Samaritan’s Purse holding Operation Christmas Child

Samaritan’s Purse holding Operation Christmas Child

Lynette Mahaffey, right, of Sugarcreek journeyed to Tanzania in June for Operation Christmas Child, delivering shoe boxes of gifts to children of the country.


Operation Christmas Child gift-filled shoe boxes go to difficult places. From densely populated inner cities to deserts and jungles, local churches are using these gifts to share the gospel, even where the name of Jesus has never been heard.

Working with these ministry partners, Samaritan’s Purse aims to follow the Apostle Paul’s example and preach Christ where he is not yet known.

In June of this year, Lynette Mahaffey and Esther Troyer of Sugarcreek traveled to Tanzania to distribute gift-filled shoe boxes with Operation Christmas Child. Once on the ground in Tanzania, they traveled on heavily eroded, dusty roads to reach the villages where the children were awaiting their arrival. The children would run up to the vans, most of them dressed in sweaters, coats and hats. The temperatures were dipping into the low 70s, and to these children, it was winter.

Shoe-box distributions are structured the same way in most countries. It begins with singing and dancing, followed by the presentation of the gospel. The children sit quietly with their eyes fixed on the brightly colored posters that illustrate the story as it’s told aloud.

The pastors live in these communities by example, investing in and loving these children and their families. They always express their profound gratitude for the shoe boxes because they know the value of the box is in the gospel opportunity that it provides.

After the gospel presentation, the children open their shoe boxes. Some favorite items include sunglasses, toothbrushes, balls of all kinds, dolls and stuffed animals. One little girl came to a distribution wearing shoes that were so small her toes protruded through frayed holes and curled over the toe of the shoe. She was excited when she opened her shoe box to find a brand-new pair of socks on the top, and under the socks was a brand-new pair of shoes.

To the mothers, who are keeping watch nearby, shoe boxes can be an answer to prayer. One mother approached Troyer and said, “Thank you for making my child so happy.”

In Tanzania, a pack of crayons is a whole week’s wages. Children can’t go to school unless they have school supplies. What most see as a simple gift, these people see as extravagant.

“We want them to see Jesus in every box,” said Mahaffey, also the area coordinator of the Ohio East Team of Operation Christmas Child.

Before leaving one distribution, Troyer asked three children what they learned by receiving a shoe box.

The first one said, “How to love one another.”

The second child said, “How to serve others.”

The third child said, “How to be bold in sharing Jesus.”

National Collection Week is Nov. 18-25.

For more information, gift suggestions and to download a shoe-box label, go to For local information call Mahaffey at 330-852-8812.

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