All About Samaritan's Purse and Operation Christmas Shoebox
Bob Pierce founded the Samaritan’s Purse charity in 1970 with the mission of "meet[ing] emergency needs in crisis areas through existing evangelical mission agencies and national churches.” The charity, still active today, helps people around the world and provides relief to thousands of people through its efforts, especially around Christmastime with its Operation Christmas Child program.
Origins of Samaritan’s Purse
After World War II, Bob Pierce traveled throughout Asia as an evangelist and journalist with Youth for Christ. While he was on a university lecturing tour in China, he came across some courageous women who were living among lepers and orphans as missionaries. Their dedication inspired Pierce’s vision for ministry, and he dedicated himself to finding and supporting other missionaries who were caring for the poor and suffering in the distant corners of the world.
In the summer of 1973, Bob Pierce met an adventurous young student named Franklin Graham with a growing heart for world missions. Intrigued by his many stories from the field, Graham began to spend more and more time with the seasoned Christian statesman. In 1975, he accompanied Pierce on a life-changing tour of some of the world’s neediest mission fields. Bob Pierce died of leukemia in 1978, and a little over a year later, Franklin Graham became his successor as the President and Chairman of the Board of Samaritan’s Purse.
Samaritan’s Purse Today
Today, Samaritan’s Purse works in more than 100 countries around the world. The headquarters of Samaritan’s Purse is located in Boone, North Carolina, with additional U.S. facilities in Charlotte and North Wilkesboro, N.C. Affiliate offices can be found in Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Hong Kong, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The organization also has field offices in some 20 countries across five continents.
Samaritan’s Purse includes several ongoing ministries. There is Disaster Relief which responds to emergency situations. The World Medical Mission was founded in 1977 by brothers Dr. Richard Furman and Dr. Lowell Furman to enable doctors to serve short-term assignments at overwhelmed missionary hospitals. During the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Samaritan’s Purse and SIM USA both actively engaged in treating the Ebola hemorrhagic fever in Liberia. Children’s Heart Project provides surgery for children born with heart defects in countries where certain types of care are unavailable. Turn on the Tap is a campaign to provide safe drinking water in the developing world. There are also the ongoing construction projects as Samaritan’s Purse helps to build communities by constructing houses, schools, hospitals, and churches.
Through these projects organization provides shelter for families who have lost everything in disasters, education opportunities for the victims of poverty, and facilities for physical and spiritual healing for those in need of physical and emotional healing and comfort. Samaritan’s Purse is also involved in the prevention of human trafficking, primarily through education and prevention programs in vulnerable communities.
Oh, the Smiles Those Christmas Shoeboxes Can Bring!
Last but not least is Samaritan’s Purse’s prominent Operation Christmas Child program, which was created in 1990 by charity worker Dave Cooke and his wife Gill. The program was originally meant to provide gifts for less fortunate children in Romania and send some Christmas joy and spirit their way, but thanks to the response, since 1993 thousands of churches, groups, and individual donors from around the world have prepared and collected shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies, personal items, and other small gifts for children in need. Thus far more than 135 million gift-filled shoeboxes have been collected and delivered to children in more than 150 countries and territories. In 2016, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach and put smiles on the faces of another 12 million children.
Shoebox gifts are prepared and collected in the United States, Australia, Finland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Spain, and the United Kingdom. More than 500,000 volunteers worldwide, with more than 150,000 in the United States, are involved in collecting, shipping, and distributing shoebox gifts. Individuals, families, churches and groups fill empty shoeboxes with a “wow” item—like a doll or a deflated soccer ball (with an accompanying mini ball pump)—and other fun toys, school supplies, hygiene items, and notes of holiday season greetings and encouragement. If you are uncertain whether or not the items you’ve selected are suitable to go into the Christmas gift shoebox for Operation Christmas Child you can visit their website at https://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/what-goes-in-my-shoebox-suggestions/ and check the list of recommended items.
In the United States, during National Collection Week (November 14-21) Samaritan’s Purse collects the gift-filled shoeboxes at more than 4,000 drop-off sites in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. However, Operation Christmas Child offers a year-round opportunity to pack personalized shoeboxes online. Shoebox gifts are prepared for overseas shipment at eight major processing centers across the U.S.—Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Boone, NC; Charlotte, NC; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Minneapolis, MN; and Orange County, CA.
Samaritan’s Purse and its partners will deliver these Christmas shoeboxes to children in more than 150 countries, including those children who live in some of the hardest-to-reach places around the world. The spirit of good will and Christmas cheer remain intact while countless smiles will continue to shine on children’s faces around the world each year around Christmas time! A priceless reward for a little effort on the part of all of us who can give to humanity.