When people pack shoeboxes, they're giving 'so much more than just a shoebox.'
Lynette Loewen is the Regional Manager for Operation Christmas Child (OCC) in Central Canada.
"I've been packing boxes for as long as I can remember, as a kid and then growing up and even in University," says Loewen. "Then I saw the Regional Manager position opportunity, and I thought that'd be really neat to get involved more."
Loewen has been working with OCC through Samaritan's Purse for nine years.
"A lot of people see the shoebox and they get really excited. The most important thing that I love is the number of discipleship programs that we have and kids coming to know Christ. That is why we pack shoeboxes."
Loewen has seen firsthand on two different distribution trips how children and their family's lives are changed through this program.
"Through our program, 30,000 children are hearing the gospel every day. An even better number is every 14 seconds a kid comes to know Christ through Operation Christmas Child."
Loewen has travelled to Uraguay and Senegal for separate distribution trips through OCC.
"Both of those countries are very different in culture, but both have an incredible need to know Jesus. It was very impactful for sure to see how lives are changed and to also meet kids who have received boxes in the past."
She recalls meeting a volunteer at the discipleship program during a trip, and they shared how a few years back they received their first shoebox. It was that gift that brought them to share the gospel with other kids in their community.
"I did meet a beautiful boy in Uraguay. I'll never forget him. I had the opportunity to give him his shoeboxes. To hear his story was neat as he had nine brothers and sisters. His mom would hitchhike into the city to try and sell candy on buses to afford to feed them. He had never met his dad. When he opened his box, his face changed, his demeanour changed."
Loewen says that's the power of a simple gift that brings so much joy.
"We have about 1,000 churches planted every year because of OCC. It's not just a shoebox."
"I always say put Jesus in the box first and Jesus in the box last. What I mean is, the $10 people put in helps with shipping but also the discipleship material. It pays for the booklets and the teachers in these countries. Of course, when we close the box, we want to pray over it."
Loewen encourages people to pray over all the aspects of the box, including the pilots who fly them out, to the next person in line who may use a donkey or elephant to carry them on to their final destination.
"Have a lot of fun with the contents. Think, what would really bring joy to a child. Those toothbrushes, school supplies, and that 'wow' item. Those are the exciting moments you can see on our videos."
CHVN will be at the St.Vital Mall collecting packed shoeboxes for OCC from November 18 - 20.