The very first event of the Jeffcoat Christmas season is nearly upon us: Operation Christmas Child. You can click on the link for more details about this unique, hands-on ministry that takes the love of God and hope for the future around the world.
OCC is near and dear to my heart. Our family has packed shoeboxes for at least 15 years, and in 2000 we were on the distribution end of this amazing project. In case you are new to this I want to offer some helpful hints about how to pack a quality box.
1. Pray. Ask God to help you decide what to put in it. Pray for the child who will receive it and all the hands that will carry it across the globe.
2. Think quality. That box you are packing may be the only gift of any kind that child will receive. Since the goal is to share God's love, make sure that is what your box says to the child who opens it. What I mean is this:
- Don't put junk in it. Maybe kids in America can go buy a new Barbie doll if the head comes off theirs, but the recipient of your box probably can't. Buy a quality doll.
- Do your own children only use Crayola Crayons? Then put Crayola in the box.
- Are there certain pencils or pens you hate to use? Don't send them! (And send a pencil sharpener.)
- A jump rope is a fun item, but make sure it isn't a piece of junk. (Some aren't worth the thread they are made of.)
- Pack new items. (Save your old things for the neighborhood garage sale. Most kids can tell the difference between new and used. Don't make these children who have so little and been through so much feel sub-par.)
- Including the $7.00 fee to help with shipping I think it takes around $30 to create a quality box. (Here's the fine line: Though I believe in packing quality boxes, I also think it is better to send two boxes costing $30 each to build than one for $60. Send Crayola Crayons but not the Vera Bradley purse.)
3. Think appropriateness. Samaritan's Purse asks that we don't put liquids, chocolate, breakables, or military related items in our boxes for obvious reasons. But here are some other things to consider:
- Girls of every age love jewelry, but remember: not every girl has pierced ears.
- There is a good chance your box will end up in a Muslim area: Don't put anything in there that has to do with pigs or pork. You want to bless, not offend.
- The same goes with that Barbie doll (that didn't come from Dollar Tree): Maybe a bikini clad doll would be great for your grand-daughter, but it is not appropriate for most of the world.
- What about gory, creepy, scary things? Since many children around the world face real "monsters" let's leave them out of the box.
- Make sure your items are age appropriate for the box you are making. If a tag says for ages 5 and up, don't put it in a 2 - 4 year old box. (Be careful with candy too. A choking hazard is a choking hazard anywhere in the world.)
- Picture books are always fun, but avoid non-picture books. Remember: Not everyone in the world speaks English.
4. Think quantity. What I mean is: FILL THE BOX! If you are unable to fill the box you have either get a smaller box or pool your resources. When my family and I handed out boxes over seas I noticed that many of them were half empty. What does that say to a child? Yes, they are happy to have a gift, but shouldn't we bless them with a gift that is "pressed down, shaken together and running over"?
5. Think ahead. Don't wait until October of 2014 to begin on next year's boxes. Shop year round. Stock up on school supplies in August when they are on mega sale. Look for sale items throughout the year. (That way you can get quality for cheap.)
6. Now pack. Here is a list of great shoebox items: (I love the idea of using a $1 plastic shoebox. They are sturdy and can be used for so many things.)
Nearly every box we pack contains the following items:
- coloring book
- comb or brush
- pencils and sharpener
- gender appropriate bandana
Then we add from there. Other ideas:
- stuffed animal or doll
- colored pencils
- jump rope
- toy cars
- plastic cup
- Barrel of Monkeys
- glow in the dark stars
- small puzzle
- small drawstring back pack
- small purse
- hand/finger puppets
- rubber duckie
- small calendar for the coming year with pretty/cool pictures
- small frisbee
- blow-up beach ball or punch ball
- play jewelry
- Solar calculator (for older kids)
- flashlight with extra batteries
This is not an exhaustive list, just one to get you started.
6. Pray again.
And that's all there is to it.
Pray. Think. Pack. Pray.