I can not express to you all the joy that filled our hearts as we watched these children open up these boxes.
I wanted to share with you some of what I observed:
1. The events are hosted by a local church. I guess I never really considered it before but I also guess I assumed that Operation Christmas Child representatives from the States were the ones hosting such events and handing out the boxes. I was very encouraged to see that the local church actually played such a large role. It is, afterall, the local churches who will have contact with these children long after the toothpaste runs out and the toys fall apart.
2. The pastors of these local churches attend a training event to show them how to be a host church.
3. I am not sure if every church is like the one I went to, but our OCC fiesta had games, worship songs, and a very vibrantly told Bible story (The prodigal son). It was extremely well organized and I was impressed with the lack of chaos considering that there were more than fifty kids in attendance and they all knew that somewhere in that building were boxes of presents!
4. I was told (while still in the states) by a Samaritan's Purse representative that each child can only receive one box in a lifetime. Fill those boxes carefully. One 3 year old child received a box of soap. A few toys- but mostly soap. Being that he was three, he was more interested in the packaging than the contents, but it was a reminder to me that we must do all things with diligence and to the glory of God. Even filling shoeboxes.
5. The children were the most grateful beings on the entire planet that day. I kid you not. The room was filled with so much joy that my eyes filled with tears (seriously, it would have been impossible to stay dry-eyed). As packaging was ripped away, squeals of pure joy rang through the whole room. I did not see a single case of jealousy. One girl gleefully kissed toothbrushes, a hairbrush, and a pair of hot pink dress up gloves.
6. However, I did notice a few things that were "favorites". Several people have asked me which items were the best received and so I thought I would share that information with you. Now, it might be different in other places but in Loja, this is what I observed.
- Stuffed animals. Every child who got one of these hugged and held them close. Even the parents were delighted by the stuffed animals.
- Musical instruments. That screeching recorder is still vibrating in my head. The parents will despise you, but the children will LOVE you!
- Matchbox Cars. I mean the name brand ones. Cheap dollar store type toys are available here by the bucketloads. Name brand toys are imports and are, therefore, very expensive. A real Barbie here is over 20.00. (If they can be found) I found a matchbox car for 4.00. When your family earns 200.00 a month it is hard to splurge on a 4.00 toy.
- Small games. One child received a matching card Bible game and it was her favorite item. Someone else received marbles, and yet another child received dice. All of these were very big hits.
7. These boxes are so very precious to these children. I saw many of them rewrapping items in the original packaging so as to protect them. Many of them would take out every item in the box and re pack the box over and over again. Getting a shoebox of presents from strangers in the States might not change their lives, but they made a moment filled with joy, brightened their entire day, and perhaps brought great pleasure to them for weeks to come. And maybe, with great prayer, with follow-up from the local church, and with the moving of the Holy Spirit, their lives WILL be changed. For eternity.
What a gift that would be!!!!!
Because it would have taken me 7 hours to upload all my pictures to a blogger readable format, I opted to post the pictures on facebook. Here is the link:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=57996&id=1319676567&ref=mf Hopefully that works...