In July 1993, a man from the United Kingdom named Dave Cooke reached out to Graham because he needed help collecting gifts to send to children in Bosnia. Graham promptly agreed, then—as he tells it—just as promptly pushed the project to the back of his mind and continued focusing on various other projects at Samaritan’s Purse. Later that fall, Cooke called back asking when Samaritan’s Purse would send the gifts they collected. With the last-minute help of several pastors, including Free Will Baptist Pastor Rob Morgan of Donelson Fellowship Church in Nashville, Tennessee, Graham was able to deliver on his promise and sent 28,000 shoebox gifts for the children of Bosnia.
|Franklin Graham delivers shoebox gifts to children in Bosnia.|
Brenda Valdez, a 5-year-old girl in the Dominican Republic, received the symbolic 100 millionth shoebox gift last year. Operation Christmas Child hopes to reach millions more children with boxes collected this year. No matter who packs them, from three former U.S. presidents, to the family down the street, each gift-filled shoebox throughout the past 20 years represents the joy of one more child, like Dulce Maria, who has been reached with a tangible expression of God’s love. “We are just getting started with Operation Christmas Child,” said Randy Riddle, director of the project’s domestic operations in the United States. “The potential is so great to reach more and more children.”
After 20 years delivering shoeboxes to 75 percent of the countries around the world, the motivation for sharing the gifts has remained the same. “I want the children of the world to know, I want their parents to know, that God loves them,” Graham said. “He cares for them, and He wants them to be with Him in heaven.”
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