Mwita, a boy abandoned by his parents in Tanzania, living with a grandmother and then an aunt, often went to church looking for opportunity. Opportunity to slip unnoticed through the door. Opportunity to return to the streets, to stealing, to any gang that would include him and employ him for a few hours and give him something to eat.

“When we got to church, I would run away. Some days I got back home at midnight,” he said in
an interview published on the Operation Christmas Child website. “A person would say to me
‘You sell this marijuana, and I will buy you a meal.’ When I was in the streets I had no hope at all. I had no hope that I would ever get out of it.”

One morning in church, the pastor promised to share something special with the children who stayed. Mwita, who had been living in the streets for several days, who had feared for his life through one harrowing night, felt too tired to run, too frightened to return to the streets.

The pastor talked about a new friend—Jesus—and Mwita listened intently. He needed a new friend. But his experience with friends was defeating. “When they talked about the Wonderful Friend, I thought about how all my old friends had changed my life in a bad way,” Mwita said. When Operation Christmas Child volunteers handed him a shoebox stuffed with gifts, he hesitated to open it. Gifts from friends often came with obligation. He opened his box at home, alone, and found a soccer ball, toy trucks and a T-shirt. No obligations, but a new opportunity. Volunteers invited children to classes about Jesus the next morning, and Mwita returned.

“I wanted to learn more about this wonderful friend. I learned that there is no better friend than Jesus. After understanding this, I started changing.” Mwita now waits for an opportunity to sing for the other children in church. “I don’t want any children who are orphaned to live without hope. I want them to find their hope in God,” he said. “I thank God for Operation Christmas Child, because you helped me, and you are helping other children like me, find hope. I praise God, because He changed my life.”

The Sewickley United Methodist Church family, in an effort coordinated by the Fellowship of the Cross youth, has packed 700 shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child over the past seven years. Each of those boxes has included school supplies, personal hygiene items, such as soap and toothbrushes, and toys, stuffed animals, and balls.

A year ago, the SUMC boxes were presented to children in Columbia. In previous years, SUMC boxes reached children in Ukraine, Honduras, the Bahamas, Burundi, and several other nations in Africa.

FOTC launched its 2018 shoe box campaign in May and has selected “wow” gifts—toys, stuffed animals, balls, jewelry—as our target contribution for July. In August, we will target school supplies.

In June, we targeted health and personal items, and we also need more of those, including bar soap, washcloths, toothbrushes, adhesive bandages, combs, hairbrushes, hair accessories, socks, and sunglasses.

Any gifts may be donated at any time between May and September. FOTC keeps a donation box in the narthex. Shoeboxes and financial gifts are also welcome. Operation Christmas Child does not accept toothpaste, any liquids (including shampoo), candy, or war-related items such as toy guns or knives. FOTC will again host a packing party on a Sunday morning in September or October.

For more information, or to make a financial contribution, see Pamela Mayo, Bill Utterback, or any member of the FOTC team.