Changing lives in Malawi

By LAURIE SMITH,

Samaritan’s Purse and the Northern Pine Belt Operation Christmas Child Team are thankful for the many individuals, churches and civic groups in the United States that pack shoebox gifts each year through OCC.

This shoebox gift shows children living in the midst of poverty and despair the love of Jesus through a tangible gift and gives them hope. Many have never received a gift before in their lives, and have never heard of the Good News of the Savior who loves them and offers them eternal life if they put their hope and trust in Him.

This year Samaritan’s Purse invited a team of 42 year-round volunteers from eight states to Lilongwe, Malawi, to carry out the distribution of shoebox gifts to schools, churches, and orphanages. The 42 individuals were divided into three teams to cover as much of Lilongwe as possible in eight days.

As a year-round area volunteer with OCC for many years, serving Simpson County and our Northern Pine Belt, I was invited to be a part of the Malawi Harvest Vision Team and take the kindness of the people of Mississippi to the warm heart of Africa.

The team spent eight days going into  local communities around Lilongwe supporting the local pastors, and principals by sharing the gospel with children ages 2-14 and distributing shoebox gifts. The shoebox is like a key that unlocks a door enabling Operation Christmas Child to enter areas of a country where they might not otherwise be able to share the gospel. One of our outreach events was at Living Waters Church. This church was started in 2009 as a dream by the local pastor to reach the people living in an area known as Nigera. This area is a challenging place to do ministry work as poverty, teenage marriage, sorcery and cult activity is a regular part of the community. The children who attended the outreach event were a combination of children who attend the church as well as those within the community who do not. Pastor Hazmander shared that OCC has helped his church see the importance and value of reaching outside of the church walls.

The impact of HIV/AIDS is still evident in Malawi also, as about half a million children are left orphaned as a result of the disease. Orphans in Malawi fall into two groups, those whose parents have died and they live with another relative, and the secondare children whose parents have died and they have no family and are in need of housing and care. We distributed shoebox gifts to the Agape Orphanage and the Comfort Orphanage. The Comfort Orphanage serves the children whose parents have died but live with a relative, and the Agape Orphanage houses and feeds children. We were able to serve 176 children between the two orphanages and saw tremendous joy on the faces of those who had never received a gift before.We also distributed shoe box gifts to Kang-oma Secondary School, a government school for children ages 10-17. A local church was partnering with the school to have Operation Christmas Child come and share with the children. Overall, each 14 member team had five different events where we distributed shoebox gifts.

Once the shoebox gifts are distributed, the children are invited back to the local church or school to go through a 12 week discipleship program to assist them in developing their faith. At Bunda Church of Central Africa we were able to see lesson #3 of The Greatest Journey carried out with the children.  It was amazing to see the children immediately go out and share the gospel of Jesus with their friends on the roadside after their focus lesson. They were so eager to share what they had just received with everyone. Each site where the shoebox gifts were delivered had an average of 120 children. This was an opportunity that was life changing in many ways and I would be honored to come and share with any church, school, or civic group about the trip and Operation Christmas Child. Contact me at dogwood54@aol.com or 601-849-1953.

Below are a few photos of the lives you touched through your generosity and prayers on the Malawi Harvest Vision Trip.