Feeling torn filling a Christmas Shoebox.

Charity is a very personal choice and is often driven by an individual’s set of circumstances. In my case, I feel a deep need to give something back to Heartlink. This special charity supported our family through Emily’s open heart surgery. Some people give to charity as part of their faith and others, I’m sure select needy causes for a whole host of other reasons too.

Since having my girls, I’m more aware than ever of how lucky we are. To be raising children in a country where I have the freedom to write this very post. We live with clean water and world renowned healthcare. So many people are far less fortunate.

So when I was given a Christmas shoebox appeal leaflet recently, I thought it’d be a great way to give a little back over the festive period. Filling a parcel with a few gifts that will be shipped off and bring a smile to a little one’s face. What could be wrong with that? Even more, it would give me the opportunity to involve the girls in their first charitable act.

Our gifts

What we bought

First, they helped me choose who we should buy presents for. We settled on a girl aged 2-4. Next we went shopping to pick what could go inside. We picked a selection of toys, hygiene products, stationery and a cuddly little bear. When we returned home, I searched for a video to show Jessica and Emily where the box might end up. It was then I went down a rabbit hole I wish I hadn’t.

Before you read any further, please know I unequivocally believe everyone has the right to their own opinions and beliefs. That’s said, as I have written about previously, I feel very strongly that where children are concerned, we need to be incredibly careful. Religion and faith can be such incredibly powerful forces and should be embarked upon critically and seriously, rather than forced upon impressionable minds.

What I discovered, with a quick Google search, is that Operation Christmas Child is an initiative run by an evangelical US organisation called The Samaritan’s Purse. As an atheist, I was aware it was a Christian organisation. However, the more I read and watched, the more dishearten I became about what I’d previously believed to be a simple act of giving.

Operation Christmas child

On their website they write:

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to show God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Since 1990, more than 146 million children in over 150 countries have experienced God’s love through the power of simple shoebox gifts from Operation Christmas Child.

Ok so they are Christians and want to share their beliefs but it doesn’t end there. In the promotional video, it is explained that at each gift giving event, there is a 10 minute gospel presentation. When the children receive their box they are invited to enrol in a 10 lesson Bible studies programme. As a graduation gift, they receive a certificate and a copy of the New Testament. In countries where education is so incredible valuable and sort after, is it not manipulative to prey on the disadvantaged like this? What impoverished child is going to turn down a brightly wrapped parcel of goodies?

The evangelical US organisations makes no secret in the fact they are creating new churches starting with the children. Recruiting children with Christmas gifts appears to be something they are proud of. US boxes actually include Christian Literature. These bible messages are given alongside the boxes shipped from the UK. Although many UK box fillers are aware that The Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian group, it is not made clear that Christian literature and sermons are given alongside their gifts.

One rule for one

It is also quite deceptive to prevent “anything of a political, racial or religious nature” being included in the box without disclosing that the reason for this is so that the organisation can add their own religious material. Many thousand of children and families are unwittingly filling their boxes with the primary intention of giving disadvantaged children a Christmas gift. In fact, their parcel is being used as a Trojan horse and a duplicitous means of preaching to children.

My research made me wonder whether the sole purpose of this operation was to convert the underprivileged rather than spread joy and happiness during the festive season. I’m well aware that Christmas is perceived my many and socially accepted to be a Christian holiday. However it is the disingenuous nature of the operation that make me cross.

So what to do?

The gifts are bought and no doubt will make a little girl so very happy. To bring a smile to someone far away who may never have received a gift before, would be lovely. I feel torn. Knowing what I do, I don’t think I’d participate in this scheme next year. But this year, I think my box will be shipped with the thousands of others. I really don’t want the little girl, who we bought these trinkets for, to miss out. But, I also really hope her family aren’t coerced into anything just to receive it.

Does it even matter? What would you do?


14 thoughts on “Feeling torn filling a Christmas Shoebox.

  1. I am stuck with this dilemma too, and we are C of E. But church are promoting it, as is the school my eldest goes to. I want him to be the only one who doesn’t give a box, but I would prefer to donate via some other means which doesn’t promote Evangelism. Still not worked this out yet…

    1. I think it’s the fact that it’s not made clear that annoys me most. I don’t think he’d be the only one and I’m sure teachers would’ve discrete so he didn’t feel left out.

  2. That should have said ‘don’t want’ not ‘want’ him to be the only one.

  3. I would have never even considered this would happen! I was considering doing something similar with my son (who starts talking about Christmas presents the day after his birthday in September!) as a way of showing how lucky he truly is, but I think I would rather create a box to take along with a food parcel for the local food bank now! I’m sure the little girl will be very grateful for her gifts!

    1. Thanks – I’ve had lots of suggestions of alternatives so I’m going to look into these too.

  4. Charity does begin at home. I feel that the goal of making a child happy is more important than the objectives of the organization promoting the event. The adults in each family need to decide who to support and how to achieve the message of sharing with others.

  5. I too did research after happily sending off our shoeboxes a few years ago. I was shocked by what I found, I felt duped. It isn’t just the religious materials (although that makes me very uncomfortable, that they use their position of power on a vulnerable group), but the other things that come with their stance. There’s a lot of anti-gay and anti-reproductive choice issues. They know what they’re doing, and they get kids involved because putting a shoebox together is so much fun…boils my blood.

  6. I Used to do one of these every year when I was working as a registered child minder, I let the children have a say in what they would like to put inside and then we took the box to the local church as part of a walk to the shop #triamphanttales@_karendennis

  7. We put together a shoebox every year and hand it to our local homeless shelter. They also support families who are going through very difficult times so you can put a shoebox together for a child as well as an adult. There’s no judgement, no preaching, they are just handed over during the season and / or at a local Christmas lunch which is organised for them. Last year my boys got a real sense that they were helping someone nearby too, which I felt was important. It’s totally personal choice though, I know some people who don’t agree with me doing that!

  8. If you contact your local council they can advise where you can donate locally. This is what we are going to do this year. #Blogstravaganza

  9. I think teaching children about charity is a good thing, it is frustrating when things get a little preachy though. Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx

  10. I had no idea about this. Although I would still do it whether or not it was associated with a religion, as you’re giving someone in need a gift that they will be so grateful for. Thanks for joining us at #TriumphantTales this week!

  11. I wouldn’t have even thought to do my homework on it – I agree, that wouldn’t sit so well with me either. I like the idea from some of the other comments on this post about helping locally instead next time. It’s just so hard when all you want to do is spread a little kindness to someone in need! Thank you for linking with #blogstravaganza

  12. As a child I can recall taking part in making up a shoe box but didn’t realise it would then be filled with religious material. #Blogstravaganza

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