Woman's Shoebox Gift Brings Her Full Circle
By Bill Hughes
NASHVILLE, TN - Oksana Nelson knows the power of a simple gift.
She was 9-years-old, living in a Russian orphanage in 1999 when she received a package from Operation Christmas Child. It was full of small gifts and other necessities for a girl her age, and by America's standards, it probably wasn't much. But for Oksana, it was an incredible experience.
"I had never received a gift before, I had never been treated as a child before, really, until I received that gift, and for the first time in my life, I had something of my own," Nelson said.
The mint-flavored, tri-colored toothpaste, her very own toothbrush and a picture of the family that sent the box are what she remembers most. But she also recalls that it was the first time she ever heard about Jesus. The following year, God answered Oksana’s prayers and she was adopted by an American family.
After living first in California, then in Dublin, TX with her three adopted siblings during her adolescent years, she moved to Nashville where she is now a 22-year-old graduate student at Lipscomb University, getting her master’s degree in business administration (MBA).
When she was 16, her church packed shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, and Oksana realized that this was the organization that visited her in the orphanage.
She said as she participated in the project, she gained a very unique perspective.
"It was incredible that all of a sudden I was the person packing the shoe box and putting all the things together and send(ing) it to a child that I once was. So, it just really came full circle," Nelson said.
She told her pastor she was once a recipient, and since then, she has told her story locally, and in interviews to promote Operation Christmas Child. Her willingness to share her story stems from her desire to encourage volunteers and new shoe box packers with her unique testimony.
"It's not just a box, it's not just something cool to do, even though it is fun, and it is a joyful thing for us to do around Christmas time. But more importantly, it reaches out to a child that would never, ever receive anything, that would never hear about Jesus Christ, and it reaches them through such a fun and simple way."
Nelson says the best perspective to have is to not just think of it as a box or a gift, but to think of it as a child, and a soul.
Operation Christmas Child is a worldwide children's project of Samaritan's Purse that uses simple gift-filled shoe boxes containing school supplies, toys, necessity items and notes of encouragement to let hurting children know God loves them and they are not forgotten.
In 2012, Operation Christmas Child expects to reach a milestone - delivering shoe boxes to more than 100 million children since the project began in 1993. To achieve this, volunteers are leading a nationwide drive enlisting people to help give joy to needy children this Christmas through this simple project.
Right now, kids, families, churches, scout troops, schools, civic clubs and businesses are filling their shoe boxes. Samaritan’s Purse is collecting gift-filled shoe boxes at more than 3,500 drop-off sites in all 50 states and Puerto Rico during National Collection Week, Nov. 12-19, 2012. To find the nearest drop-off location, call 800-353-5949 or www.samaritanspurse.org/occ. Shoe box gifts are also received throughout the year at Samaritan's Purse headquarters in Boone, N.C.
After Nov. 19, donors can pack a shoe box through "Build a Box," an online tool offering a personalized and convenient way to send shoe box gifts to even more children.
For local information about where to bring your shoe box, call the regional collection center, Milburn Chapel C.P. Church (Open each day through Nov. 19 from 9 am - 5 pm) at 270-488-2588.
On the Net: Operation Christmas Child Website with Instruction and Drop-off Locations