This is a guest post by Analyn Elliot with Samaritan’s Purse.
My 5-year-old insists that crayons are an essential purchase this season, and I can only agree.
She has a deep joy for giving to kids she may never meet, a joy she shares with her little brother as they intentionally pray over every colorful shoebox gift we pack as a family.
I love getting to model generosity for my children and teach them about Jesus.
God nurtured these desires in my heart and continues to reveal His perfect timing in fulfilling the deep desires of my heart.
And it all started with a box of crayons.
My Life in the Philippines
I was born in the Philippines, a world away from my life now in Alaska.
My family of seven lived in a tiny house where the bamboo floor served as both bed and table.
Without a stove or running water, we used wood for cooking, ate bread in the morning before school, and often went to bed with empty stomachs.
Every first day of school, my mom would buy school supplies.
One pencil had to last the whole year and would be shared between me and my siblings.
My parents’ combined wages were about $5 a day.
Family Finding Christ
One day, my mom’s boss encouraged her to go to church, and soon she became a follower of Christ.
My mom started taking my younger sister and me with her to learn more about God’s word.
We decided to follow Jesus, too.
My favorite memory verse was Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
I remember praying in my heart for my own full box of crayons, but my parents could not afford something like that for me.
A Delight Fulfilled
When I was around 12 years old, our pastor invited us to a special event at the church.
My little sister and I sat together as the Sunday school teacher started handing out bright red and green boxes to each of the kids. (Little did I know that these were Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.)
Everyone was excited, especially me!
When I opened my shoebox, I was amazed when I saw all of the items inside: a washcloth, a stuffed bunny, more than three pencils and — a full box of crayons!
My heart leaped with joy.
Holding my own crayons in my hand, I wondered: Is this really for me?
I didn’t know who packed the shoebox, or how they knew I had asked the Lord for crayons.
But I knew that God had seen the desire of my heart, and He used the people who packed this specific shoebox to answer my prayer.
At that moment, I prayed that God would bless them, and I wished that I could encourage them to keep packing shoeboxes like this.
Sharing the Greatest Journey
In my early twenties, after Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines and devastated the lives of 14 million people including my family, I was given the opportunity to bring light to the children in my own community by becoming a teacher for The Greatest Journey discipleship program.
This child-friendly program is filled with relatable lessons and powerful Bible stories and is offered to Operation Christmas Child shoebox recipients who want to learn more about Jesus and how to follow Him.
My favorite lesson to teach was always the Creation story.
Everyone’s eyes lit up at the colorful illustrations displaying God’s wonder.
One little girl loved the illustrations on the memory verse cards which came with the student booklets, and she specifically asked me if she could keep the small card.
I told her, “Of course, you can keep it!”
Because I knew she would take the memory verse home where she would show it to her mom, and have the opportunity to naturally share Jesus with her own family.
This was why God led me to teach The Greatest Journey — for these moments of eternal impact.
This ministry equipped me to tell the children in my community that Jesus really loves them just like He loves me, and assure them even after the typhoon that they are not alone because God is with them all the time.
Prayer is the key to connecting with Jesus, I would tell my students, and whatever their hearts’ deepest desire, God will gladly fulfill in His perfect timing.
I saw in their eyes that they were willing to listen and wanted to learn more about Jesus.
Nothing could bless me more than knowing that those kids surrendered their lives to Jesus.
Blessing Full Circle
In 2016, I moved to Alaska, and God did not wait long before bringing me and my husband to our church’s special ministry opportunity: Operation Christmas Child.
Memories came rushing back to me of when I received a shoebox gift just like these ones we were now packing!
God’s timing is perfect, and the way He fulfills the deepest desires of our hearts is perfect.
Now as a mom, I am able to use Operation Christmas Child to teach my kids to be generous even though they don’t know the children they are giving to.
Lately, my daughter says, “Mommy, I want to pray over a shoebox so kids can know that I’m praying for them.”
What could make a mother prouder than hearing those words?
As I ask the Lord for wisdom in raising my kids, He is teaching me that generosity comes from me first before I can teach it to my children.
It warms my heart to see my family on this side of the shoebox, making sure that every gift receives a box of crayons and every child knows they’re prayed for.
I pray that God will continue to use my family to share the Good News with children all around the world through shoebox gifts.
I am forever grateful to be one of these children.
In simple actions, the children in our lives will learn from us how to love and be generous.
Will you join me in packing shoebox gifts to impact the lives of children around the world?
Find more information at https://samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/