KINGMAN – Pat Tardiff has spent years helping to fill thousands of shoeboxes with Christmas gifts and sending them to impoverished children in Third World countries, touching their lives and giving them hope in desperate situations.
This summer, the area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child had the rare opportunity to personally deliver the shoeboxes to children in Rwanda and see first-hand what it means to them.
She learned that the greatest of joy can come from a small box.
“It was amazing to watch the children embrace a bar of soap, to put on a hat, scarf or sunglasses, watching their smile grow even bigger,” Tardiff told the Daily Miner. “They loved the simple things in the box.”
She watched them take a soccer ball out of a box, inflate it and take it outside to play.
“The laughter, smiles and hugs is what I will always remember,” Tardiff said of the experience. “To bring joy into a child’s life is so very rewarding.”
Tardiff is motivated to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with children around the world. The shoeboxes are a follow-up to the Greatest Journey program that teaches children about their relationship with God.
Some 7,000 shoeboxes were distributed in Rwanda, and Tardiff wanted to thank people in the community who packed them.
It’s a year-long effort to pack and collect the boxes, and each child receives only one shoebox in their lifetime, Tardiff said.
The Northwest Arizona team for Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect more than 7,500 shoebox gifts this year from churches, nonprofit groups and local residents. The collection runs Nov. 13-20.
Since 1993, more than 936,000 children in Rwanda have received Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and this year more than 117,000 children will receive gifts.
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization. For more information on how to participate, visit samaritanspurse.org/occ.