Operation Christmas Child- My Personal Story

It was a humbling experience that I will never forget. The unit theme was ‘Making a Difference’ and it was nearing Christmas.  I invited my 25 fourth and fifth grade E.S.L. students join me in a project that would change many of our hearts forever.

My students were all considered Newcomer students (all within their first year in the United States, speaking little to no English). Students from Mexico, Iraq, Russia, Turkey, Vietnam, and Jordan; many of which were refugees who fled, from war-torn countries, to the United States with as few as 1-2 suitcases per family.  They were students living in small 2 bedrooms apartments, shared by multiple families using even the living room as a family bedroom. All were receiving free breakfast, lunch, and even weekend meals from our public school. Many whom had watched their friends and/or family die during war.

As I began to share with them about Operation Christmas Child and how we as a class were going to set of goal of filling two shoeboxes for children in need, making their Christmas’ very special this year. I shared this wishfully, as I knew many of these students were living in very rough conditions themselves. Despite their lack of ideal conditions and lack of finances to purchase new items, I wanted to challenge them to serve others. I admit I was very nervous as I didn’t want our ‘project’ to fail… I wanted them to experience the joy of serving.

The challenge was simple and straight forward: “Class, I want to challenge you to find new items around your homes or purchase an inexpensive item that you can give to a child in need this Christmas season. We are going to combine all of our items into two boxes, decorate the boxes, write notes, and send them out on Friday.”

We made a giant list of things we thought they would like to recieve: small toys, bubbles, hair bows, toothpaste, soap, candies, socks, markers, coloring books, stickers, toy cars, gum, small books, washcloth, and more. We also decided that each student would write a note, we would divide them between the 2 boxes, and take a class picture to send with each.

“Teacher!” (as many referred to me with affection.) “I get this!”

“Great! I’m glad your excited!” I responded with a smile.

“No, teacher! Iraq, when I in camp, I get this!” his face glowed as he shared.

“Me too teacher!!” a sweet young voice shot up from across the room.

Within a few minutes, in broken English, we discovered that 6 of our 25 students had actually been on the receiving end of the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes! Something I had never dreamed of encountering!

The six students began to share where they were, who gave them the boxes, what they remember in the box, what their favorite part of the box was, some even remembered what their siblings received in their boxes!

In mid-sharing, the bell rang and they all continued to share as they grabbed their backpacks and headed out the door.

“Friday, I yelled, Don’t forget to bring your supply on Friday!”

The next day, my students were waiting outside my door as I arrived at school. They were waiting for me. They had plastic bags filled to the brim. The bags were filled with NEW toys and supplies for our shoeboxes.

Many of the students went home, shared with their families what we were doing, and their parents took their child to the store to buy supplies. The families who brought the most… were those who had been on the receiving end of those boxes! They were grateful and wanted to give back; and so did their parents! Even the parents were impacted by the generosity of complete strangers to their children when they were in extreme need.

As the week concluded, I knew our two boxes were not going to be enough… instead my impoverished class of 25 students filled (get this) 38 shoeboxes!

That my friends is gratitude! The story still today brings tears to my eyes and has deeply impacted my family today as my husband and I were actually able to travel and deliver these shoeboxes to children down in Mexico that Christmas. We took pictures, watched their faces as they received (for most) their only Christmas present of the year. We left Mexico changed that year.

Delivering Christmas Shoeboxes in Mexico 

In our own family, my husband and I’s goal is to raise servants, servants of Christ, but also servants to others. As a family, we have committed to sending shoeboxes and encouraging others to do so as well each year. Last year I shared this story at the private school where my husband and I work, this year is my first year to share on Cheerios and Lattes.

Won’t you and your family join us this year? Making a difference for a child in need this Christmas is an opportunity for  you to model service, sacrifice, gratitude, and ultimately love!

Visit the Operation Christmas Child website to find all the ways you can participate this year!

  • Host a Packing Party at Your Home (for family, neighbors, and or friends)
  • Get Your School or Class Involved
  • Get Your Church Involved
Will you sacrifice a few dollars? Will you teach your children to serve? Will you join us?


  1. Hi, I’ve just posted our Operation Christmas Child story too. Such a good cause and such a great way to introduce kids to giving, plus its global we are doing our shoeboxes over here in the UK.

  2. What a GREAT story! We pack boxes every year and this is one of the ministries dearest to my heart. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Wow, what a story! Have you sent that in to Operation Christmas Child?

    Can I forward your story on to other people I know?


  4. Suzanne Crawford says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I am doing Operation Christmas Child for the first time this year and am so excied! This story brought tears to my eyes! I have had the opportunity to go on several missions trips and see children who have nothing and are so excited about gifts that I bring. It is amazing how grateful and unselfish they are! Thanks again!

  5. THAT is an awesome story! We’ve been doing shoeboxes for approx. 9 years. My daughter was around 3 when we started and she has always loved filling them. When she was small she would get a shoebox and pretend she was packing shoeboxes for several weeks after we had filled and delivered ours. The shoebox ministry is very dear to us!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this! How moving and meaningful! Love it!

  7. Melanie Cobb says:

    I will be starting a Month of Thanks-Giving on my blog on Thursday. We are givings thanks everyday for one of the many blessings we have been given then paying it forward and showing the love of Christ to another. We will be filling a shoe box for his Awana class this weekend and he will be going shopping with his own money to purchase items for this shoebox. I would love to link up to you post here about the shoe boxes this weekend when I do our post! So glad I have found your blog…enjoying reading through it so much already!

  8. I’ve never heard of this. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve been looking for something to do with my kids to show them how important it is to give to others. This might just be the thing I’ve been looking for :)

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