After 2 1/2 years of dating and 4 1/2 years of marriage, I think my husband and I have only exchanged Christmas or birthday gifts only once--maybe twice. There was always something else that we had to spend money on. Christmas gifts and birthday festivities were an unnecessary expense. However, one thing I've always like to do at Christmas time is to participate in an Angel Tree giving program. You know, those Christmas trees set up at Sam's or Walmart with an angel hanging on it that tells you to buy a gift for a 6-year-old boy or a 76-year-old lady? I think last year was the first time in several years that I didn't do one of those trees. I've always loved to give to others--sometimes to my detriment. I can't always afford to give, and so have had to learn (often times the hard way) that I shouldn't spend the money if I don't have it. However, I think it is important to give to others. Especially now that I have young children, I want them to learn to give with compassion and to realize that while they have needs (and wants) there are other children elsewhere with those same needs and desires--and that some of those children have even greater needs than my own do. Ultimately, I want them to see the needs of others as opportunities to minister the Gospel. We will not be having a Christmas this year because we will be making a very important trip to see some of my family members who may not make it to another Christmas. But in spite of that, I want to still participate in a giving program.
I have found a Christian organization that I would like to participate with this year (and in the future) and would like to encourage others to do the same. The ministry is called Operation Christmas Child and is operated by Samaritan's Purse International Relief. What you are to do is fill a shoebox full of items for a child, download a label for the box, and then drop the box off at a designated location during the week of November 15. For many of my friends, this program may end up costing you only the shipping donation of $7 that is requested to help cover the cost of shipping packages. Many of my friends have stocked up on supplies through coupons and sales, and have many free items that they could place in these shoe boxes for these children. I know many people place mounds of presents under their Christmas trees for themselves, their children, and for visiting family members. We're blessed if we have one gift under our tree each year, and these children in these hurting countries will be doubly blessed to have a shoe box placed in their hands this year. Along with these boxes goes the Gospel, as that is the heart of this ministry. These children will be handed a gift, and with that gift of love placed into their hands, it will be much easier for them to accept God's gift of love into their hearts.
Along with the list placed on the website of suggested items to put in the box, I thought of some other items that could easily fit in a shoe box and would be exciting for a child (specifically a girl) to open up. At this time of year we should be able to get flip-flops for less than $2/pair. Many of these kids would love to have shoes! Another inexpensive item could be a pillowcase dress. And along with that I thought it would be fun to place a doll in the box wearing a matching pillowcase dress. These are just a few ideas, and there are some more listed on the OCC website. How great it would be to be a part of such a ministry to others!