Operation Christmas Child; COVID-19 Updates

– Stay updated on current information from our Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child Landing Page, including specific COVID-19 updates.

– Another great option to share God’s love is to build a shoebox online. It’s a convenient and personal way to give shoebox gifts directly from home.

– Listen and learn more about Operation Christmas Child from previous On the Ground with Samaritan’s Purse podcast episodes “Operation Christmas Child in Ecuador” and “Processing Center for Operation Christmas Child”.

– Want to know more about our work in Sudan? Read how Samaritan’s Purse Joins Fight Against COVID-19 in Sudan.

Show Notes

Although COVID-19 has disrupted many things, it has not stopped Operation Christmas Child. Samaritan’s Purse has shifted its processes to continue sending gift-filled shoeboxes to kids around the world. In this informative episode, Kristy Graham takes you behind the scenes to hear how leadership, staff, and volunteers are praying over the 2020 season and preparing to send millions of shoeboxes to children around the world.

The episode opens with sounds of an Operation Christmas Child distribution from 2019. Kristy and the podcast team traveled to Quito, Ecuador, to experience the joy radiating from boys and girls opening their shoebox gifts. Although parts of the ministry may operate differently due to the pandemic, Samaritan’s Purse is determined to continue delivering joy through Operation Christmas Child.

“The ministry is doing its best to equip every moving part in order to send shoeboxes to children around the world.” – Kristy Graham

Kristy’s first guest in the episode is Randy Riddle, the senior director of Operation Christmas Child domestic. Throughout their conversation, Randy gives updates of how the ministry is navigating COVID-19 guidelines and developing contingency plans. He also reflects on God’s faithfulness over the years. God’s hand has guided the ministry through difficult years before like Hurricane Katrina, the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the economic downturn in 2008. Yet, through those seemingly impossible years, God made a way. Randy reiterates the same message: children always need hope.

Operation Christmas Child will continue to operate under the guidance of local authorities around the world—monitoring local, state and national guidelines and making adjustments as needed. They are prepping for various scenarios and ready to implement multiple contingency plans. One great option to share God’s love is to build a shoebox online. It’s a convenient and personal way to give shoebox gifts directly from home. You make it your own by choosing from a list of gifts, then adding a letter and a photo. Then, Operation Christmas Child packs it for you and delivers it to a child in need.

Kristy then shares a conversation with Amie and Jody Winstead, project leaders from Tennessee. From organizing events, packing shoeboxes, and sending out impact stories, their role is to spearhead Operation Christmas Child in their community. Amie and Jody dive deeper into their dedication to reach their congregation’s personal goal of 1,500 shoeboxes. Tune in to hear their creative ways to fill shoeboxes with homemade gifts.

“That precious little shoebox is hope and light in the darkness. It’s not just school supplies and not just toys, but it’s going with the Gospel of Jesus. Kids are hearing His name, some for the very first time.” – Amie Winstead, Project Leader

The last guest is Simeon, a national leadership team coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in Burundi. The ministry in Burundi started with one container of shoeboxes in 2008, and this past year had 27 containers, which is 198,237 shoebox gifts. In total, nearly one million shoebox gifts have been given in Burundi, and last year alone, over 101,000 children enrolled in The Greatest Journey discipleship program. That’s 20 percent of all children ages 0-14 in Burundi. Simeon explains how important it is for the children to receive shoeboxes.

“A shoebox is a tool to introduce the Gospel. This tool will help them start a long journey—an eternal journey—leading people to Christ. Even more than this, they’ll be discipled as well.” – Simeon, National Leadership Team Coordinator

The episode wraps with specific prayer requests from different parts of the Operation Christmas Child ministry, and an update about Samaritan’s Purse work in Sudan. Please continue to pray for God’s abundance through Operation Christmas Child and the work of Samaritan’s Purse.

Kristy Graham remembers the joy of processing and distributing gift-filled shoeboxes in seasons past in "Operation Christmas Child; COVID-19 Updates".
Kristy Graham remembers the joy of processing and distributing gift-filled shoeboxes in seasons past in “Operation Christmas Child; COVID-19 Updates”.

Healed Hearts; Nine Children Return Home to Mongolia

– Visit our Children’s Heart Project landing page to learn more information.

– Read about how these Children Take Special Flight Home to Mongolia After Life-Changing Heart Surgeries.

Show Notes

On July 2, Samaritan’s Purse safely returned nine children to Mongolia after they received life-changing heart surgery through Children’s Heart Project. These children and their mothers came to the United States in early February, but their visits were drastically altered because of the introduction of COVID-19. In this episode, Kristy Graham joins these mothers, children, host families and translators to learn how these additional months in the U.S. changed their lives.

On a cool Monday morning, Kristy and the podcast team drove through the mountains to a hotel in Greensboro, North Carolina, to meet these nine mothers with their children that traveled to the U.S. for heart surgery. The episode begins with the sounds of laughter and excitement—this hotel was their last stop before returning to Mongolia after their six-week trip turned into four months. As thankful as each mother and child was for their health and restoration, they were thrilled to soon be reunited with their families in Mongolia.

Kristy first introduces Cindy Bonsall, the director of Children’s Heart Project at Samaritan’s Purse. Cindy explains that although the families were eager to go home, they still have to fulfill a 21-day quarantine in a government facility in Mongolia before uniting with their families. Ken Isaacs, the Vice President of Programs and Government Relations, explained the volume of agencies and authorities required to authorize the flight.

Pujee was one of the mothers who was enthusiastic to share her story. Her five-year-old son, Erdene, was diagnosed with a heart defect before he was a year old. The surgery needed to heal his weak heart is unavailable in Mongolia, and Purjee was desperate for hope and healing for her child. She and her local hospital reached out to Samaritan’s Purse for help, and Children’s Heart Project accepted her son’s application. On February 8, they arrived in the United States for his heart surgery. Only three weeks later, Erdene underwent his successful procedure, and he is now energetic and healthy.

Although Purjee, Erdene, and their translator had to stay an additional four months, Purjee was deeply impacted by her host family and accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior on March 4.

“I’m thankful to everyone, including those in the hospital, those who took care of Erdene. All the Christians, missionaries, churches, host families—I’m so thankful. There are not enough words to thank them. I now understand that God uses these people as His tools, and that’s wonderful. I want to be like them.” – Purjee, Children’s Heart Project mom

The host families play an integral role in the process by opening their homes to bring the mission field to them. By accommodating a mother, child, and translator, these host families took on extra responsibility when the standard month and a half commitment turned into four months. Kristy hears from Michele Nelson, a host mom from Rochester, MN, who has been hosting for seven years. Michele portrays what it was like to host five people— two mothers, two children, and a translator—for those four months. She said that the extended time was like a gift to show them what Christ’s love looks like in action.

“This gave us more time to be able to share who Jesus is. Over a period of time, we were able to warm them to what love looks like. I think that’s our biggest gift: having this longer period of time.” – Michele, host mom

The episode wraps with specific prayer requests for these mothers and children to safely return to Mongolia and share the love of Christ that they experienced with their families. Please continue to partner with us and lift up these mothers, children, host families, and translators in prayer.

Through the work of Children's Heart Project, five-year-old Erdene came to the United States with a heart defect, and is now returning to Mongolia healthy and full of energy.
Through the work of Children’s Heart Project, five-year-old Erdene came to the United States with a heart defect, and is now returning to Mongolia healthy and full of energy.

The Lifelong Impact of Operation Heal Our Patriots

– Are you or your spouse a service member from a U.S. military branch who has been injured or wounded in active duty after September 11, 2001? Apply to participate in Operation Heal Our Patriots.

– Discover more about how Operation Heal Our Patriots is working to strengthen the relationships and faith of our wounded veterans here.

– Be encouraged by the latest updates from Alaska.

Show Notes

In honor of the Fourth of July, Kristy Graham is taking you on the ground to hear from wounded veterans and their spouses that recently participated in Operation Heal Our Patriots, commonly referred to in the ministry as “OHOP.” Each summer, Samaritan’s Purse offers this marriage retreat to give couples the opportunity for spiritual refreshment, physical renewal, and marriage enrichment. This Alaskan mountaintop experience allows these men and women to truly be refreshed through God’s word and like-minded community, but the real work happens when they return back home.

The podcast opens with Kristy’s conversation with Greg Duvall, the educational and discipleship manager for Operation Heal Our Patriots. He explains the transformations he has witnessed through the beautiful Alaskan retreat. With no distractions, couples can focus on one another and receive tools to bolster their marriage. However, couples often get hit with life’s demands once they come home from Alaska. The Samaritan’s Purse aftercare program was designed to be the bridge between the lessons learned at the retreat and the reality of hardships in daily life.

“A big priority on our end is to remind them that the same God that worked in their lives, hearts, and marriages in Alaska is the same God who’s going to carry them through all the struggles and issues they’re walking through today. It’s the same power that brought healing to their marriage in Alaska that’s going to continue that healing work in their marriage back at home.” —Greg Duvall

Greg breaks down the purpose and planning for the aftercare program. OHOP hosts multiple regional gatherings each year—allowing alumni and their families to continue growing with their community. In mid-May, Kristy connected with two of those OHOP couples over the phone. Both couples attended the retreat in 2018, and experienced God’s transforming power in their marriages. First, Kristy introduces you to John and Christina Ricketts.

John was injured in 2010 serving in Afghanistan as a scout. After his vehicle was hit with 300 pounds of homemade bombs, John left the service with two crushed feet and a major brain injury. Shortly after both legs were amputated below the knee, he met Christina. It wasn’t until after they got married that they realized they couldn’t handle their circumstances alone. When they attended Operation Heal Our Patriots, they were given the tools they needed for their marriage.

“Operation Heal Our Patriots chaplains have been on our 911 speed dial a few times. These people are for our marriage. They’re for our growth, our faith, and our healing. I’m so thankful for them.” —Christina Ricketts

Kristy also spoke with Rich and Ruthe Reid, who have been married over 25 years. When Rich left his military career of 17 years, he had a traumatic brain injury, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and was filled with rage. Their marriage was on the breaking point when they decided to apply for Operation Heal Our Patriots. They both agree the week in Alaska truly changed the trajectory of their relationship. Now, their marriage is stronger than it’s ever been before, and they’re serving in their local church while getting plugged-in to the surrounding community.

“I love Samaritan’s Purse because in every ministry they do, they want people to get plugged into the local church. Whether it’s Operation Christmas Child, U.S. Disaster Relief, or Operation Heal Our Patriots, we want to equip and stick with you. But, there is nothing like your local church.” —Kristy Graham

The episode wraps with specific prayer requests for the Operation Heal Our Patriots program and alumni. Please continue to pray for the marriage of these men and women that sacrificed for our freedom.

Tune in to "The Lifelong Impact of Operation Heal Our Patriots," to hear how Samaritan's Purse is providing encouragement to alumni long after they leave Alaska.
Tune in to “The Lifelong Impact of Operation Heal Our Patriots,” to hear how Samaritan’s Purse is providing encouragement to alumni long after they leave Alaska.