Recipient talks about impact of gift-filled
A shoebox filled with small toys made a big impact on Rachel Chadalavada. Rachel, who grew up in Southeast Asia, talked about that impact at the Operation Christmas Child workshop held at Calvary Baptist Church on April 16. Rachel grew up in a Christian home. After seeing a woman demon possessed at age 5, she prayed asking Jesus into her heart.
That prayer was made out of fear, she admitted, but God honored it and was faithful while she grew to understand. As a child, she and friends played games with rocks or crumpled paper – their only toys. A family treat was a candy bar shared between her sister, mother and father. “All my life I wanted a whole candy bar for myself,” she said.
Another desire was to be able to sleep late during summer vacation, but Rachel had to rise early to help the family fill three buckets of water and haul it home. It was culture shock when she came to America to study for a master’s degree. “All I had to do was turn the tap,” she said. Summer in her country was extremely hot – 110 degrees – and electricity was only available four hours a day.
She never endured a winter below 77 degrees. When she came to America, temperature at 77 degrees was cold to her. In 1999, Samaritan’s Purse‘s Operation Christmas Child came to her country. She vividly remembers going to church and seeing bright red and green colors everywhere. She was given a shoebox and when she held it, “it was love at first sight,” she said. “I was so excited.
I don’t think I heard what the OCC speaker was saying. Nothing mattered, I had my shoebox!” Rachel was 12 at that time and going through rough times. She had been sick and the kids mocked and bullied her. Coming from a country where karma was emphasized, she felt she had done something wrong to attract hurtful and negative attention.
She cried every day coming home from school, but never showed or shared her suffering with her parents. So when the shoebox came, it was perfect timing, she said. The note left by the 9 year-old boy who packed her box encouraged her. It read ‘Dear Unknown Friend, Jesus and I love you! Merry Christmas.
“This was the kindness and desperate healing I needed and it came to me in the name of Jesus!” Rachel said. “It meant the world to me.” Rachel’s shoebox was so colorful, she recalled. It contained crayons, colored pens, coloring book, beannie babies, colored beads, a little pink pig, and candy canes. She had never seen a candy cane and when she tasted it she thought it was really bland.
After accidentally breaking it, she realized she had been licking the cellophane. She enjoyed the peppermint candy and gave her sister and her parents one. The rest she kept for herself. Rachel was more generous with the rest of the contents in her shoebox. She shared the toys with neighborhood kids, giving all of them away.
Rachel learned some of the greatest lessons from her shoebox gift. “I learned three things: It is so much better to give than receive. God is close to the brokenhearted and kindness goes a long way,” she said. “Shoeboxes are not just a number, she continued. “Every shoebox equals one child.”
Rachel encourages everyone to “pack one more shoebox,” this year. Rachel came to America in July of 2013 to attend Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. She graduated in May of 2015 with a masters in mass communications. She has become a national spokesman for Operation Christmas Child, traveling the country and sharing her story. She loves children and she loves Jesus, so her heart’s desire is to work for both of them. “Nothing brings my love for Jesus and children together like being a spokesman for Operation Christmas Child,” she beamed.
“When I held my shoebox, I was not used to receiving, and I thought why me. I didn’t understand grace. But I realize I needed it and God cared about my need. I was a little more blessed, but how much more blessed when I bless someone else.” Last year, the Pee Dee area packed over 25,000 shoeboxes.
This year’s goal is 30,000. Pam Smith is the area coordinator. Any group or church that wants to become a part of this effort may contact her at 843-409-5097 To find out more about Operation Christmas Child, go online to www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas- child/.