Hello Tirzah girls (and if you’re joining us from the Relevant Entrepreneur launch, welcome – we’re so excited to have you in our little corner of the world)! Before we sign off into the upcoming holiday season, we wanted to share a lovely way to give back this Christmas time. Mariya Snizhko is one of my dearest friends and she’s been traveling around the country the past few months to speak about her work with Operation Christmas Child. But today, I am so excited to host Mariya to share her shoebox story with our community!
Everyone has a story, even a few stories. This is my shoebox story. It is not about a new pair of shoes, although what girl doesn’t like a new pair of shoes?
I was born and raised in Ukraine. From young age, I remember my parents as hard workers having full time jobs but their finances were still really tight. My parents always provided clothing, food, and school supplies, but we grew up without ever receiving Christmas gifts. For the first 10 years of my life our family lived in a one-bedroom apartment; literally one room, one kitchen, and one bathroom. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I were the only child but I was an oldest of 6 at that time. Do not be surprised if I tell you that we all fit in comfortably and still had lots of room left to play racing games, although our favorite was hide and seek. Needless to say, we were a pretty tight knit family.
We had a happy childhood despite the fact my own classmates made fun of me for believing in God. My only friends were my Sunday school classmates who unfortunately attended school on the other side of the city leaving me the only Christian in my grade level at my school. There was nobody else to take my side, but my parents taught me that Jesus is on my side, He knows what I am going through and one day He will reward me for being oppressed for His name.
The winter I turned 10, I was really struggling with my faith. Just as I was taught, I prayed to God that He would show me that He cared for me personally, not just for our family as a whole. During our Christmas break that year my mom became so sick that she had to go to the hospital four hours away from home. I did not think that is how God answers prayers by taking away a parent during a school break, but that is what He used to tell me that He loved me for who I am.
Unknown to us, while mom was Kiev, she attended a children’s service where Operation Christmas Child gifts were given out along with a presentation of the gospel and a little booklet called the Greatest Gift of All. Once the volunteers found out she has six kids at home, they gave her three shoebox gifts to take home. We could not believe our eyes at all the fun toys, candy, school supplies, and even hygiene items in those boxes.
Since I have always been creative and artistic, I received the colored books, colored pencils, markers, and a box of crayons. For a while, crayons were a mystery to us. They were not as long as pencils, did not have lead in them, they had a wrapper on each one, and they did not taste good when we tried eating them. Crayons were that tangible item God provided to show me He loved and cared for me.
What a delightful moment it was to be the center of attention for the first time in school when I was showing off the yo-yo that lights up, stuffed animals, candy canes, pencil cap erasers, and crayons. Many of these things we had not seen before and neither did my classmates who were now asking who sent us these gifts. Since that moment, no one dared tease me anymore because they were eyewitnesses that God provides in tangible ways.
Through the entire experience of receiving shoeboxes, God fulfilled many of our prayers and His promises in the gospels. Amongst many verses I can quote, one summarizes it the best. Ephesians 3:20 says:
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
I can confidently say this event in my life strengthened my faith and with time, I became a born again Christian when I gave my life to God. I am thankful God prompted a family on the other side of the world to pack a simple shoe box that so greatly influenced my family and I.
If you wish to get involved in changing children’s lives around the world, there are many opportunities to be missionaries without ever leaving your home town or even your home. You can go shopping for simple gifts to fill a shoebox to drop off at your local drop off location during designated times. If you missed the drop off times or don’t have time or energy to go shopping, pack a shoebox online. Also, consider sponsoring a child to go through a Greatest Journey discipleship program where they will be invited to church for 12 weeks to learn about Jesus and the Bible. You can find more information about Operation Christmas Child and how you can get involved here!