Otilia – The memory of receiving a shoebox has remained with me throughout my life

Otilia – The memory of receiving a shoebox has remained with me throughout my life

10th September 2018

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My name is Otilia, although some people call me ‘Tilly’.  I am from Romania and I received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox 20 years ago.

I grew up in a city called Targoviste, with my parents and two younger sisters. We had a loving childhood and my parents worked really hard so that we had what we needed. I am so thankful for them. We lived in a flat in the city centre. Romania at the time was a communist country. Times were tough; many families did not have much money and Christians were persecuted. Food was rationed and we would often queue for our rations of oil, flour and bread. My dad was a welder and my mum worked as a secretary. My parents used to work the same shift regularly. This meant that I was brought up to be very independent from a very young age. Both my parents were Christians and when the revolution took place in 1989, although it was still difficult being a Christian, there was more freedom and the church flourished as a result. During Communism churches were exiled to the countryside but when it, fell churches began to move into the cities. My family and I were heavily involved in our local church and attended many activities. Church was central part of our family life. When I was seven years old I used to go by myself to the kids’ club at church on a Saturday. I always really looked forward to this, and seeing my friends there.

Christmas in Romania is a very special time and I loved it. Much of our time as a family was focused on church; we got together on Christmas Eve and celebrated the birth of Jesus. On this Christmas Eve at church the children (about 50 or 60 of us) were all smartly dressed in black skirts and white shirts, ready for our evening Christmas performance, celebrating the birth of Jesus with songs, poems and Bible verses. At the end of the service our youth leader told us that he had a surprise for us, and presented each of us with a shoebox. I remember the great joy that I had when I received my shoebox.

It was amazing seeing all that joy, all the smiles, and all the enthusiastic children that could hardly wait for their turn to get a shoebox. I remember all the items in my shoebox. At that time in Romania we only had a very limited choice of products manufactured in the Soviet Union, so it seemed like all the items in the shoeboxes were the best I had ever seen, the colouring pencils produced the best colours, the toys were the most exciting and the hat and gloves were the warmest I’d ever had. The special item inside my shoebox was the hat. I loved it so much. So much so that I still have it today, 20 years later. Receiving a gift at Christmas was amazing. We did not usually receive gifts at Christmas. Sometime my dad would have received fruit and sweets from his employer and this would have been given to me and my sisters as our Christmas gift. The memory of receiving an Operation Christmas Child shoebox made that Christmas extra special and has remained with me throughout my life.

I really appreciated that someone I’d never met would send me such a lovely gift, all because of the love of Jesus. For that reason, every year since I married and moved to England, I’ve packed and sent shoeboxes myself, because I know myself the joy that the child who receives it will have, and I hope that each and every shoebox will help millions of children around the world realise how great is God’s love for them.

This ministry is amazing, I pray that God will touch many more hearts all beginning with a simple shoebox.

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