Sailors Brave Difficult Seas to Deliver Shoebox Gifts in the Pacific

4th August 2022

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A missionary team from the Marshall Islands sails to an isolated atoll to host Operation Christmas Child outreach events.

A team of seven recently set sail on a 57-foot boat named Cloud Nine with cartons of Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts on board. Their destination? An isolated part of Kwajalein Atoll. Home to some 11,000 people scattered across 100 small islands, Kwajalein Atoll is a part of the Marshall Islands, a nation located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Indonesia. Situated on a more than 1,000-square-mile coral reef and featuring one of the world’s largest lagoons, the atoll is an isolated place at the ends of the earth that even boats find tricky to access.

Girls from the Kwajalein Atoll delight in exploring the gifts inside their shoeboxes.

Girls from the Kwajalein Atoll delight in exploring the gifts inside their shoeboxes.

“We had a very rough sail there, and when we got inside the lagoon it was not great weather or anchorage, but we felt safe,” said Katie, a missionary to the Marshall Islands who sailed together with her husband Scott, the captain of the ketch.

When they reached the island of Mejatto, another smaller boat shuttled them ashore with the cartons of shoeboxes. Here they held an outreach event in which they shared the Gospel in a child-friendly manner and distributed 96 gift-filled shoeboxes that were packed with care by people from around the world. Moved by these tangible expressions of God’s love and the stories from Scripture, a total of 87 children accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour at the event!

Before receiving their shoebox gifts, children learn about God’s Greatest Gift—Jesus Christ.

Before receiving their shoebox gifts, children learn about God’s Greatest Gift—Jesus Christ.

“It was an amazing outreach,” said Katie, but while the team was ashore distributing the shoeboxes the weather turned in the lagoon. Thankfully, Captain Scott had stayed back on Cloud Nine to guide it through the huge squall that dragged their anchor 148 feet.

“A little scary since the only thing behind us was reef,” said Katie, “but he was able to reset the anchor and make our vessel secure for the night.”

Forgotten No More

The next day, the team visited neighbouring Ebadon, known as the forgotten island. The boat shuttle owner had warned them that they only had five hours to get in and out during high tide. Otherwise, the water level gets too low for even the shuttle to travel because the reef is so large.

A missionary team from the Marshall Islands hosts an outreach event to present the Gospel to children of the Kwajalein Atoll.

A missionary team from the Marshall Islands hosts an outreach event to present the Gospel to children of the Kwajalein Atoll.

Undeterred by the time constraints, the team loaded the shoebox gifts onto the shuttle and set off to serve the island with a population of just 74. When they made it ashore, Kebot—who is the acting mayor, principal, and teacher all rolled into one—warmly welcomed them and escorted them to the school where the outreach event was to be held. There amid lots of singing and skits, the team presented the Gospel again and 47 children received fun-filled shoebox gifts. We praise God that 41 of these boys and girls also trusted in Christ as their Lord and Saviour!

The team left the island grateful for all that God had accomplished, wearing gifts of shell leis and Marshallese headdresses from the residents of Ebadon.

Operation Christmas Child outreach events in the Marshall Islands are part of a broader Pacific Islands initiative in which Samaritan’s Purse is seeking to reach 500,000 children on 1,000 Pacific islands with a gift-filled shoebox and a presentation of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wonder fills the eyes of children as they await opening their shoebox gifts!

Wonder fills the eyes of children as they await opening their shoebox gifts!

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