By Christy Ulmet
A small girl sat in a room with walls covered in colorful paint at an orphanage in a small village in Russia. A group of missionaries came to visit the orphanage and handed her a shoebox neatly wrapped in red and green paper. She opened it to find toys and simple necessities like a toothbrush and tooth-paste. At the bottom was a photo of the children who sent the shoebox.
This is the story of Oksana Nelson. As a young girl, Nelson received a shoe-box from Operation Christmas Child, a ministry project of Samaritan’s Purse.
“Back when I had nothing to call my own, each item meant a lot to me,” Nelson said in a YouTube clip produced by Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child.
On October 28, Nelson spoke at Trevecca in a Didache chapel urging students to participate as the school offers the opportunity to fill a box for Operation Christmas Child. This is Trevecca’s second year participating.
According to the Samaritan Purse website, Operation Christmas Child began 23 years ago, when a couple in Wrexham, Whales felt an urge to take action after watching a television broad-cast on orphanages in Romania.
Together, they filled a convoy of nine trucks with medical supplies, food, clothing and Christmas gifts for chil-dren. They headed to Romania and de-livered the gifts. This was the beginning what would become the world’s largest children’s Christmas program.
In 1993, Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and international president of Samaritan’s Purse, adopted Operation Christmas Child. Since then, more than 61 million shoeboxes have been delivered to children in nearly 140 countries.
Students can fill the shoeboxes with things like toys, school supplies, clothing, toiletries and more. Operation Christmas Child will put a story of the Gospel in each box in the child’s language.
Forty boxes were turned in when the school participated last year.
Jennifer Neely, coordinator for the Sophomore Experience in the Center for Leadership, Calling and Services, expects a larger turnout this year.
“My goal, honestly, is 200. I think that we have a really good chance of reaching that,” Neely said.
Students and faculty around cam-pus have been promoting Operation Christmas Child around campus. Anna Byrne, a sophomore religion major, used one night on lobby duty in Georgia Hall to host an event to promote Operation Christmas Child.
Byrne had boxes and instructions readily available for girls as they went in and out of the lobby and encouraged them to participate.
“I wanted to do something that would allow people to give back and get involved,” Byrne said. “It’s something we can do as a community, and it’s a good bonding experience. It helps us practice what we preach here at Trevecca.”
Senior social justice major Brianna Rieck chose to participate in Operation Christmas Child by filling a box.
“I’m getting involved because I want to be faithful in the small things we do on campus like this,” Rieck said. “It’s a small thing someone can do that’ll make a big impact.”
Byrne offered that students could fill a box with a few friends if they did not feel that they could fill them with their own money. And though there is a $7 shipping fee requested to be donated with the boxes, students can bypass that if it keeps them from being able to fill a box, Neely said.
Students can get involved either by filling a box or by helping at the drop-off center. This year, Trevecca is one of Nashville’s only drop-off centers for boxes.
November 18-25 is National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child, and the school is opening up a relay center in TSAC.
To pick up a box or sign up for the relay center, stop by Neely’s office in the CLCS. All boxes are due November 25 at 10 am.
“It’s a gift, but hopefully the kids ultimately receive the gift of Jesus,” Neely said.
To learn more and to hear the rest of Nelson’s story, visit the Samaritan’s Purse video channel on YouTube.
This article originally appeared in the Thanksgiving 2013 TrevEchoes.