Operation Christmas Child travels new roads
Matthew White
AFA Journal staff writer

October 2019Reaching beyond the “end of the road” to the “end of the earth” is part and parcel of the ministry of Samaritan’s Purse(SP).

In the spring of 2016, SP held an outreach event for the Himba children of Opuwo, a village in the South African nation of Namibia. In their native language, opuwo means “end of the road.”

The chief of Ombaka, another village more than two hours away, was present that day and asked for shoebox gifts to be brought to his people. That fall, Pastor Rizera Hipakua, a ministry partner of SP, made the difficult trek into the bush to take Operation Christmas Child (OCC) shoebox gifts and the gospel to the Himba children of Ombaka.

New directions
SP had already partnered with Seed Company to translate The Greatest Gift – a gospel booklet children receive along with the shoeboxes – into the Himba text. Seed Company, an affiliate of Wycliffe Bible Translators, is a ministry whose mission is to accelerate scripture translation to reach more and more people with the gospel.

“Seed Company and Operation Christmas Child have been brought together by God’s grace,” said Samuel Chiang, Seed Company CEO. “And we’re so happy that the partnership is working together to reach the unreached people groups.”

Because the Himba is primarily an oral culture, the Gospel of Mark and 40 Bible stories in Himba are already being distributed on solar-powered Mp3 
players.

As the people of Ombaka and the surrounding villages heard the Bible stories and began to retell them, the area was transformed by the power of the gospel.

“God’s message, God’s Word, that living Word, is never dormant,” 
Chiang said.

The Himba, an ethnic group of 50,000, are traditionally animists – worshipping their ancestors and tree spirits. However, as children participated in The Greatest Journey discipleship program and shared their newfound faith, the group of believers began to grow.

New disciples
Within two years, the number of believers in Ombaka grew from zero to over 80, creating the need for a place to meet and worship. The village chief dedicated land underneath a prominent tree to meet that need.

But the church would soon need an indoor place during monsoon season. Continuing to work with Seed Company, as well as the people of Ombaka and Opuwo, SP constructed a new church building beside the tree where the congregation originally met.

June 7–9, three days of worship, prayer, and praise celebrated the completion of the church. At the dedication of the building, pastor Kuyelia NGombe said, “Before Operation Christmas Child came, we had never heard of Jesus or knew who God was. If we had difficulties, we sought the witch doctor for help. Now, we have abandoned witch doctors and seek God alone in prayer and worship.”

“There’s an incredible urgency today for the gospel,” said Jim Harrelson, vice president of OCC/SP. “These boxes have an incredible way of blessing, opening up hearts to hear and respond to the truth.”

“The wonderment of [OCC] is that the prayer has gone forward with that shoebox,” Chiang said. “And by faith, the child’s encounter is not with material things. By faith, the encounter is with things unseen, and they are receiving that for the very first time.”

Box by box, OCC continues to carry that message to “the end of the earth.”   

Pack a Shoebox
In this annual appeal, AFA Journal urges readers to participate in Operation Christmas Child. National collection week is November 18-25.

 

Visit samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child or 828-262-1980 to learn about:

Collection locations.
How to pack a shoebox.
Packing a shoebox online.
Obtaining promotional materials.
Preprinted plastic and cardboard shoeboxes.