Operation Christmas Child: An In-Depth Interview

Updated June 2, 2021
Volunteers during their work in Christmas preparation

Operation Christmas Child is the world's largest Christmas project. Organized by the ministry Samaritan's Purse in 1993, the mission delivers special "shoe box gifts" to nearly eight million children around the globe. Quite often, children receiving these shoe boxes filled with goodies have never received a gift before. To get more of an understanding of the company, learn about Samaritan's Purse's mission statement.

The Mission of Samaritan's Purse

According to Randy Riddle, the director of Operation Christmas Child USA, Samaritan's Purse has a direct mission to help people worldwide. Riddle shares the organization's mission statement: "Samaritan's Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan's Purse has helped meet the needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God's love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the Church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Of the organization, Riddle says, "'As Samaritan's Purse has grown over the last 10 years, we have developed our own response teams and field offices, which gives us the capacity to work in places where the church is oppressed or non-existent. However, most of our work is still done in partnership with local churches and Christians.'"

Man giving christmas present

How Operation Christmas Child Works

Operation Christmas Child sends shoe box presents around the world. Across America, millions of people pack school supplies, toys, games, hard candy, necessity items, gospel messages, and notes of encouragement into wrapped shoe boxes. More than 100,000 volunteers then gather together to process the gifts and prepare them for shipment. Samaritan's Purse will do whatever necessary to hand-deliver shoe box gifts to a child in need, even if that means traveling by donkey, camel, boat, or dogsled!

Who Gets the Shoe Boxes?

According to Riddle, "In most Operation Christmas Child seasons, the ministry delivers shoe box gifts to children in more than 100 countries. Occasionally, we focus on areas recovering from natural disaster, war, or unusually difficult circumstances."

How Are the Boxes Delivered?

"Most of the boxes are distributed through national leadership teams that we have organized in each country to decide on the specific locations. These are volunteer teams that work all year long to oversee logistics, ministry outreach, prayer support, and church relations in each region. The number of boxes sent to each country depends on the population, the needs, and the capacity of the national leadership team to handle the shipment and distribute shoe box gifts to the neediest children," according to Riddle.

How to Pack a Box

Packing a box for a child using Operation Christmas Child is pretty simple.

  1. Grab a standard shoe box.
  2. Decide the age and sex you would like to pack the box for. Operation Christmas Child has three different age groups: 2-4, 5-9, and 10-14.
  3. Pack your box and send it to a designated Operation Christmas Child location.

You can also donate $9 to follow your box to its destination.

Celebrating Christmas on work and collecting donations

How Operation Christmas Makes a Difference

Operation Christmas Child works to make a difference in a child's life by bringing happiness. Riddle explains the difference this program makes by stating, "Operation Christmas Child offers a moment of joy in the receiving and opening of a shoe box gift, in many cases the only gift a child has ever received; and the hope of eternal life found in Jesus Christ alone, the one and only Christmas Child delivered in the Gospel message alongside every shoe box gift.

"Beyond these profound impacts, the theme for Operation Christmas Child is 'The Power of a Simple Gift,' indicating the enormous impact God has on hundreds of thousands who pack boxes, the more than 110,000 volunteers collecting and processing each gift in the US alone, the volunteers in each of the 100 receiving countries overseeing distributions and accompanying ministry activity, the near eight million recipient children and the countless parents, adults and children surrounding each one. In each scenario, God continues to use this program to be a tremendous blessing."

Personal Stories of Change From Operation Christmas Child

There is something special about sharing a moment with a child that's never been given a present at Christmas. To highlight the importance of the work of Operation Christmas Child, Riddle shared a few personal stories of hope.


"Standing in a schoolyard in war-torn Kosovo, in more than a foot of snow, I witnessed children opening the first Christmas gifts they had ever received. I was touched as one 8-year-old boy, sitting on the ground, pulled out a large candy cane, opened it, and held it out for each of his friends who had encircled him to have a taste. He was passing on the generosity that had been shared with him."


"Sitting in a dirt floor church in Panama, I was puzzled as to why a little girl was returning her box to me. I couldn't understand her Spanish, so I asked an interpreter to communicate for her. She had received a shoe box gift and had chosen her favorite item out of the box, a pack of pencils, and was returning the box to me. The interpreter explained to me that the girl didn't understand that the entire shoe box gift was for her. The look of overwhelming joy that came over her face will never leave me.

Woman with donation box

How to Get Involved in Operation Christmas

Operation Christmas Child is a program run on volunteers. Therefore, there are several opportunities each year to get involved. According to Riddle, "There are significant opportunities to participate in Operation Christmas Child throughout the year. Our staff is currently recruiting and training volunteers to serve the project in the areas of:

  • Church recruitment and relations
  • Community relations
  • Media relations
  • Collections
  • Prayer support

"Currently, there are more than 3,500 volunteers serving the program in all 50 states. These opportunities allow just about anyone to serve in a significant way within their unique talents and gifts."

Donating to Children For Christmas

Not every child has presents for Christmas. Therefore, programs like Operation Christmas Child works to provide every child a special gift. Their shoe box program works to bring smiles to millions of war-torn and needy children.

Operation Christmas Child: An In-Depth Interview