November 10, 2020

Edward Graham says shoebox gifts are reaching millions with the Gospel

 Edward Graham, the grandson of the late evangelist Billy Graham, says shoeboxes filled with gifts are reaching more children and unreached people with the Gospel than the massive global evangelistic events his grandfather held over decades. 

“More kids have heard about Christ through these shoebox distributions than ever heard about Christ in stadiums with my grandfather,” said Graham, vice president of programs and government relations at Operation Christmas Child, regarding the evangelistic opportunity shoebox gifts are creating around the world for the Gospel to spread like wildfire. 

Some might underestimate the impact of packing gift boxes during the holidays, but Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, has provided an open door for people to be a part of evangelism efforts around the world. Operation Christmas Child participants fill shoe sized gift boxes that are sent to over 160 nations, including 50 hard to reach areas. 

In the spring of 2016, Samaritan’s Purse held an outreach event for the Himba people, an unreached people group in the village of Opuwo which sits on the border of Angola and Namibia in Africa. Later that fall, a ministry partner, Pastor Rizera, traveled the long distance across cow paths and over six dry river beds to bring Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts and the Gospel message to the Himba children.

The Himba tribe consists of 50,000 semi-nomadic people who live in a region across Southern Angola to Northern Namibia. Before the shoebox distribution, the people of Ombaka mostly practiced ancestral worship and were resistant to the Gospel message, with less than 3% of people professing to be Christian. Following an Operation Christmas Child outreach event that hosted 130 children in the village, 46 children and six young adults wanted to continue to learn more about Jesus. 

The gift boxes collected and distributed to children are often filled with toys, school supplies, hygiene items and always contain booklets with the Gospel message. Samaritans Purse, along with ministry partners, delivers the boxes to children in need around the world, opening the door for the next generation to hear the message of God.

If children want to continue to learn more about Jesus, Operation Christmas Child has a 12-lesson discipleship program, called The Greatest Journey, which takes children further into discovering what it is to follow Jesus and how to share that with their family. 

The Himba people have been so impacted by these gifts that they participated in an oral version of The Greatest Journey. Their hunger to learn more about Jesus grew so large that the village elder had no other choice but to provide some land under a group of trees for the people to gather and be discipled by Pastor Rizera.

Now, villagers have dedicated a church building, the first one ever built in Ombaka, Namibia.

Despite their history of being animists, which consist of worshiping their ancestors and tree spirits, nearly 100 Himba now gather at their new church base to worship Lord Jesus Christ.

Samaritan's Purse has also teamed up with the Seed Company, an organization that's doing work in the area of Bible translation for unreached people groups. Due to the great partnership with churches and pastors around the world that Operation Christmas Child has, the Seed Company was able to record an oral translation of Scripture in the Himba language onto solar-powered mp3 players. 

Thank you to those who have been a part of it and that have done it in the past. We need you more now than ever. If you're thinking about it or you didn't know if it was a ministry worthwhile, I promise you it is. It's one of my favorite things about Samaritan's Purse, and I stand behind it 100%.

For more information on how you can get involved in helping people like the Himba tribe and others around the world by packing gift boxes, visit Operation Christmas Child.