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Hale hands an Operation Christmas Child box to a young boy in Grenada

Every Christmas season, the colorful shoeboxes line our churches, our schools, and our homes. For more than three decades, the work of Operation Christmas Child has become an integral part of our national consciousness, and on the DBU campus, it is no different.

“Shoebox collections started in the DBU Lab School, a campus school for K-6th grade that was once on campus, and spread to the entire campus shortly thereafter,” explained Dr. Mark Hale, DBU faculty member who has overseen the University’s Operation Christmas Child work for years.

“Over the years, DBU has become an official drop-off location, and our campus has collected 69,510 boxes. Next year we will eclipse the 70,000 box mark. It has become a part of the DBU culture.”

So when Samaritan’s Purse, the organization who founded Operation Christmas Child, asked Dr. Hale if he would like the chance to not only collect the boxes but also deliver them, he jumped at the opportunity.

Early this March, Dr. Hale, along with a team of about 80 individuals, headed to the small Caribbean island of Grenada, known as the Isle of Spice. This tropical paradise boasts of incredible beaches and unfortunately also economic disparity.

For several days, Dr. Hale and the OCC team delivered shoebox gifts that had been packed by many back home, just months prior. “You can imagine the excitement as they all open their boxes at the same moment to see what is inside,” Dr. Hale recalled. “The kids are all screaming and pulling items out of the boxes and holding them up to show their friends. It’s just like Christmas!”

“In one of the boxes I was unpacking with one of the kids,” Dr. Hale continued, “we found a note and picture of a church group. It is really neat to see the people that put the box together and their prayers for the child. It is sometimes easy to forget that each one of the boxes we pack makes its way into the hands of a child, and that box could have an eternal impact on that individual soul.”

The OCC work goes beyond just gift giving. For Samaritan’s Purse, a ministry founded by Franklin Graham, the main goal of any ministry is the opportunity to share the Gospel. Dr. Hale was witness to this incredible work as the team visited a church that had distributed boxes to children several weeks prior.

According to Dr. Hale, “At one of the events, we observed the follow-up discipleship program called ‘The Greatest Journey.’ The kids were so excited and many in the community had come out to see what all the excitement was about. You can imagine how the word spread!”

As Hale experienced in Grenada, the impact a shoebox has on a child’s faith is significant; for many of them, it marks the beginning of their walk with Christ.

“I have witnessed firsthand the impact these simple shoebox gifts have on the kids. The most important thing is that the shoebox gifts are not the end of the process,” Hale explained. “These shoebox gifts have a transformational effect on the entire community.”

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