Operation Christmas Child
Shoebox Gifts Bring Joy to Namibia
20 September 2023
For most of us the story of Creation is familiar, but for remote communities in Mongolia it’s the first time they’re hearing it.
Four years ago, when 9-year-old Jessica received a copy of our Gospel booklet, The Greatest Gift, it started her on a journey of faith that changed her life and the lives of her friends.
And this amazing story of multiplication all started with a single Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift given to her at an outreach event at a church in Minya, Egypt, an ancient and fertile region along the Nile River.
It was here that she heard the Gospel and received a shoebox gift, brimming with special items—a toy stuffed bird, a T-shirt, a pair of pants, socks, a cup, and several other keepsakes. She said the stuffed toy bird was one of her favourites. But the Gospel booklet was what she has loved most of all.
“I was so happy when I found that book inside of it that had so many lessons.”
Through the booklet, the Egyptian became interested in what it means to follow Jesus Christ.
“I was so happy when I found that book inside of it that had so many lessons,” she said. “I started reading it more and more. Then I would find verses and would study them, and I would start applying them throughout my day.”
Soon after, Jessica was also invited to attend follow-up discipleship lessons where she learned about placing her faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour.
“After hearing the story of the cross and how Jesus died for me, I gave my life to Christ,” Jessica said. “I trusted Him fully.”
Jessica just couldn’t keep all that she was learning to herself. She read Bible stories to her grandmother who can’t read and also told her younger sister, Joy, about creation and the crucifixion. Although only a first grader at the time, Joy also gave her heart to Jesus Christ as a result of all she heard from her older sister.
Even when her church had to shut its doors at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, not even that could quench the fire growing inside this budding new evangelist.
She continued to share with her family and then expanded to reaching her friends with the Gospel, gathering her friends on the street and teaching them discipleship lessons every other day.
She purchased a child’s microphone to amplify her voice so that the pandemic wouldn’t keep her neighbourhood from hearing as she recited Bible verses over and over again for her class to commit to memory.
Now after launching two such discipleship groups, she’s seen quite a few of her students accept Christ and go on to lead still others to Him.
Friends Jumana, 12, and Mariam, 10, enjoyed learning Scripture verses as well as songs and games from Jessica. And they were fascinated by the stories from the Bible.
“She taught us about Adam and Eve and how the Lord Jesus commanded them that they can eat from every tree they see, except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” said Jumana. “They disobeyed Jesus and they fell. God told Adam that a death you will die, but it’s not like a physical death. It’s the kind of death where you are separated from God.”
Mariam also recounted the lessons about God’s amazing solution to this problem.
“Jesus was crucified on the cross and He carried all sin for our sake. Instead of us paying the price, He paid it,” Mariam said.
Hearing truths from the Bible like this, Jumana and Mariam were among six of the students in Jessica’s class of 13 to commit their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ.
“We feel very happy that we are so close to God,” Jumana said. Both girls said that their favourite memory verse in the class was Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
As the classes continued, Jessica’s pastor soon learned about what was happening on the streets of his town.
“When they called me up and told me what Jessica was doing, I was so surprised that I had to see it myself,” said Pastor Samuel. When he investigated, he found all the reports to be true!
As the children met on concrete benches that lined the streets or, occasionally, on a donkey cart abandoned on the roadside, the boys and girls, and some interested mothers as well, learned from God’s Word, even when the global pandemic kept the doors of schools and churches shut to them.
Jessica’s family later moved a couple streets away from where her classes were first held. This move brought her in touch with a whole new set of children.
“As a church, we are really encouraged and motivated by what Jessica is doing.”
Jessica launched a new discipleship class, again with 13 children. As she shared Bible stories and Scripture verses with this new set of children, another five accepted Christ as Saviour and Lord.
Children from her classes wanted to keep learning and growing in the truth they were learning. So as soon churches opened their doors again, these new disciples got involved with their local congregations.
“Jessica brought into the church around eight kids from her discipleship group who still attend the church to this day,” Pastor Samuel said. “As a church, we are really encouraged and motivated by what Jessica is doing.”
Each of the children who came to faith in Jesus Christ through Jessica’s discipleship classes are now doing what she did. They’re boldly sharing their faith with their families and with fellow students.
Jumana, for one, told her three siblings about all that she was learning in the classes.
“I would stay up at night and tell them about these stories and they started attending with us,” she said.
Today, Jumana’s sister and two brothers are also following the Lord.
Jessica’s mother, Remonda, can’t help but be amazed at all that’s transpired since her daughter received her shoebox gift.
“I was very happy to see her and her siblings receiving the gifts. They were joyful and just the fact that they received so many precious and valuable gifts.”
She is thankful the church has come alongside Jessica to lead her to be so active in her faith.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m very little compared to my own daughter when I see her constantly reading [the Bible] and encouraging other people to read. Jessica’s the one who encourages me.”
Her sister, Joy, articulated what perhaps many feel: “I want to be like Jessica.”