Eleven-year-old Elizabeth Groff received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox when she was living in an orphanage in Ukraine. After being adopted and growing up in America, she’s taking the ministry’s 200 millionth box to a child in Ukraine.
As she told Fox News, that simple box of gifts showed her Jesus’ love and gave her hope.
Groff described her feelings as she was left all alone in the orphanage:
In that moment, I felt hopeless. I felt lost. I felt alone, and I just hit rock bottom.
And that is where Jesus met me. He didn’t leave me there. He showed me that He loved and cared for me – through a simple gift. A shoebox.
When I opened my box, it was filled with so many different toys. But the one thing I remembered the most was a shiny yo-yo.
To me, that yo-yo represented hope. To me, it represented love and care. Someone cared enough to send a gift box, and I instantly felt Jesus’ love.
When she was 13, Groff was adopted in 2007 by an American family – who packed Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse. Her new family was getting ready to pack five boxes, but hearing Groff’s story, they ended up working with friends and family members to pack 150 boxes.
Since then, she’s worked to fill more boxes and share the love of Christ with children around the world. Groff said:
Please don’t ever stop packing shoeboxes. There are so many children out there, just like me, who have never heard of Jesus or experienced His everlasting love.
The shoebox changes lives, like it changed mine, so many years ago.
The Daily Citizen reached out to Samaritan’s Purse, founded in 1970 “to follow Christ’s command by going to the aid of the world’s poor, sick, and suffering.” In a written statement, ministry president Franklin Graham told us:
I was first asked to help provide presents for children in need during the Bosnian War in 1993. We collected about 11,000 shoeboxes that first year, and this year we are preparing to collect our 200 millionth shoebox!
We couldn’t do this project without the churches and the tens of thousands of incredible volunteers who are involved across the country and around the world. We are amazed by what God has done, and we thank Him for using these simple shoebox gifts to bless children and tell them that He loves and cares for them.
Each box is filled with a “wow” item, such as a doll, soccer ball or stuffed animal. Other personal care items, clothes and toys are added, and each individual, family or group who pack a box may then add a personal note and a photo.
The boxes are taken to drop-off locations, where they are inspected and prepared for international delivery. Boxes also include “The Greatest Gift,” a gospel story booklet from Samaritan’s Purse and children will be invited to participate in “The Greatest Journey” discipleship program.
Groff has been part of a special journey to help pack and deliver the 200 millionth box. According to the ministry:
She started her journey by packing a doll on Nov. 12 in Denver at a local church that serves as a drop-off location. She then went to Chicagoland on Nov. 14; to Nashville (Nov. 16); and will end up in Punta Gorda, Florida, (Nov. 18) where Samaritan’s Purse is working after Hurricane Ian.
The final leg of her U.S. journey ends at our Charlotte Processing Center on Dec. 3, where Franklin Graham, Samaritan’s Purse president, will be part of the celebration.
Groff told the Daily Citizen:
We can all be part of changing a child’s life simply by packing a shoebox full of fun, quality gifts. It may seem small, but it is powerful when delivered with a message of love and hope! It changed my life.
Eighteen years ago, a shoebox gift opened my heart to God’s Word and now I have the opportunity to personally demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to a Ukrainian child. We serve a faithful God! Being able to pack and deliver this special shoebox gift will be a highlight of my Christmas season!”
Gift-filled shoeboxes can still be delivered to one of Operation Christmas Child’s eight processing centers through mid-December. Donors can also build a shoebox online; give to Samaritan’s Purse to help with collection and delivery of boxes; or donate to pay for gospel booklets and the discipleship program.
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Photos courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse.