Luis Gonzalez

Luis Gonzalez

As a young boy, Luis Gonzalez of Panama, received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox filled with gifts. On Sunday, July 29 at 3:30 p.m., he will share at Grace United Methodist Church, 104 South High Street, Waverly, about how that gift had a life-changing impact.

According to Operation Christmas Child, Gonzalez wants to encourage residents, as they kick off the upcoming collection season, to fill thousands of shoeboxes with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items — contributing to the global goal of reaching 11 million children in Jesus’s name.

Operation Christmas Child, a project of international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, delivers gift-filled shoeboxes to millions of children in need around the world each year. According to Operation Christmas Child, for more than 15 years, Pike County families have packed shoebox gifts.

“Gonzalez received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift while living in Panama,” stated Gaylene St. Leger Cox, Operation Christmas Child media support volunteer. “This simple gift was so much more than just a box filled with fun toys and school supplies. It was a powerful reminder that God loved him and he was not forgotten. Gonzalez is now passionate about sharing this same hope with millions of boys and girls affected by poverty, natural disaster, war, terror, disease and famine.

“Gonzalez is encouraging the community to give back. This year, Pike County volunteers look forward to collecting shoeboxes packed with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items to contribute towards the global goal of reaching 11 million children.”

According to Operation Christmas Child, Luis Gonzalez grew up in Panama and was raised in a ghetto by a hardworking, single mother in a small house with a dirt floor.

“All Gonzalez ever wanted to do was to go to school, but could not because they were unable to afford school supplies,” states a press release from Operation Christmas Child. “His mother told him that if he really wanted to go to school, he needed to pray for school supplies, so that’s exactly what he did.

“The next day, on a friend’s invitation, Gonzalez attended a nearby church where he received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift. It was the first gift he had ever received. When he opened it, amidst the candies and action figures were the school supplies he so desperately needed. That day, Gonzalez and his mother realized that God is real and that He can answer prayers.”

During Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week, Nov. 12 – 19, Pike County residents can drop off gift-filled shoeboxes at two locations in Pike County.

For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call 937-374-0761, or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ. Participants can donate $9 per shoebox gift online through “Follow Your Box” and receive a tracking label to discover its destination. Those who prefer the convenience of online shopping can browse samaritanspurse.org/buildonline to select gifts matched to a child’s specific age and gender, then finish packing the virtual shoebox by adding a photo and personal note of encouragement.

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