You might remember having one of those Best Friends Forever necklaces as a kid, you know the one that came in a box with two chains and two pendants, made from one heart broken in two.
Brenda a 5 year old girl who lives in extreme poverty in the Dominican Republic has one of those too now. Evilyn a middle class home schooler from Minnesota has the other half. She gave the necklace to her today inside the 100 millionth Operation Christmas Child shoebox through Samaritans Purse. Both girls wear the necklace as if it's made of diamonds. It was the most beautiful exchange of friendship that I've ever witnessed. They will never forget each other.
Evilyn,12, was handpicked to be the ambassador of the 100 millionth Operation Christmas Child Shoebox because of her dedication to the cause. She started a shoebox club with her friends back home many years ago. It has 80 members. All children 12 years and younger. They pack 2,000 boxes every year, and even have their own board of directors! She has taken the shoebox around the country collecting items for Brenda. She put in a jumprope. Another girl put in a best friends necklace. A shoebox recipient put in a stuffed lamb because she remembers holding the stuffed animal she received. Another recipient put in school supplies, because he remembers receiving those school supplies is what finally allowed him to go to school. Matthew West put in hair bows that his daughters picked out.
Brenda, 5, opened that box today and may have wondered what all the fuss was about. One moment she's leaving her home (more like a shack) and walking down a dirt road to the church because her adoptive mom heard there's a special Christmas program where the kids will learn about the gift of Jesus Christ at Christmas. The shoebox gifts were a surprise. Out of 200 children, little Brenda was handpicked to receive the 100 millionth shoebox.
After the singing, dancing, puppet show, and prayer to accept Jesus, the team started handing out the shoebox gifts. Evilyn hand delivered the 100 millionth shoebox to Brenda with such pride and anticipation, as if it was Christmas morning. She sat down next to her, watched her open the box, and they systematically looked through and examined each gift inside. The box of chocolates was first. She ate one and her whole face lit up, than she got another. Everyone around thought she was going to eat that one too, but instead she turned to her side, and shared it with her little brother. She loved the jumprope and tested it out. She put the bows in her hair, and her dark brown eyes lit up when she saw that best friends necklace. Evilyn, put it proudly around her new BFF's neck.
I am honored to have witnessed that exchange today while on the team delivering hundreds of shoeboxes in the Dominican Republic. We handed out over 800 boxes today. That's 800 children who have now heard the message of the love and hope that comes from having a relationship with Jesus.
Tomorrow we will do it again. I'm hooked, and changed forever.
Let's go for another 100 million! If you'd like to pack a shoebox like this for Operation Christmas child, you still can online. It's a fun interactive experience that allows you to virtually pack a shoebox! The ones packed at www.samaritanspurse.org go to the hardest to reach places in the world where the volunteers deliver the boxes at a great risk.
A typical home of the children we are serving.
Group a adorable boys waiting for their shoeboxes. The boy in the middle waved and asked me to take this picture! What a smile!
Loved holding the children.
Boxes of boxes ready to be unpacked and handed out! They are so organized by age and gender so we can immediately hand it to the right child. So impressed!
Happy Julia to get her box. She was so talkative and welcoming I wished I had learned Spanish instead of French in school! With the help of a translator I got to know her beautiful heart, and taught her how to take pictures with my camera! She may be a photographer one day!
Taking their shoeboxes home!