One woman has seen God show up in specific ways to kids all around the world, through a shoebox filled with everyday items.
"We can't change the circumstances for everyone, we can't, shoeboxes don't do that. But when we have the opportunity to share the love of Jesus with them, the knowledge that they are loved and not alone, that's my why," says Kendra Shields.
Shields is the Domestic Field Manager for Operation Christmas Child Headquarters in Calgary, AB. She leads the regional managers who manage the volunteers around Canada.
"We work all year long to collect the shoeboxes, to prepare and build momentum for the shoeboxes. It's rewarding to see all of those shoeboxes generated by generous Canadians."
In November, Shields also becomes the floor manager in the warehouse that takes every single shoebox in before they are sent out around the world.
"I've actually had the opportunity to go on seven trips," says Shields.
These include Chile, Uraguay, Paraguay, Senegal, El Salvador twice, and Gambia. She was set to go to Costa Rica this year, but the trip has been cancelled in light of the pandemic.
Gambia, West Africa Trip
A trip to Gambia was the first trip that Sheilds took where the children spoke English, which meant she didn't have to talk to the kids through a translator.
One of the days, the team went to a school and each staff got to sit in with one smaller classroom instead of a huge group of kids, making the memory more intimate.
"There was this boy sitting right near the teacher's desk and he was the life of the party. He opened his shoebox and he got a Marvel comics hat and even though it was miles too big on him, he loved it."
As the teacher was trying to finish a lesson, this little boy continued to yell over the class to a boy in the back. The teacher wouldn't let him go speak to his friend, so they waited.
"Finally she relented and let the boy come up to the front. I had never seen so much joy over a hat that didn't fit."
While Shields thought these boys must have been great friends, the teacher explained that they were twin brothers.
"We packed up and I was walking out in the courtyard when I hear this squeal. I didn't know if someone got hurt or if something exciting happened."
When Shields went back to look, both boys had the same Marvel hat on.
"He got the matching hat to his twin brother. One boy's box was from a family in Ontario and as best as we can follow, the little boy in the back of the classroom's box came from Atlantic Canada."
When it comes to distributing boxes from the company's end of things, there is no real rhyme or reason other than a child's gender and age.
"Twin brothers in Gambia got matching hats in their shoeboxes from two completely different places in the country. The only way that that happens is because God did it."
Shields went with a team to Chile one year after a tsunami struck the entire coast. The Chilean people were still recovering from it at the time.
"We would see all these little tent villages. Sometimes they were organized and sometimes not. It was hard because every community we went to everyone had experienced the earthquake and tsunami," says Shields.
People would go down into the towns during the day, but at night they would all climb up the hill in fear of another big wave, according to Shields.
"I remember handing out a shoebox to a little boy who was 8-years-old, his name was Martin. I had the privilege of handing him the shoebox I had packed with my 8-year-old nephew."
While Martin was elated to receive this gift, something surprised Shields.
"What surprised me the most was how excited he was for the very practical items. He liked the car and bouncy ball but he was most grateful for a toothbrush because then he didn't have to share with his mother anymore. He got choked up about four pairs of socks because now he didn't have to wash his one pair every night for school the next day."
When Shields goes on a distribution trip, she sits with the children and always tries to ask them two questions.
"I ask them 'if you could have anything in your shoebox what would you want it to be?' Then I marvel as every single time, there's something in that shoebox that fits the description of what they wanted."
During one event, Shields sat down beside a little girl that could have been mistaken for a boy with her hair cut and clothes.
"She was the youngest and only girl in her family. She wore her brother's hand-me-downs. She said she didn't care about anything in her shoebox but just wanted one thing that was pink. When we opened it, there was not a single thing in it that wasn't pink," she says.
The second question is actually one the children ask Shields. They ask her afterwards, 'How did you know?'