For a long time Operation Christmas Child (OCC) has been known for making miles and miles of smiles. I know now from personal experience just how bright and beautiful those smiles are.
The children of Peru smile with a brilliance and beauty that stands out in stark contrast to their situations.
Many are from broken homes. Sometimes when a couple divorces in Peru the father feels no obligation to the children of the marriage. The mother will often go on to marry another, and she then shuns the children herself. These children can end up on the street, taking care of themselves. Some sniff a type of glue used to join soles to the bottom of shoes. They become addicted and often do permanent damage to themselves. (For more information on the street children, see here, here and here.)
Many of the children we saw were from the areas outside Lima. Families build homes as money becomes available, so they live in unfinished houses. The areas outside Lima are technically desert. The terrain is rocky and barren. The dust coats homes and people and churches. Many live in areas without running water. Water is brought in by truck at a monetary cost to the families.
But I saw many smiles. Smiles brought about by gifts packed by many in America. Our distribution team of about 12 people passed out 550 shoeboxes filled with gifts this week. We had several teams in our group, and all together we passed out 5,245 boxes. Each box touched a life. Each box will have a story.
One story was shared by a member of another team at a meeting tonight. A girl recieved a shoebox several years ago. She became a Christian and involved herself in the life of a local church. Her parents had seperated and were moving toward divorce. She was well on her way to becoming another statistic.
But God does not desert His own. Through her witness, her parents became Christians as well. The family was reconclied, and they are involved in the church where the aformentioned team distributed shoeboxes this week. Lives are touched by shoebox gifts. Tragidies are avoided. Sinners are brought to faith.
As another woman shared in the meeting tonight, "Each box has a purpose." If you have given before, your gift has made a difference. If you have never packed a box, follow the link here to change the life of a child. You may find your life changed as well.
I wanted to share about two other smiles. Part of the way OCC shares the gospel in Peru is through a dance and skit performed by a mime. Mimes in Peru are not the soft, gentle style we are used to in the states. Their dances are filled with emphatic and forcefull motions that convey energy and strength. I saw two mimes perform the rotine the Peruvian National Team had coreographed. Both of them had smiles bigger than the smiles on the children. Their dances conveyed a message of God´s love.
I have wondered for about twenty years what it looked like when King David danced before the Lord. Now I know. I have seen it in the dance of a beautiful girl named Susana and a handsome young man named Christian. I have seen dance and song convey a strong message of God´s love and God's provision for us in Christ.
May God bless the children.