Testimony to relay impact of charity program

Yves Dushime

Volunteers who send supplies through Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child program will get the chance to see how their efforts have impacted the lives of children who receive their shoebox gifts.

Individuals from around the world who received boxes when they were children since the program started in 1993 are now able to give their testimonies to those who have helped them.

Yves Dushime received a Christmas Child shoebox when he was 11 and his family was seeking refuge from the Rwandan genocide in Togo. Now living in New York, he’s been touring the area to share his story with those participating in the program, and one stop is at New Hope Bible Church in Front Royal.

Samaritan’s Purse regional manager Mesfin Abera has been traveling with Dushime on his tour of drop-off locations in the mid-Atlantic region. He noted how people are sometimes amazed at how such simple gifts can help bring a glimmer of hope and happiness to a child.

“How could a simple gift, with items that people take for granted here, have this much impact on changing someone’s life?” he said. “It’s definitely encouraging … and people are much more motivated to continue to do what they do packing shoe boxes.

Lee Montgomery, pastor of student ministry at New Hope, collaborated with Samaritan’s Purse to have Dushime give his testimony in Front Royal. According to Montgomery, the church has worked with boxes for around seven years and served as a drop-off location or relay center for around four. He said he’s been especially encouraged by the enthusiasm and ownership that teenagers in his youth ministry program have shown for the program.

In recent years, New Hope has been providing the collection center in Culpeper with about one third of its total boxes from the area because of booming support from the community. Montgomery said he hopes that New Hope can become its own collection center in coming years, leaving room for more accessible relay centers to develop in the area.

“I’ve just been really excited to see the community jumping in there and churches collecting so many boxes that we can even discuss that idea,” he said.

Although Dushime didn’t have much use for a scarf he received in his Christmas Child shoebox while in Togo, it came in handy when his family later moved to the much colder climates in upstate New York. Montgomery also described a seemingly mundane shoebox full of socks that provided one girl with wrappings she needed for a wounded foot.

“You just see God moving though these gifts,” he said. “You couldn’t dream up the things that God does with it.”

Dushime will give his testimony at New Hope at 10 a.m. Saturday, and Montgomery said he hopes the opportunity will encourage continued displays of support from the community.

“I don’t know what to expect. … I’ve never done this with them before and we’re just excited that we’re able to host it,” he said.

The program has sent more than 124 million boxes to troubled and refugee children in more than 100 countries since its inception. This year, the program will ship off another 11 million boxes, around 300,000 of which are expected to come from Virginia.

Those hoping to volunteer for the program can pack a shoebox of their own with the assistance of guidelines on the Operation Christmas Child website at http://tinyurl.com/kjsskvz. The boxes will travel to the mid-Atlantic region processing center for shipment after the National Collection Week of Nov. 16-23.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com