This article was written by INCM Partner Samaritan’s Purse.
My name is Edouard Ndecky. In my country in West Africa, over 95% of the population is not Christian. It is a very difficult place to follow Jesus. But I am blessed because I was raised in a Christian family, and God chose my dad to be a pastor.
Growing up, my family experienced extreme poverty. My parents worked hard to provide for our large family. My dad was a pastor, but he also worked as a carpenter, building pulpits and benches for other churches. My mom worked as a maid from 5 o’clock in the morning until 8 o’clock at night.
Yet it was still difficult to provide for our needs. We had only one meal a day. We used charcoal and salt to brush our teeth. Because we didn’t have a good roof, my family often searched for pieces of tarp, metal, or wood to cover our house. And without a bed, we all slept on the concrete floor.
Besides just our physical needs, my siblings and I struggled with education. In my country, families like mine couldn’t afford the required school supplies. If we didn’t have the right materials, teachers whipped us as punishment. One day my parents gathered all my siblings together and said they could only afford to send one of us to school. As a family, we decided to choose my sister, because she would gain more opportunities as a girl if she went to school than me and my brothers.
Even though we struggled, the most important element in my family was our faith in Jesus Christ. Our faith kept us moving forward through all obstacles. I remember clearly my dad started each day by praying: “God, You are good, and I am giving You the day.”
My dad reminded us that God sees the big picture. Anytime we struggled because of how hard our lives were, my dad told us, “No matter what you struggle with, remember, you have a God who loves you.”
When I was 12 years old, I gave my life to Christ at a Christian camp, following Him as my savior for the rest of my life.
At my church, I was part of a weekly children’s program that met every Wednesday afternoon for fellowship and to learn about Jesus. It was here, at 14 years old, that I received my shoebox gift from Operation Christmas Child.
What a beautiful day it was! Everything was festive and wonderful! There was dancing and singing and bright decorations. A man came and shared a Gospel presentation, and afterward, he said we would all receive a gift. I thought he meant the gift of Jesus, not an actual gift. Before then, I’d only ever received two gifts in my life. No one expected a real gift we could hold in our hands, especially from people who didn’t know us.
When big cartons were brought in and they started pulling out these red and green shoeboxes – I was astounded when they handed me my own box, the whole thing, just for me. Each child got a gift; it didn’t matter if they were Christian or not, everyone had their own shoebox filled with toys, hygiene items, and school supplies. There was so much joy on everyone’s faces. It was like the whole neighborhood lit up!
My brother was there with me, and he also got his own shoebox. But as everyone around us was opening their gifts, I stopped my brother and I told him that we were not going to open ours yet. He was not happy with me for making him wait. But I thought of our mom. I knew she worked hard all day to provide for us, and I wanted her to be part of the joy. So we waited until we got home to finally open our shoeboxes.
Inside my box, I found a pack of two toothbrushes. We never had toothbrushes before, and now because my brother also got toothbrushes in his shoebox, I could give one of mine to my sister. Another gift that stood out to me was a coloring book that illustrated Jesus’s story. This was special because Christian materials like this did not exist in my country.
My favorite item in my shoebox was a green yo-yo. I didn’t know what it was at first! My best guess was that it was David’s slingshot. My friends and I would swing the yo-yo in circles above our heads, ready to bring down giants! Eventually, a volunteer visited our church and showed us how to properly use it. Now I know all the tricks. This yo-yo traveled from house to house in my community for my friends to play with, and I still have my original yo-yo today.
Beyond the fun items in my shoebox, the joy in my heart and excitement to celebrate with my family reminded me that Someone cares for me – God. God was showing me His love through a simple box filled with beautiful things.
Receiving my Operation Christmas Child shoebox through the outreach event, and seeing all the children light up with joy opened my eyes and heart to realize that this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to celebrate Jesus. I wanted to give back to other children. I wanted to share the Gospel and share the story Jesus put in my life through a shoebox.
Operation Christmas Child was the calling that gave me the desire to serve God. This is the heart of the ministry: evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication. The shoebox opens doors for the Gospel, equipping the local church in fostering disciples and disciple-makers.
I want to encourage you, because your role, your position, and your work are important. You are making disciples who are going to grow and make other disciples around the world. Don’t stop planting seeds in children’s hearts. Keep motivating kids that you minister to pack shoeboxes – because every shoebox gift you pack means somewhere around the world a child hears the Gospel. We are bringing God’s love to the ends of the earth.
Visit Samaritan’s Purse online for information on how your church can be involved in Operation Christmas Child.