Sending hope in a shoe box
December 21st, 2010
11:26 AM ET

Sending hope in a shoe box

Sixteen-year-old Valery Bianco and his 13-year-old sister Marina Bianco take extra care in preparing and wrapping their shoe box gifts for "Operation Christmas Child."

They know firsthand what these gifts could mean to a child.

"I was almost 10 when I received my shoe box, and it was touching to receive a gift as an orphan, someone people don't care about," Valery says.

Those shoe boxes were the first gifts that Valery and Marina received during their life at a Russian orphanage.

Read the full story about Operation Christmas Child a charity run by Franklin Graham.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Charity • Christianity

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. vel

    always nice to see that children will always have help given to them held hostage by proselytizing Christians. Too bad they can't respect the religions the kids were brought up in. I'm sure they'd be horrified if someone tried to give children tracts on Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, etc. Heck I'm sure they'd have a fit if the Roman Catholics gave them tracts, since horrors if someone recruits for another sect. It's always so cute to watch Christians spend huge amounts of money trying to convert each other to what they each consider the ony "true" version of Christianity.

    December 22, 2010 at 10:21 am |
    • well read

      @Vel, I don't see how these children are forced to do anything. The boxes are free. They come with a tract. Follow-up information is made available IF desired by the recipient.
      As far as being held hostge, I think the first-hand accounts from the children receiving these boxes illustrate that the gifts are liberating rather than confining.
      My small group of young adults put together over 40 of these boxes this year and we hope to do over 70 next year. We just want kids to have a good Christmas. If they begin a relationship with Jesus as a result of the materials in the boxes, even better. If they don't, then at least they got to have a present to open for Christmas, and they know that 15 young people cared enough to give gifts to people they will never meet.
      As far as protheletizing, I encourage you to watch the video Penn Gillett, and avowed athiest, made about a gift that a Christian gave him. We believe that we have found a relationship that will save us from an eternity of torment. We would have to really hate someone to not tell them about it.

      Merry Christmas

      December 22, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
    • NL

      If they come with a tract isn't that like mcdonald's happy meals, where the toys in the shoe box are just the lure to get the kids hooked on the real product, the religion?

      December 22, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  2. inghands10

    hope for a friend


    December 22, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  3. Reality

    Unfortunately Franklin Graham is associated with this endeavor:

    To wit:

    There are always economics built into one's beliefs. For example, is Franklin Graham involved because there is money to be made off these kids? Unless he and others in the business of making good income from books, etc. on religion, secularism, or atheism take a vow of poverty, we will never know.

    Some examples: from guidestar.org

    Rev. Franklin Graham $800,000+/yr.
    Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield $331,708/yr
    Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, $200,000/yr
    Erica Brown $134,221/yr
    Eboo Patel $120,000/yr.
    Dr. Herb Silverman $100,000/yr
    Sarah Palin?

    For the latest salary issues with the Grahams see:


    an excerpt:

    "CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Concerns about his rising financial compensation during tough economic times have prompted evangelist Franklin Graham to temporarily give up future contributions to his retirement plans at the two Christian charities he leads.

    As president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, he receives two full-time salaries and two retirement packages. Last year his total compensation from the two Christian ministries was $1.2 million.

    The size of Graham's total 2008 compensation - $535,000 from Samaritan's Purse and $669,000 from Charlotte, N.C.-based BGEA - drew questions from nonprofit experts. They doubted that one person - even the energetic, globe-trotting Graham - can do two full-time jobs when those positions are head of organizations that employ hundreds and spend hundreds of millions around the world.

    As head of the Boone, N.C.-based Samaritan's Purse, Graham earned more last year than any other leader of an international relief agency based in the United States. That includes eight with larger budgets, according to data compiled by Guidestar, a group that monitors non-profits.

    Graham, 57, and his two boards of directors pointed out that most of his 2008 compensation came not from increases in his salaries, which have remained flat in recent years, but from accelerated contributions to his retirement. The boards said they were playing catch-up - Graham received no retirement during his first few years at the two organizations - and were hoping to satisfy his goal of working for free when he reaches age 70.

    In addition, Graham and the boards said, nearly half of what he received last year from BGEA - $300,000 - was deferred retirement money that had been committed and reported over three previous years. Under new IRS rules, which have affected other nonprofit CEOs, the money had to be re-reported as a lump sum in 2008, the year Graham became vested.

    Even with that $300,000 - plus accrued interest - taken out, Graham's compensation at BGEA rose 21 percent in 2008, from $250,000 to $303,000. The median increase for CEOs of nonprofits in 2008 was 7 percent, according to an annual survey released last week by the Journal of Philanthropy.

    Graham acknowledged last week that his compensation total "looks terrible" and that "people won't understand it."

    News of his pay hike also comes only months after BGEA laid off more than 10 percent of its staff. "

    December 21, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
    • NL

      "The November 2002 Samaritan’s Purse (Canada) Newsletter quotes Franklin Graham: “I believe God has blessed this program because it is about more than Christmas presents. .. As long as evangelism is the focus, God will continue to bless it… Shoe box gifts are distributed along with The Greatest Gift of All, an illustrated booklet that gives a clear presentation of the true meaning of Christmas … After the shoe boxes are distributed, we also provide follow-up materials to give children further opportunities to accept Christ and grow in their faith. One such discipleship program enrolls boys and girls in a 10-lesson Bible study.”


      December 21, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
  4. Betsy

    What and awesome use of a shoe box! It's good to hear from someone who has actually received one and to know that they do make a positive impact. I will never think of shoe boxes the same way again.

    December 21, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  5. David Johnson


    Yep, include your pictures. Make sure you get credit for your box.

    Blessed are the people who can do things without wanting thanks or admiration.


    December 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      David Johnson,

      So when you gift your mother do you sign your name to the card? We all know now, David, any time you sign your name to a get well card, birthday card, Christmas card, any card, you do so for the recognition. Do you expect recognition when you send a ‘thank you’ card, also?

      December 21, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • Connie

      David, God loves you. I mean that very seriously. No matter what you say about Him or His believers, He loves you very much.

      December 21, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
    • David Johnson


      What does that have to do with people's need for recognition for what they give?

      December 21, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
  6. LivewithFlair

    Our family loves Operation Christmas Child, and we even put photos of ourselves and our address. I've heard of families being able to connect with children through letters all year long. My daughters watch the video on the Operation Christmas Child website, and they learn about the needs of children all over the world. We want to do more than just a shoebox!

    December 21, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  7. David Johnson

    Yep! Giving gifts to children, without trying to sell Jesus. I love it! Missionaries take note!!

    December 21, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
    • NL

      Oh, they still preach through OCC apparently. From OCC's own site FAQs

      A. 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.

      The charity has it's critics.


      December 21, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
  8. ScottK

    One, cut a hole in a box
    Two, put your hope in that box
    Three, make her open the box
    And thats the way you do it..
    Its my hope in a box!!

    December 21, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
  9. Bob

    What a solid group of individuals. Cudos to them.

    December 21, 2010 at 11:53 am |
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