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Operation Christmas Child – FAQ’s

Overview

What is Operation Christmas Child?

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organisation. Our mission is to provide local partners around the world with shoeboxes filled with small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies as a means of reaching out to children in their own communities with the Good News of Jesus Christ. After receiving shoebox gifts, many children are also invited back to participate in The Greatest Journey – an evangelism and discipleship program. We ship these simple gifts from Australia and New Zealand to children affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine, and disease. These gifts are given without condition and without regard to the race, creed, gender, religion, or ethnicity of the beneficiaries.

Can I find out where my shoebox is sent?

Yes! You can Follow Your Box and discover the destination of your shoebox by making the $10 donation per shoebox online, which provides for collection, shipping, and delivery. Just print and attach your unique shipping label to your shoebox gift.

Who started Operation Christmas Child?

The program was started in the United Kingdom in 1990 by Dave and Jill Cooke. Three years after this beginning, the Wales-based shoebox gift project merged in a partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, allowing us to share 20 years of expertise in relief and aid work with the project, and expand the reach of the shoebox gifts to more than 28,000 children that year. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to over 168 million children in more than 100 countries.

Why shoebox gifts?

Shoebox gifts are a way to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

What happens after my shoebox gift is delivered?

Our local ministry partners distribute your shoeboxes to children in their communities. After receiving shoebox gifts, many boys and girls are invited to enrol in The Greatest Journey, our 12-lesson discipleship program. Through the program, our local ministry partners are able to establish long-term, caring relationships with children and families by sharing the love of Jesus Christ. Click here to learn more about the eternal impact of a shoebox.

Are gifts delivered by Christmas?

The shoebox gifts are shipped out from our processing centres by the middle of December, and depending on the distance they must travel, some are delivered by Christmas. Most of the gifts are sent via ship. Although the collection of Operation Christmas Child gifts is during the Christmas season, the delivery of some gifts is sometimes delayed due to international shipping. They may not clear customs in receiving countries until autumn. In addition, many countries that receive the gifts must transport the gifts to rural areas using very poor roads. Distributions typically occur from late December through autumn each year, extending the joy of Christmas to children that receive them!

Can I sponsor the child who received my shoebox gift?

Operation Christmas Child is unable to facilitate this; however, if you are contacted by your recipient child, you may be able to build a relationship with them. Samaritan’s Purse does have a gift catalogue with several items supporting young children, such as a donation for a week’s supply of food for a hungry baby. You can also give a scholarship to a child to participate in The Greatest Journey discipleship program. It takes $10 to provide a child the opportunity to participate and receive discipleship materials including a certificate and New Testament in their language. Donors can fund one child, adopt a local outreach, or train a group of church leaders and pastors for outreach.

Is this project forcing religion on the child who gets a gift?

Samaritan’s Purse – Operation Christmas Child seeks to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way through each shoebox gift. One of our core values is to never be manipulative. We work in and through local volunteers in each country that understand their context and are respectful to the people they serve. Boys and girls do not have to do or say anything to receive their gifts. At the same time, we do seek to share the Gospel wherever we go, which can be challenging at times. In some regions, we are not permitted to distribute literature, but we are still grateful for the opportunity to bless the children with gift boxes carefully prepared by people who love children.

Children are often invited to enrol in The Greatest Journey Discipleship program, which is a 12-lesson program. Children need to have their parent’s permission to enrol in the discipleship program.

Packing Your Shoebox

Packing, Labelling, and Delivery

How do I pack my shoebox gift?

Everything you need to learn how to pack a shoebox gift can be found here. That includes what kind of box to use, what items can be included, how to learn the destination of your shoebox gift, and much more!

Where can I get a box to fill?

You can use any shoebox with lid the approximate size of an a4 page. Operation Christmas Child also has red-and-green boxes that are also available to order now.

What items are allowed in my shoebox gift?

You can find a list of suggested items and items not to include here.

Where do I get basic shoebox labels?

You can download basic boy and girl shoebox labels here. Or you can download shipping labels through Follow Your Box by making your $10 donation online so you can learn the destination of your shoebox gift. Order Follow Your Box labels here.

What is the $10 suggested donation per box?

The $10 per gift is a suggested donation. This donation is critical for Operation Christmas Child to collect, process, and ship shoebox gifts to more than 100 countries. It also provides for ministry materials such as The Greatest Gift Gospel Booklet and The Ministry Partner Guide. We encourage those who are unable to include the $10 per box to consider asking a group in their church or a family member to sponsor this part of the shoebox gift.

When is the deadline for sending my shoebox gift to you?

Hundreds of drop-off locations are open across the Australia and New Zealand during the month of October.

Do you redistribute items in the shoeboxes if they are too full?

We understand and respect that you carefully choose the items you include in your shoebox gifts. Volunteers at our processing centres are trained to remove only items on the “do not include” list found here. When these items are removed, they are donated to local charities and still put to good use.

Where do the shoebox gifts go?

Countries vary from year to year. If you make your shipping donation online through Follow Your Box, you can discover the destination of your shoebox.

Can I select where my shoebox gift is sent?

Our goal globally is to collect and distribute millions of shoebox gifts in over 100 countries this year. Because of the tremendous growth of Operation Christmas Child, the logistics involved in collecting, processing, and distributing millions of shoeboxes prevent us from designating specific boxes for certain countries or climates according to the contents. We can assure you, however, that whoever receives your box will need and appreciate your gift.

Can This Go in My Shoebox?

Are playing cards allowed?

No. Playing cards cannot be included in your shoebox gifts.

How about little toys like spiders, bugs, snakes, etc.?

All of those items are allowed.

Can we include batteries?

Yes. However, batteries must be in their original packaging.

Can videos, CDs, and DVDs be included?

Yes, all of these may be included in your shoebox gifts. However, keep in mind that the children may not have a DVD player or CD player available.

Can we include any liquid items?

No, all liquid items, including paint, toothpaste, gels, bubble makers, and glue bottles are liquids and can’t be included in your shoebox gift. However, dry paint sets (such as watercolours) are OK to pack!

Can we include crayons or glue sticks?

Glue sticks and crayons also can’t be included as they will melt during transport in the heat of the shipping container.

Can we include a toolkit with nails, screws, screwdrivers, and hammers?

Yes! The only tools that can’t be included are saws or pocketknives.

Are scissors OK?

Yes! Scissors are OK to include in your shoebox gifts.

Can items with camouflage be included?

If the child can wear or use the items without looking like a soldier, they are OK to include in your shoebox gift. Pink or coloured camouflage is safe as are pencils, wallets, or socks.

Are squirt guns allowed?

Squirt guns can be included as long as they do not look like real guns. Brightly coloured squirt guns are great to pack in your shoebox gift.

Can glow sticks go in a shoebox gift?

No, glow sticks are a liquid and can ruin shoebox items if they break.

Can we include wet wipes?

Yes, wet wipes do not have enough liquid to spill out into the shoebox, so they are OK to include in your gift.

Can rubber balls be included if they have liquid glitter inside?

No, these would be considered inappropriate because of the liquid.

What type of lollies are allowed in shoebox gifts?

No type of lolly is allowed in shoebox gifts, due to increasing customs regulations.

Is lip gloss or lip balm OK to pack in a shoebox gift?

No. Lip gloss and lip balm can melt in transport and ruin shoebox items.

Can I include toothpaste in my shoebox?

Toothpaste is not allowed in shoebox gifts, due to increasing customs regulations.

Is play dough OK to pack in a shoebox gift?

No, as play dough will deteriorate in the shipping container due to the heat of the container.

Can mirrors go in a shoebox gift?

No. Mirrors are glass and can shatter in transport.

Are matches allowed?

Matches are not allowed in shoebox gifts due to shipping regulations.

Can you include Christian items in shoeboxes?

YES! You can include items that have Christian phrases like, “Jesus loves you” on them. However, we do not include religious literature such as English Bibles and tracts in shoeboxes as it may be confusing for the child as they are not in their native language.

The reason The Greatest Journey is so effective is because it is written for children in their own language and delivered in a classroom setting by specially trained teachers. Please pray for the child who receives your shoebox to come to know Christ through The Greatest Journey. We encourage you to include a note of encouragement and, if you wish, a picture of your family.

Follow Your Box

What is Follow Your Box?

By making a simple donation for shipping and other program costs through Follow Your Box, those who pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child can discover the country destinations of their gifts. Samaritan’s Purse will email a special barcoded label, which, when attached to each shoebox packed, allows us to let you know the country destinations at various stages of processing and shipping.

How do I follow my box?

Click here. Select boy or girl and the age-group range for each label and add to your cart. Complete your checkout with the $10 donation through Follow Your Box, and your label will be delivered to you via email. Print the label and affix to your shoebox, ensure each shoebox is clearly labelled. The barcode enables us to scan shoeboxes during processing and record their shipping status and country destination, which is emailed to you.

Do I need to include $10 in each shoebox in addition to attaching a Follow Your Box label?

No, the label indicates that the $10 donation per shoebox, which provides for collecting, shipping, and delivery, already has been donated online through Follow Your Box.

Getting Your Follow Your Box Labels

How will I receive my label?

After completing your donation through Follow Your Box, your label will be delivered to you via email from donations@samaritanspurse.org.au. Be sure to check your spam folder or junk mail inbox for the email. You may need to add donations@samaritanspurse.org.au to your safe senders list to ensure it arrives in your inbox.

How do I print my labels?

After completing your donation, we will send you an email containing your labels. Click the link in your email to view the printable version of your label, right click, and select “Print.” You can also go to File/Print in your browser navigation bar or hold down the Ctrl and P buttons on your keyboard. From the attachment in your email, click to view the web browser printable link, or save the labels to your computer.

How many labels should I print?

Each label has a unique barcode, so you only print one of each label to affix to your shoebox.

What do I do with my Follow Your Box label once I print it?

Tape the barcode label on the lid of the shoebox in the allocated space. Avoid placing the label in the centre of the shoebox lid because that is where the shoebox will be taped shut at a processing centre. Make sure the label edges are securely attached to lessen the likelihood of the label getting torn off or its barcode ripped during transit.

Why haven’t I received an email containing my barcoded label?

Samaritan’s Purse sends a unique Follow Your Box label to the email address entered when making a shipping donation online through Follow Your Box. Refresh the inbox of the email address you used to complete the Follow Your Box donation and search for an email from donations@samaritanspurse.org.au. Be sure to check your spam folder or junk mail inbox for the email. You may need to add Samaritan’s Purse donations@samaritanspurse.org.au to your safe senders list. If you did not receive your Follow Your Box label, email donorsupport@samaritanspurse.org.au or  call us on AU 1300 884 468 or NZ 0800 726 274 and a representative will help you obtain a Follow Your Box label.

Discovering the Destination of Your Shoebox Gifts

Once I drop off shoeboxes, will I be able to find out where my shoeboxes went?

You will be able to see the status of your shoeboxes at two stages: 1) after they have been processed and are awaiting overseas shipment and 2) after they have been shipped to a country destination. Most shoeboxes are processed in the weeks following OCCtober through mid-December every year and you will be emailed status updates.

After OCCtober, our collection month, it can take up to six weeks for your shoebox to be processed and shipped. If you have concerns about your shoebox, please email us at occlogistics@samaritanspurse.org.au.

Will I receive an email notification for each shoebox I packed?

Yes, Samaritan’s Purse will send you an email when your shoebox progresses from processing through to shipping.

Why haven’t I received an email telling me where my shoeboxes went?

If you made your shipping donation online through Follow Your Box, you will receive email updates from Samaritan’s Purse. You may need to add Samaritan’s Purse, donations@samaritanspurse.org.au, to your safe senders list. If your label is ripped or separated from the shoebox while it is being transported, it may prevent us from informing you where your gift was delivered into the hands of a child in need.

After OCCtober, our collection month, it can take up to six weeks for your shoebox to be processed and shipped. If you have concerns about your shoebox, please email us at occlogistics@samaritanspurse.org.au.

I donated to Operation Christmas Child online. Why didn’t I receive a label?

Follow Your Box labels are only provided when you donate specifically through Follow Your Box, not through any other Donate Online section of www.samaritanspurse.org.au (such as a fundraising page, another Operation Christmas Child item, or Adopt A Box in the Samaritan’s Purse gift catalogue).

Will I receive information or a photo of the child who receives my shoebox?

Unfortunately, we are not able to provide pictures or information about the specific child who receives your shoebox.

Is there a way I can arrange to have my shoeboxes go to different countries rather than the same country?

Because of the logistics involved in collecting, processing, and distributing millions of shoebox gifts to over 100 countries each year, we are unable to pre-assign certain shoeboxes for specific countries.

Shoebox Drop Off

Where should I take my packed shoebox gift?

We have drop-off locations around Australia and New Zealand during our national collection month, OCCtober. Find the location nearest to you here. 

Do you accept shoebox gifts year-round or just in October?

We accept shoebox gifts year round at our National Office in Sydney. We encourage people to drop off their shoeboxes in October (OCCtober) as this is our national collection month.

We do hear of many churches, families, and groups who collect items monthly, and host a packing party closer to OCCtober.

 

Evangelism & Discipleship

The Greatest Gift

What is The Greatest Gift?

This Gospel booklet available in more than 75 languages is given out with shoebox gifts around the world. With the Apostle John as narrator, the booklet shares 11 Scripture stories and invites children to follow Christ.

The Greatest Journey Around the World

What is The Greatest Journey?

The Greatest Journey is a discipleship experience offered by local churches to many of the children who receive shoebox gifts. The 12-lesson program introduces boys and girls to salvation through faith in Christ and encourages them to grow as faithful followers. This connects children to local churches who can, through discipling relationships, teach and nurture the children in faith.

How can I participate?

The Greatest Journey is an investment not only in children, but also in the teachers and the local churches that can learn, grow, and continue to serve Christ with the momentum that is gained through the program. It takes $10 to provide a child the opportunity to participate in The Greatest Journey and receive discipleship materials, including a certificate and New Testament in their language. You can support The Greatest Journey here.

Global Influence of Operation Christmas Child

Who delivers shoebox gifts?

Operation Christmas Child is a global program facilitated through hundreds of thousands of trained volunteers. Local believers in more than 100 countries deliver Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts, present the Gospel, and facilitate our follow-up discipleship program, The Greatest Journey.

With this approach, local Christians who know the culture and language best are given effective resources with a solid biblical foundation to share the Gospel in their communities. We equip ministry partners—a local pastor or church leader—to be our volunteer representatives by providing thorough, detailed training for them to be able to facilitate a shoebox outreach event and present the Gospel. Trained National Leadership Team members, ministry partners, and The Greatest Journey teachers are volunteer roles filled exclusively by these national Christians.

How do shoebox gifts impact local economies?

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to provide local churches who are our ministry partners around the world with shoebox gifts as a way to reach children in their communities. For many children, this is the first gift of this kind they will ever receive. More important than the items inside the shoebox, the gifts are an opportunity to share God’s love—and the Good News of Jesus Christ—with children in need.

In each shoebox receiving country, we partner with a volunteer National Leadership Team that consists of year-round volunteers from various church denominations. Together, they strategise how to reach children in their country with the Gospel. It is our desire to give one shoebox to a child in their lifetime, and this is the model used in our training. Local churches distribute shoebox gifts to children in different communities each year. Because of this strategy, the economic impact on a community is minimal which allows us to reach millions of new children every year with the Good News of Jesus Christ and disciple many, with millions now sharing their faith with their friends, family, and beyond.

According to Henry Manthanamba, Operation Christmas Child prayer coordinator in Malawi, “If shoebox gifts impacted our local economy negatively, the government would never allow them. They see it as a blessing to the children of Malawi.”

How do shoebox gifts impact the local church?

In more than 100 receiving countries, shoebox gifts are used by local Christians as a strategy for evangelism, discipleship, and the multiplication of believers and churches in their communities. More important than the items inside the shoebox, the gifts are an opportunity to share God’s love—and the Good News of Jesus Christ—with children in need. Local Christians who know the culture and language best are given effective resources in their own language and a solid Biblical foundation so that they can communicate the Gospel within their own communities through shoebox outreach events and The Greatest Journey discipleship program.

For example, in Fiji, a pastor hosted an Operation Christmas Child shoebox outreach event in a rural community that had no church. He then invited the children to attend The Greatest Journey follow-up discipleship program. As the students gathered for the discipleship lessons, their parents grew curious and began attending too. The village elder became a believer and offered his property as a place for the new church to meet. Today 80 people attend regularly, and five additional churches have been started in surrounding villages! This is one example of hundreds of churches planted annually as a result of Operation Christmas Child in regions where we work.

The evangelism and discipleship resources utilised by Operation Christmas Child were intentionally developed with input from local believers in 16 countries, from six continents, and are specifically focused on children.

In the seven countries where shoebox gifts are packed, Operation Christmas Child provides an opportunity for participants to be a part of fulfilling the Great Commission. Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In this church-to-church ministry model, churches who pack shoebox gifts partner with local churches around the world as they share God’s love with children in need and provide follow-up discipleship through The Greatest Journey.

How are different cultures and local contexts incorporated into shoebox distribution events?

More than 75,000 pastors and church leaders share the Gospel every year at outreach events where shoebox gifts are delivered. The shoebox outreach events are planned and implemented by volunteers in the local church who know the culture and language best. Through our volunteer National Leadership Team, local believers are trained to present the Gospel in a child friendly way. We work with the volunteer National Leadership Team to develop an annual strategy for evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication of believers and churches in their communities.

What is Evangelism?

Evangelism is a simple process of sharing the Good News that Jesus Christ loves and cares for you, that He is real and wants to know you.

What is Discipleship?

Discipleship is the process of teaching biblical views on how God asks us to live.

What is multiplication? 

Multiplication is helping the church grow and serve in their local community.

Do children have to say or do anything to receive a shoebox gift?

Shoebox gifts are given to children regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or faith. We seek to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way through each shoebox gift. Children do not have to do or say anything to receive the gifts. We work in and through local Christians in each country who understand the context in their area. Simple gifts—packed with love in Jesus’ Name—deliver hope and joy to children all around the world, regardless of their faith or religious background.

How does a shoebox gift impact a child in need?

Operation Christmas Child is not intended as a solution for meeting physical needs, but rather a strategy for the local church to meet spiritual needs of children in their communities. The unexpected gift delights and sparks hope in the life of a child as they hear of Jesus’ love for them. Shoebox gifts are given freely in Jesus’ Name.

Serving with OCC

Processing Centre Volunteer

What are the roles at a processing centre?

Every volunteer in the processing centre plays an important role in the ministry of Operation Christmas Child, ensuring the integrity and successful delivery of the gifts. Volunteers in the processing centre form teams and perform all the tasks necessary to process the shoeboxes at one location. Teams are responsible for removing financial contributions from the shoeboxes, inspecting the gifts, sorting inappropriate items, working with filler items, separating boxes by age and gender, and boxing shoeboxes in designated cartons. Due to the fast-paced environment of the warehouse and changing needs, you may be asked to do different tasks. We appreciate your flexibility.

What are the dates of operation?

Processing centres are open mid-October to late November to prepare gifts for international shipping.

Can any age volunteer?

All volunteers must be at least 15 years of age, regardless of a student’s grade level. Due to the warehouse environment, we can allow no exceptions to this age requirement. All children under the age of 16 must have their parents consent to volunteer in the Processing Centre and at all times be under the care and supervision of their parent or guardian while volunteering with Operation Christmas Child. For the safety of all volunteers in the warehouse, processing centre staff reserve the right to ask any group not acting in accordance with safety procedures and outlined policies to leave the building at any time.

What if my child is too young to volunteer?

Children under the age of 15 are not able to volunteer in a Processing Centre; however, tours are available throughout the season when families with children under 14 or individuals who want to know more about the project can come to the processing centre. The tours help people learn about the journey of a shoebox, what we do at the warehouse, and how they can pray for children receiving boxes.

What is the address of the processing centres?

The locations of our processing centres vary year-to-year, depending on warehouse availability. Address information can be viewed here.

What should I wear to the processing centres?

Our processing centres are set up in warehouses, so please make proper provisions to be comfortably and appropriately dressed for this environment. It is best to be prepared with closed-toe shoes appropriate for standing for long periods, and warm, layered, casual clothes as the temperature inside can vary. Breaks are available as needed.

Can I bring food for my group?

You are welcome to take breaks as needed during your time with us. A break area in the processing centre has space to store your meals and snacks. All food and drinks must remain inside the break area. Please be advised that tobacco products are prohibited on the property.

Volunteer Year-Round

How can I serve with Operation Christmas Child in my area?

Dedicated volunteers work year-round to promote and pray for Operation Christmas Child. Starting in October, people can sign up to volunteer at processing centres as well. Check out our long-term and short-term volunteer opportunities page here. We also have a resource page full of ideas and materials that will help you, your family, church, business, or community centre get involved in Operation Christmas Child.