How a shoebox can save a life

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By Becca Owsley

In the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, parents often have a list a mile long of things their kids want. But around the world, children gather for one simple gift, maybe the only gift they’ll get that year.

The gift is a shoebox full of toys, candy and hygiene items packed by people halfway across the world they will never meet. But sometimes the connections made through those shoeboxes can save a life.

Operation Christmas Child is a program through Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse organization that sends shoeboxes filled with goodies to children around the world. This time of year is when packing a shoebox kicks into high gear. Even Si Robertson from “Duck Dynasty” has joined in on the fun this year.

When you hear the stories of how much joy these children get from a simple shoebox full of items, it can really put the season into perspective.

But sometimes, that shoebox can mean more than a simple box of toys and toothpaste.

A friend of mine from graduate school, Alicia Fawbush, packed a shoebox last November but didn’t realize how it would shape a child’s life.

In May, she received an email from someone at an orphanage in Tamil Nadu, India, thanking her for sending the shoebox. A 9-year-old girl there received the box.

She continued corresponding with her talking about their lives and sharing prayer requests. That’s when she heard about a 7-year-old boy who needed a life-saving surgery. She said the child could not urinate and his immunity was very low.

After hearing about the child, she felt God wanted her to help raise money for the boy to have surgery. Not a fan of asking people for money, she got the word out to people to help the child. Some churches raised money during their vacation Bible schools.

Before sending the money she contacted the Operation Christmas Child organization to make sure the orphanage she was sending it to was legit. After confirming it was, she was able to send $1,700 to pay for his surgery.

She thought she was done but God had other ideas.

“God said, ‘Not so fast,’” she said.

This year, her goal was to provide Christmas for all 80 children in that orphanage. Last year, the shoeboxes were distributed at a church in India that was three to four miles from the orphanage. The orphanage couldn’t transport all 80 children to the distribution site. There was one box of 15 shoeboxes left and the church’s pastor decided to take it to the orphanage. That’s how Fawbush’s box made it to that location.

Some might say the box reaching that particular location to help the child get his surgery was happenstance; Fawbush said it was God working in the situation.

Fawbush and her church in Tennessee want to make sure all 80 of those children have something, probably for the first time, for Christmas. The goal is to make sure each child gets an outfit, a toy and dinner for Christmas. Additionally she wants to raise more money for the orphanage for needed amenities and medical treatment for another child there who needs surgery for a broken arm.

One small box sent to an orphanage changed one little boy’s life as well as many others. Never underestimate how something small can become something big. In God’s hands, there is no small gift.

To learn more about Operation Christmas Child or how to pack your own Christmas box, go to www.samaritanspurse.org.

Becca Owsley can be reached at 270- 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.