Pack a Shoebox. Help a Child Refugee. Simple.

Year in and year out we hear appeals for giving and charity during the holiday season. And every year, many people donate in the spirit of Christmas not knowing the real impact of the gifts they give. But there’s one organization that families can give to this season that makes an eternal impact into the lives of kids all over the world: Operation Christmas Child.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, the international relief organization that does tremendous work in the name of Jesus all over the globe. Since 1993, folks just like you and me have given a staggering 124 million shoebox gifts to grateful kids in over 150 countries! This year alone, Operation Christmas Child has set a goal of delivering 11 million shoeboxes.

These gifts are more than just a collection of small trinkets in a box — they also include effective tools for evangelism and discipleship. When the children receive their gifts, a local pastor or church leader shares with them the reason why someone chose to give them something this Christmas, and children receive an illustrated book telling the story of Jesus in their language and on their age level.

Local churches invite the children to participate in The Greatest Journey, a 12-lesson discipleship course that not only introduces them to Jesus but teaches them how to be a lifelong follower of His. Nearly five million kids have taken part in The Greatest Journey since 2009. The gifts from Operation Christmas Child bring smiles and hope to kids who need it most, and they make an eternal impact.

Many of the children who receive shoebox gifts are orphans or refugees, and Samaritan’s Purse has been able to reach communities and people groups where other missionaries have failed to make an impact. Check out the video below to see what Operation Christmas Child is doing to help families fleeing the horrors of ISIS in Iraq.

So, how can your family help? Operation Christmas Child is no mere donate-and-done charity, though they do take donations from people who just want to give financially. The shoebox gifts are meant to be a fun, fully interactive event in which the whole family can be involved!

Families can pack shoeboxes (or similarly sized plastic containers) by selecting the gender and age group of the child they want to bless, filling the box with small gifts, praying over those gifts, and donating $7.00 to cover shipping. Online donors can even track where their donations go! The Operation Christmas Child website offers terrific suggestions and helpful directions for packing boxes.

Many churches take part in Operation Christmas Child throughout the month of November, and during National Collection Week, which takes place right before Thanksgiving, families can drop shoeboxes off at churches in or near their community. (I’m proud of my church family at Eastridge Community Church for donating at total of 192 gift boxes this year.) Outside of National Collection Week and all through the year, families can mail their shoeboxes in to Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in North Carolina or take them to one of eight distribution centers across the country. Or, for only $25.00, Operation Christmas Child will pack the shoebox for you.

Volunteers can even serve at a distribution center. Taylor McCart and Amanda Trainer, both seniors at the University of Georgia, recently spent a day working at one of the centers.

“It was an awesome experience to be able to see the amount of love and hard work that goes into each box,” said McCart. “And throughout our shift they were in a constant state of prayer for the boxes and the people that they would encounter. Along with that, everyone was in such an upbeat mood.”

“Serving at the distribution center really put into perspective the impact Operation Christmas Child has on so many children,” said Trainer. “We were only serving for one shift, one day, at one center and there were hundreds of thousands of boxes!  I can’t imagine how many boxes they receive from all the other states! To think that each of those box would bring a smile to a child’s face was incredible!”

This Christmas season, please consider giving a gift through Operation Christmas Child. Not only will you bless a child this Christmas, but you could also make a difference that will literally ripple through eternity. Is there a better way to embody the spirit of the holidays?