Inna’s Shoebox Story

13th December 2022

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“Receiving a shoebox remains one of my best childhood memories.”

Never in my life could I have imagined that one day I would run away from war. My grandmother used to tell us how difficult life was for them. When I was growing up, I was surprised that in the attic they always kept a bag of flour, salt, groats, and matches. Now I understand why.

Let’s go back a little to February 2022. I had moved away from my parents, had a great ministry, a job I loved, and friends. Life felt perfect, until everything changed. I will never forget the morning of February 24: I woke up to the sounds of explosions. The war had begun. There were many questions in my head. My father contacted me to check I was ok and told me to buy food and water. My boss also called and offered for me to stay with her for a while so that I wouldn’t be scared at home alone.

The head of my team decided we should leave Ukraine. I had five minutes to pack my things and I realised that my life fits into one small suitcase and backpack. What normally would be a 15-hour journey was to take us 5 days. We didn’t have much food and sometimes there were air raids. Once we even got stuck in a swamp and had to push the car. I was travelling with three other women, five children and a driver.

God miraculously brought my dad to Poland two days before the start of the war, and we were on our way to meet him there. The conditions were uncomfortable, but we were alive.

I prayed and did not understand what to do next. There were so many questions in my head and not many answers. Then one morning my mother received a message from her sister that Samaritan’s Purse was helping Ukrainians to leave for England through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.

It was then that I caught a memory from my childhood of when I was 6 years old and how I got my shoebox for the first time. We had just moved to Talne then, and those were difficult times for my family. Receiving a shoebox remains one of my best childhood memories. My favourite gift was a lovely set of coloured crayons. My family were not able to buy such things and I was excited to use them.

A pack of colourful crayons

I also received a letter with an address. I think this letter is the reason why I wanted to learn to speak English and many years later I am now fluent. It also started a dream for me to visit London one day. To be honest, I forgot about this dream because it is difficult to get a visa to London, but nothing is impossible for God. I could not believe my happiness when I received a letter confirming that I would live in London and that my host family was waiting for me.

Samaritan’s Purse has always been a part of my life. At first, my mother volunteered with them, and then I grew up and began to help with shoebox outreach events too. Now I can see the heart of service of those packing and sending the gifts as well. I am incredibly happy to be a part of this ministry here in England. Each shoebox gift is an opportunity to share the Good News of new life and hope in Jesus with a child and encourage them in their journey of faith.

Thank you for packing shoebox gifts for children around the world. Operation Christmas Child is a great way to show God’s love unconditionally. It is an incredible ministry that blesses children and has an impact on their future.

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