Saturday, November 17, 2012

Operation Christmas Child

The kids and I had the privledge of visiting one of the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox distribution centers. Many of you have seen maybe even participated in the Shoe Box Project near Christmastime where people donate a shoe box full of toys and goodies for needy children across the world. Well, Atlanta has one of the distribution centers where the boxes are sorted, organized, labeled and then shipped out for delivery. For two years our co-op has been trying to schedule a field trip there but the time slots are always taken. This year, we were lucky enough to get two time slots and the kids and I had a free day to visit the center. We were also watching my nephew, Wesley, that day, so he got to tag along too!
When we arrived at the center we all signed volunteer waivers and began watching a short clip about Operation Christmas Child. After our whole group had arrived we began a tour around the facility. First we were walked into a mock orphanage where our kids got to pretend to be orphans for the day. They all laid down in the rock-hard beds, often more than one child in each. They awoke for the day and were given a t-shirt to put on. Some of them were way too big, but the kids were told that it was all they had. They were also told that this shirt would likely have to last them the week, so they needed to try to keep it clean. From the bed, they all sat around a big table where they were served "breakfast". One roll was passed and each child was able to grab a piece of it to eat. That was all the food they had. They showed them the brown water that the orphans often drank because it was all they had and then they showed them the one toothbrush that they would all have to share (thankfully, that was just a verbal demonstration).
From breakfast we moved into the "schoolhouse". Here the kids had a torn up piece of paper and some mostly used pencils and were told to draw a picture of something they wanted. After about 5 minutes of drawing, the tour guide told them to erase their picture so that the next person could use their paper because there just wasn't enough to go around. At this point, I really though Catherine was going to cry. She had spent time and effort on her picture and when they told her she had to erase it, I was afraid she was going to break down right there.
In the schoolhouse we were able to hear from a young lady who was once a recipient of a shoe box. She and her sister had grown up in a household where both of her parents were often drunk and a lot of times her dad would be abusive. They often went out into the streets to look for food and survived on scraps and apples from their backyard. Once in the orphanage, they thought they were in paradise- mostly because no matter how small, they received three meals a day that they didn't have to scour the streets for. One Christmas, she and her sister received a shoe box. She told of how wonderful it was to open up the box which already looked so pretty and seemed like a present itself. She remembered getting a pen with a little heart on the top of it and when you pushed down to write, the heart lit up. She said all the children in the orphanage were watching her as she marveled over writing with this amazing pen. Years later, she and her sister were adopted by a family in Iowa and brought over to the United States. She now attends Ozark Christian College and is studying to be a missionary.
After her story, the kids returned their shirts and we continued the tour moving onto the "factory" side of it. We were assigned sorting tasks like "inspector", "labeler", and "sorter". The inspector had to take a box and inspect it for undesirable items such as liquids, foods, or checks made out to Operation Christmas Child. The labeler would make sure each box was labeled boy or girl and had an age category checked. The sorter would then move the box to the corresponding bucket for that gender and age. The kids had fun sorting through the boxes and making sure that each one was ready for shipment.
Our next stop on the tour was learning about all of the countries that the boxes are taken to and also learning about the follow up that Operation Christmas Child does. Not only do these children receive boxes but each child is then offered the opportunity to learn more about Jesus and the Gospel of Christ. They are taught small lessons and are given a graduation cap when completing the series of lessons. Our kids were able to make their own graduation caps to take home with them and were then given a toothbrush to help remind them about all the children who only have one toothbrush to share amongst them (this often sounds like my kids-haha, well they have lots of toothbrushes but I often find them using one anothers).
We finished out the tour by praying for all the children that would be receiving boxes this year and Wesley volunteered to pray out loud which was just so precious.
We were blessed to get to see this process and we can't wait to make our shoeboxes for years to come! For more information on this organization, check out their website at The mom.

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