ST. MARYS – Operation Christmas Child has brought joy and hope to millions of traumatized children by the kindness of gift box. The parent organization Samaritan’s Purse, is gearing up for National Collection Week Nov. 18-25.
Alex Nsengimana was one of those children who saw hope in the world with one of these gift boxes. He spoke Aug. 6 at the Wayne Street United Methodist Church in St. Marys.
Nsengimana, as a 7-year-old child, said he saw his grandmother and uncle killed before his eyes by his neighbor during the 1994 Rwandan genocide that pitted Hutus against Tutsi’s. One million were killed before it was over.
He endured other close brushes with death until in 1996 he was placed in an orphanage, which was over-crowded but safe. However, Nsengimana said the horrors were not over for himself or the other children.
“All the children still woke up from their dreams screaming with the memories of atrocities they had seen,” he said. “But when we opened our Christmas boxes, for the first time the screams were ones of joy.”
Nsengimana said he and the other children that day were so grateful that someone cared enough to give them a gift, for some, the first gift they had ever had.
Eventually, Nsengimana was adopted by a Minnesota family where he eventually earned a degree in pastoral leadership at Crossroads College in Rochester, Minnesota. But he said his journey of hope came to him with that first gift box.
The box came from Operation Christmas Child, program of Samaritans’s Purse. Area residents can drop off gift-filled shoeboxes at multiple locations across an eight-county area that includes Shelby, Allen, Hardin and Auglaize.
For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call local representatives Mike and Bonnie Condry at 419-733-1271 or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ.
Participants can donate $9 per shoebox gift online through “Follow Your Box” and receive a tracking label to discover its destination.
Those who prefer the convenience of online shopping can browse samaritanspurse.org/buildonline to select gifts matched to a child’s specific age and gender then finish packing the virtual shoebox by adding a photo and personal note of encouragement.
Samaritan’s Purse is an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. Its website states the mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world and, together with the local church worldwide, to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 168 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories.
The Amani Children’s Choir also appeared that evening. The choir seeks to share the love of God through joyful music, dance and stories of God’s work in its lives, as well as raising awareness of the needs of destitute and orphaned children in Africa. The Amani Children’s Choir is a ministry of Light Africa Ministries and Kampala Community Church based in Uganda.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.