OCC shoeboxes hold more than toys

Veracruz

Veracruz state, Mexico

Mexico (MNN) — For Family Christian Stores staffer Mike Bowles, a recent trip to Mexico meant more than escaping Michigan’s cold winter weather.

It opened his eyes to the impact Samaritan’s Purse and its “Operation Christmas Child” shoeboxes are having on communities.

“It’s empowering pastors in their own countries to deliver the Gospel, to minister to children, to pull families together, and create new churches,” Bowles reports.

Supporting OCC outreach

OCC shoeboxes

(Photo courtesy of Mike Bowles)

Family Christian has been teaming up with OCC since 2010. Each year, Family Christian provides around 170,000 empty OCC boxes at their retail locations for customers to take home and fill. After packing the shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, and a personal note, customers drop them off at the closest collection location.

“The 170,000 are just part of Operation Christmas Child’s 10 million boxes that get distributed,” explains Bowles.

“Before I ever went [on a shoebox delivery trip], I thought it was a shoebox. They’re delivering the shoebox to a child, with a note — that was the extent of it. I learned that that’s just really the first step.”

Reaching Veracruz for Jesus

(Photo courtesy of Mike Bowles)

(Photo courtesy of Mike Bowles)

Located along the Gulf of Mexico coastline, Veracruz state has one of Mexico’s leading economies. However, that prosperity doesn’t reach all of Veracruz.

It certainly hasn’t reached the village that received OCC shoeboxes on Bowles’ trip.

“This is a community where the houses are made out of tin and plastic and cardboard and pallet,” he describes.

As Bowles watched children receive their shoeboxes and open them to find soccer shoes, toys, and more, he learned the true purpose of Operation Christmas Child.

“It is much more than a Christmas gift,” he says. “I saw the shoeboxes as a vehicle for the local church to deliver the Gospel to a community.”

Jose dives into "The Greatest Journey".  (Photo courtesy of Mike Bowles)

Jose dives into “The Greatest Journey.”
(Photo courtesy of Mike Bowles)

With each shoebox delivery, OCC equips local pastors to engage children and their families in Scripture through “The Greatest Journey.” It’s a 12-week discipleship course in the child’s heart language.

“They learn more about the Bible, all through the local church,” says Bowles.

Through Operation Christmas Child, Family Christian and its customers are helping Samaritan’s Purse introduce communities around the world to Jesus. Want to help? Click here.