for
the shoebox gifts, it was hard at such
a young age to truly appreciate the act
“I was too young at the time,
but when I was 13, it really changed
my life,” Lopez said. “I was really
depressed, the orphanage couldn’t
afford schooling for us anymore, I was
told that soccer was only for boys and I
was separated from my twin sister.
“But then I looked over the letters
from my friends and the picture of the
American girl and the note. It all meant
so much to me and I finally realized
that even though the girl did not know
me or my story she took her time to
find the things in the shoebox for me.
She loved me.”
Lopez was offered the opportunity
of a lifetime when her future adopted
parents came to visit the orphanage on
a mission, eventually returning for her.
She arrived in America in 2008 when
she was 18.
Her love for soccer earned her
an opportunity to graduate and play
soccer for Bryan College in Tennessee.
Lopez is now a fulltime sports
missionary for fellowship Christian
athletes. She provides hope and
endless possibilities to many youth.
The gift she received gives
credence to a now well-established
movement: One shoebox can truly
change a life.
For those interested in packing
a shoebox or volunteering at
the collection center, visit www.
samaritanspurse.org or contact
Shannon Greany at slgreany@gmail.