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A little boy smiling big as he holds a gift box in his hands

This is how God’s love can be held in a shoebox

Gabrielle Schulenberg

There are all-too-many people who live in poverty and face dire and dangerous conditions. They are prone to mistreatment, illness, and many other tragic consequences of living below the poverty line. It is incredibly difficult to escape poverty once you fall into its clutches, and many organizations are working to bring aid to those impoverished people.

Edouard was raised in poverty. He was born in Senegal, where his father was a pastor. “95% of people where I grow up are not Christian.” he says, but Edouard’s father was determined to change that, and his father’s faith kept the family afloat in their severe poverty.

The family’s living conditions were extreme. Edouard and his family were barely able to keep a roof over their heads, not to mention food in their bellies.

Edouard described that he would search for scrap metal or spare tarp fragments to use on their roof. His family slept on the ground and couldn’t afford to send their children to school.

Despite the hardships, they were a joyful family. Edouard can still hear his father’s voice reassuring him, “Even if you don’t eat, even if you don’t have stuff, Edouard, remember that you have God.”

And God was always there.

Each meal they had was nourishment God provided for them. They were happy, and they loved each other. Even though he couldn’t go to school like some of the other children, Edouard learned to be grateful for what he had.

When Edouard was 14 years old, God showed up in a special way. At a local church, Operation Christmas Child was handing out colorful shoeboxes filled with brand new things. Operation Christmas Child has been changing the lives of children around the world since 1993.

This organization is often an impoverished child’s first introduction to the concept of gifts. This makes it an ideal opportunity to share the Gospel with kids, by giving them a gift and showing them that Jesus was a gift for the whole world.

When Edouard held the box for the very first time, he was curious. It was all so new to him. He asked himself the question, “Who would care about a kid so far away?”

Edouard still remembers each item in the box. He was thrilled to find two toothbrushes—the very first ones he had ever owned! Edouard promptly gave one to his sister. He also enjoyed an assortment of colored pencils and a coloring book, but the most memorable item was a vibrant green yo-yo.

The round, emerald-green object fascinated the entire village. Edouard remembers thinking it could be some sort of sling, and he would swing it in circles. But someone from Operation Christmas Child revealed the yo-yo’s purpose, which was even more astounding to the children.

Years later, Edouard grew up and moved to America, where he became an athlete. One day, his friends from church asked him to help them move some boxes, and Edouard was taken aback when he saw them.

Bright shoeboxes lay neatly in the church, ready to be sent to places like Senegal, where little boys and girls like Edouard and his sister would receive a gift for the first time.

Tears flooded Edouard’s eyes as he realized how much his own gift had meant to him. He knew that day he was handed a shoebox was the day he found God’s love.

Life 97.3 will be helping to collect these shoeboxes you fill for children all over the world. We hope that, if you are able, you can help provide special gifts for these kids.