Shoebox Full of Lessons


By Jenn Holden, Back2Back Mexico Staff

When I was little, I remember at Christmastime we often made Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes with my mom to send to children who didn’t have as much as we did. It seems so simple, but I now realize the impact it had on me was a lasting one.

In middle school and high school, I often visited an orphanage in La Misión, Mexico. Many things from those trips impacted me, but something I can’t get out of my head is the director explaining that the children who live there are not just served, but they also serve others. He described the power of giving to their community, reinforcing the idea they are not victims, but they are more than conquerors with plenty to offer.

Christmas at the children’s homes in Monterrey, Mexico can be overwhelming. A plethora of volunteers throw Christmas parties, bring Christmas piñatas and give Christmas gifts to the precious ones living in their backyards. While the children receive a lot throughout the year, this reality is especially magnified during the season of pine trees, ornaments, carols and Santa.But one thing they do not often get a chance to do is to give to others.

So, here is where Jesus’ creativity comes in.

A few weeks ago, a mission team from North Carolina traveled to Monterrey, Mexico to serve the children at Del Norte Children’s Home. We decided to mix it up a bit. All eyes were on me, and their attention was captured (a real feat) by our conversation about the best gifts they have ever received and whether or not they had ever given a gift to someone else. I explain that this year they will receive many gifts, but there are some children in the world who won’t – some children who don’t have toys or toothbrushes.

“Or a house,” one girl chimes in.

“Or maybe they don’t have food,” says another.

Yet another surprises me with his words, “Maybe some don’t even have clean water.”

“Yes, exactly. Well, this Christmas we are not just going to receive gifts. We are also going to give them,” I continue, explaining the process of putting together an Operation Christmas Child shoebox.

As soon as the words are out of my mouth, the children rush to find a buddy, a friend from North Carolina, and a shoebox from the stash we have collected. They excitedly begin to wrap the boxes with Christmas wrapping paper (a brand new skill), make Christmas cards and enter the auditorium where we have laid out all sorts of materials with which to fill the boxes. Finally, when they have finished assembling their box of practical and precious presents, they go off to a spot on the playground and pray for the child who will receive the box.

B2Bblog_ShoeboxLessons2And then, something beautiful happens. They pray for children they do not know. They give to children they will never meet. And their view of the world grows bigger. Even beyond all of that, for this afternoon, they are not victims who long for a new toy or whine about the ball that so-and-so has and they want. For this afternoon, they are givers. They are selfless. And this is not the end. Because in the weeks to come, there are a few children in particular who cannot get these faceless children to whom they sent Christmas presents out of their minds. They ask me each time they see me about that boy or girl who lives somewhere in the world and will now have Christmas because of them.

And it just makes sense that a creative, giving, good God made the children we serve in His image, and they love to be a part of His process – creating and giving.

Jenn Holden is living out her God-given dream in Monterrey, Mexico, serving orphan and vulnerable children with Back2Back Ministries.