Ep. 2: Operation Christmas Child in Ecuador

Kristy Graham, podcast host of On the Ground with Samaritan’s Purse, and her husband Edward Graham traveled to Quito, Ecuador to distribute Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, meet graduates of The Greatest Journey discipleship program, and encourage pastors as they work to share the Good News that can only be found in Jesus Christ. During this trip, they witnessed the life-changing impact that a simple shoebox gift can have in the life of a child and how Samaritan’s Purse uses the ministry of Operation Christmas Child to share the Gospel.

After distributing shoebox gifts to children in a small suburb of Quito, Kristy met Pastors Evelyn and Christian Chimbra. The Chimbras planted a church and partnered with Operation Christmas Child to reach more people in their community with God’s love. Evelyn explained that many people in their neighborhood are skeptical of the church, but by giving them a gift, they are able to build trust and earn the right to share their faith.

The Grahams then visited with Pastor Pedro, whose church strives to meet their neighbor’s physical and spiritual needs. Out of their own budget, they feed more than 75 children each day in their after-school program. By faith, they continue to persevere even when their money and resources are stretched thin. Many of the parents wouldn’t allow their kids to attend church on Sunday, but allowed them to be a part of the lunch discipleship program after school. Pastor Pedro was thrilled to partner with Operation Christmas Child because it gave him a new way to teach children about Jesus Christ.

On the way to one shoebox distribution, Kristy talked to Bill Pfister, the senior regional director of Operation Christmas Child for the Americas. While on bumpy roads, he explained the joy he observes as 350,000 children are being reached with the Gospel each year– over 200,000 who will participate in The Greatest Journey discipleship program. This impact multiplies as children share what they learn with their parents, friends, and family members.

Next, Kristy and Edward had the opportunity to see the ministry impact of the shoebox gifts by attending a graduation ceremony for The Greatest Journey. It was a strong reminder that the gift-packed shoebox is just the beginning. Both children and their parents graduated alongside each other in this special event. After the graduation, Kristy had a conversation with Natalia, one of the teachers of The Greatest Journey. Natalia received a shoebox when she was ten years old, and it changed her life. Now, she is leading discipleship classes. She said that seeing the joy and smiles on children’s faces motivates her to keep investing in their lives.

Another child who was deeply influenced by the project was Andy Almeda, who now serves as an international field representative for Operation Christmas Child in Ecuador. When he was young, his dad pastored five churches, and Andy’s heart risked bitterness towards the church as his dad was often away from home. God used Operation Christmas Child to remind him that he was not forgotten.

“I was a part of one of the first outreach events in Ecuador. I had the chance to receive my shoebox when I was ten,” Andy recalled. “It was super cool, and inside was just one thing. I was shocked. God knows better what you want than you really know. It was a Nike black jacket. I wore it until I was 16, until I couldn’t wear it anymore.”

By receiving the black Nike jacket in his shoebox, he felt God’s love towards him, and sparked him to further the Gospel with his life. He continues to want to share the love of Jesus Christ.

Thank you to all who support Operation Christmas Child. These simple gifts are a powerful tool to share the love of Jesus Christ with children around the world, but also grow churches, encourage families, and build community.

Please continue to join us in prayer for pastors, volunteers, children, and communities that are impacted by Operation Christmas Child.

Specific Prayer Points

• Pastors Evelyn and Christian Chimbra are asking for prayer that God would give them the wisdom to continue to preach the Gospel. Pray for many more families to come to Christ in their community.

• Pray for the resources that will allow Pastor Pedro’s ministry to continue feed more children while teaching them about God’s love.

• The Greatest Journey team has many moving parts. Please pray for every church, teacher, and child who is a part of this discipleship program.

• For Andy’s team, pray against any challenges that may hinder the Gospel from spreading, such as timing and poor road systems.

• Pray that volunteers will be encouraged as they are reaching the ends of the earth with God’s truth in love.

Kristy Graham’s Shoebox Tips and Tricks

An Inside Look

Would you like to know more about how to pack a shoebox, volunteer at a processing center, or get involved? Visit our Operation Christmas Child page to learn more.

Do you have questions or comments for Kristy Graham? Please email us at ontheground@samaritan.org.

Want to see what happens behind-the-scenes of the On the Ground podcast? Follow us on Instagram.

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