Operation Christmas Child.

(234 Posts)
AgitatedAtheist Tue 24-Sep-13 21:12:07


I'm not actually a parent - I'm a teenager. (I come in peace.)

At school a couple of days ago we were told that we would be supporting the Operation Christmas Child program. I don't agree with them, and I wonder what their motives really are. If anybody agrees with me, I want to ask if I should try and do anything about it.

The reason I've asked on here is because I wanted the opinions of some people with a bit more experience.

Thanks in advance smile

exexpat Wed 25-Sep-13 17:09:47

The school leaflet says it is a Christian organisation, yes, but so are many reputable overseas aid charities like Christian Aid and Cafod. The big difference between them and Samaritan's Purse is that as a fundamental principle they do not link any of their aid work to evangelism.

Anyone reading the school leaflet would not be aware that these gift boxes are intended to be distributed as part of an evangelical campaign - that is misleading. If schools distributed something more along the lines of the church leaflet to parents, that would be altogether more honest. But it would also lead to far fewer boxes being donated, as most British families would not choose to support that style of evangelism.

gooner1956 Wed 25-Sep-13 17:15:55

Dear all, I have to go now and I am out tomorrow taking my Father who is dying of cancer to say 'goodbye' to an Army buddy of his. Please keep your questions and comments coming, I am more than happy to respond to all of them and I will start to do so again on Friday....

trockodile Wed 25-Sep-13 17:17:47

I would also argue using shoeboxes and 'westernised methods' as an attempt to convert children is vastly different to alpha courses etc in the uk. The latter is a group of people who are adults and used to the sort of advertising and methods used-as opposed to children in a culture which is not used to being bombarded by junk mail and special offers. Reminds me a little too much of the Nestlé advertising for baby milk in 3rd world countries.

twistyfeet Wed 25-Sep-13 17:18:04

dd's Brownie troop is doing Boxes for Operation Spread the Word. I am not happy and will be telling them about Mary's Meals.

SuburbanCrofter Wed 25-Sep-13 17:24:10

Dear Brian

I was unable to find a Child Protection Policy or Child Safeguarding Policy when I searched on the Samaritans Purse site. Does Samaritans Purse have such a policy? They are usually displayed on websites, eg. www.christianaid.org.uk/aboutus/index/child-protection-policy.aspx

gooner1956 Fri 27-Sep-13 07:09:00

Morning all, just going through the various posts, you have been busy!

Let me start with Habbibu, we don't do the buying, it is hundreds of thousands of people like you that do this. There's something quite traditional about buying, wrapping and sending presents at Christmas, isn't there?

gooner1956 Fri 27-Sep-13 07:16:03

Morning Trockodile! Sharing the story of Jesus started in Israel and continues to this day. I don't see this as some kind of 'westernised' approach? We tell the same story to our children here, in our schools and churches, why should it be any different elsewhere? I don't understand your point about 'children in a culture which is not used to being bombarded by junk mail and special offers', can you explain?

sashh Fri 27-Sep-13 07:21:41

Anyone know of any shoebox type appeals for uk kids (or adults).

I think the salvation army might, and it's possible you could pass some on via social services.

Someone (I think on here) once said the best Xmas present they got was some soap and shampoo just after going into a hostel.

I don't celebrate Xmas, but from then on I've bought a selection of nail varnishes, mascara, eye shadow etc for my local woman's shelter.

You obviously cannot get information about ages of children or even how many children are in the shelter/recently re homed.

Contact your local shelter and say your children want to do a box. Just make sure there are no toys linked to violence or other triggers.


If yo are sending gifts to children of all creeds as you say why is 'operation Xmas child'? Why not give gifts for Eid, Chanukah, Diwali?

gooner1956 Fri 27-Sep-13 07:28:48

Dear SuburbanCrofter, every Samaritan's Purse employee here in the UK has been CRB/DBS checked. I believe also that every registered volunteer in a pubic facing role is also CRB/DBS checked.

gooner1956 Fri 27-Sep-13 07:45:13

Sassh, for the Christian, giving gifts at Christmas is an expression/reminder of God's gift to mankind at Christmas: Jesus.

Through Operation Christmas Child we are already giving gifts to Muslim children, Jewish children and Hindu children, not to mention children of many other faiths and traditions, but I can tell you there's room and opportunity for more giving and sharing to needy children around the world, should you or others want to start Operation Eid/Chanukah/Diwali Child (delete as appropriate)!

IsleOfRight Fri 27-Sep-13 08:14:18

Hi gooner, I am really impressed you are taking the time and patience to answer all the questions. Thank you.

My problem with occ is that I think it is a way to evangelise and deliver bibles 'through the back door' and through getting vulnerable people in need who are excited to get gifts and may not be able to disassociate those gifts and that kindness from the evangelical message.

I get that giving gifts and looking after those in need is a key tenet of Christianity and I also understand, though I don't like it, that your faith is a proselytising one. But I think at the very least these should be separate activities.

I give to our local church charity that helps homeless families in the borough even though I am not Christian because they are explicit that they help people of all faiths with no strings attached and without bringing faith into it.

gooner1956 Fri 27-Sep-13 10:19:03

Dear IsleOfRight, as Head of Communications, I'm only doing my job (!) but if people want to ask me questions, if I can help dispel so many damaging myths about Operation Christmas Child that have been communicated over the years, then it's worthwhile!

I hear your concern. I have already said that the gift of a shoebox is given unconditionally; that is certainly true and that is my experience, having now had the privilege to see these shoeboxes distributed and see the joy they bring to children in situations where they have little to be joyful about. I could write a book on that, but don't have time right now!

Please know that we do not give out shoeboxes. We work through local churches in the countries where we operate; the efforts of these churches is coordinated by a National Leadership Team (NLT) in each country. Each NLT is required to comply with strict guidelines on how these shoeboxes are to be distributed and each NLT has to produce a report at the end of each campaign. Church distributions are randomly monitored and evaluated by SP staff too, to make sure that nothing untoward is going on. So we do all we can to ensure the integrity of the programme.

Churches distributing the shoeboxes do like to 'connect' with children receiving shoeboxes and their family. I think I have already said this, but this is no different to what UK churches do, on Mother's Day, at Easter and at Christmas, working in schools and making invitations. Many of the children receiving shoeboxes are orphans, some live and work on the streets, or on garbage tips, trying to eek out a living. I am heartened to know that such children can and do receive shoeboxes and that there is a church there to care for them. Other children live with one parent, who is likely to be struggling, or are heads of households themselves. Again, in such situations, I'm glad the church is there for them.

There are no strings attached! Not to the shoebox gift or to the help and support people receive from their local church once 'connected'. This is the work of the local church. It used to happen here before the government took over the orphanages, the hospitals, the schools and the colleges! And when people see such generosity of spirit, they will often ask 'why?'...that's where churches get to speak about Jesus.

You got me rambling now, hope this is helpful. And good on you for what you are doing to alleviate poverty and suffering!

exexpat Fri 27-Sep-13 10:32:30

Hello again, Brian. Since you are back and answering questions, please could you answer my questions from Wednesday: why should children and families who are not evangelical Christians be encouraged (and often pressurised - classes compete to see who can donate the most boxes) to provide you (or your partner churches) with the means to encourage/invite people to sign up for bible classes?

And why is the fact that the boxes are used in this way not made clear in materials given to schools or parents, when it is made very clear in material supplied to churches?

ParvatiTheWitch Fri 27-Sep-13 11:14:48

Flip, my face has gone all hot and I've come over all funny. For the third year I have ground my teeth when my Dss' school rolls out the shoe box appeal. This year, you lot have just incited me to fashion an e-mail to the head.
I pressed send as well. I hope she doesn't think I'm a loon.

gooner1956 Fri 27-Sep-13 11:21:04

Hi again Exexpat, sorry I missed your question!

While we would encourage everyone to get involved in an amazing programme that has delivered over 100 million gift-filled shoeboxes since 1990, we do not compel, cajoul or otherwise pressurise anyone to do so!

It is my belief that it is people's compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves, both here and overseas, that compels them to get involved in campaigns like Operation Christmas Child. People here want to bless children, especially children who for the most part have nothing, especially at Christmas. There is no obligation for the child receiving a gift-filled shoebox to do anything other than to receive the gift, that's where it ends, most of the time..

In recent years, in response to requests from churches for us to provide some Christian literature for the children, we have done so and these booklets are given out WITH the shoeboxes (not IN the shoeboxes) where it is deemed appropriate to do so; the local church is the best judge of this.

The mission statement of Operation Christmas Child reads:

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I think this is fairly clear and there is far more evidence of what this means in practice printed on our materials and shown on our website. For the avoidance of doubt, the 'tangible way' is the shoebox!

It is not in our interests to deceive anyone. I have engaged in dialogue with several people who have a real angst about wanting to bless children but perhaps fearful about the role or motive of the local church; all I can do, as I'm trying to do here, is assure them of what does happen - there has been so much rubbish written about what does NOT happen - and respect their decision, either way.

Does this answer your question?

gooner1956 Fri 27-Sep-13 11:24:37

Exexpat, I had already mentioned (to you!) that the front cover of the Schools Resource says:

Operation Christmas Child is an initiative of Samaritan’s Purse – a Christian relief and development charity which works through local churches to proclaim and demonstrate the love of God to children and families in need across Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Is this misleading?

pookamoo Fri 27-Sep-13 11:43:55

agitatedathiest How did it go down with the school?

AgitatedAtheist Fri 27-Sep-13 12:10:30

I spoke to the Head, who seemed interested with what I had to say, and asked me to print off the information from the web pages. I haven't got a working printer so I'll use a relative's printer, show him the printed pages on Monday and go from there.

gooner1956 Fri 27-Sep-13 12:17:15

Dear AgitatedAtheist, whose web pages do you plan to print off?

Habbibu Fri 27-Sep-13 12:17:56

Not really my point. If the people who did the buying gave the equivalent, or even less money, to a reputable charity working in the same communities, economies of scale could come into play and far more could be done for these children, including gifts. Might not be traditional, but it's far more efficient and effective.

twistyfeet Fri 27-Sep-13 12:23:34

Why cant you give, Brian, without mentioning Jesus?

neverputasockinatoaster Fri 27-Sep-13 12:28:21

Has anyone read the really badly produced and written leaflet? It is dreadful!
Also although boxes coming from the UK do not contain the leaflet boxes sent from the US DO........
Last year I emailed the HT of the DC's school. He ignored me so I emailed again and asked that my children do not receive literature from OCC or SP and that they take part in no assemblies where OCC is talked about.
To be clear I am a practising Catholic and the whole ethos of evangelising through a 'gift' makes my skin crawl. It made my skin crawl when the catholic Missionaries did it and it makes my skin crawl now.
Can you imagine the uproar from Billy Graham et al if a Muslim organisation took the same tack in poorer Christian countries.
We will be doing something through an non evangelical organisation this year.

neverputasockinatoaster Fri 27-Sep-13 12:31:22

My feeling is this, having read twistfeet's question.......

My belief is that God is all seeing - he knows what is in our hearts. If I give a gift to lighten the load of a person in trouble I'll know and God will know. The other person will know I'm a good person. I don't need to tell them that I'm giving them a gift because I believe in God. They don't need to know that!

gooner1956 Fri 27-Sep-13 12:37:28

Habbibu, from what I have heard from our supporters and from what I have seen for myself, much of the real 'value' and excitement about Operation Christmas Child, for them, appears to be the going out to pick/buy gifts for the child/children who will receive the gift, wrapping the shoebox/es, packing the shoebox/es (including a personal note or a card) and taking it to a drop-off point. Being a bloke, I am more inclined to go online!

We have considered the merits of raising funds here and sending the money to the countries where we work, for people there to do all of the above and perhaps help the local economy. This is problematic though. Perhaps for the reasons given, people are happier giving shoeboxes than they would be giving money. Even if we could raise lots of money, in the countries and regions where we work, there isn't the infrastructure or the resources to replicate what happens here. It just wouldn't work.

gooner1956 Fri 27-Sep-13 12:46:06

twistyfeet, Operation Christmas Child is a Christmas campaign. Christmas is about Jesus, the 'reason for the season'! And at Christmas, around this country and throughout the world, churches are telling the story of Jesus' birth. Why would we expect or ask any church distributing Christmas gifts in the form of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to be any different and not mention what Christmas is all about?

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