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Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about Samaritan's Purse and how we work around the world in Jesus' Name through projects like Operation Christmas Child and International Crisis Response.

What is Samaritan’s Purse?

Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organisation providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world by working in international relief and development through local churches to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and demonstrate the love of God. We are part of the global Samaritan’s Purse family that has been providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world since 1970. Samaritan’s Purse has affiliate offices in the USA, Canada, Germany, Australia and Korea, as well as field offices in many of the countries we work in.

doctor and patient

Who is behind Samaritan’s Purse?

Bob Pierce founded the ministry of Samaritan’s Purse in 1970. While on a university lecturing circuit in China, he stumbled across some courageous women who were living among lepers and orphans, sacrificing everything to share the love of Jesus Christ. Through their selfless love, God gave Pierce a vision for ministry. He dedicated himself to finding and supporting other such Christians who were caring for the poor and suffering in the distant corners of the world.

In the summer of 1973, Bob Pierce met his eventual successor, Franklin Graham, who had a growing heart for world mission. Intrigued by his many stories from the field, Franklin began to spend more and more time with the seasoned Christian statesman. In 1975, he accompanied Bob on a life-changing tour of some of the world’s neediest mission fields. Franklin saw not just poverty but the utter despair of people who had not been touched by the love of Christ. God had captured his heart for these people.

In 1978, Bob Pierce died of leukaemia, and nearly 18 months later, Franklin became the president and chairman of the board of Samaritan’s Purse. Through more than 30 years of earthquakes, hurricanes, wars, and famine, Franklin has led the ministry in following the Biblical example of the Good Samaritan all across the globe. God has blessed the organisation under Franklin’s leadership, and the ministry has seen incredible growth.

Samaritan’s Purse was launched in the UK in 1990 by the legendary Dr Billy Graham following his visit to Scotland. After just 12 months, Samaritan’s Purse UK had a support base of over four thousand people from a cross-section of individual Christians and churches in the UK.

Today, we are one of the top 50 UK charities by income size, and we are part of a number of national and international networks including BOND, End Water Poverty, StopAIDS, and Evangelical Alliance/Global Connections.

What projects do you have?

Samaritan’s Purse has many different projects around the world that help support vulnerable people in need, such as International Crisis Response; Operation Christmas Child; Clean Water Projects; Animals, Agriculture and Livelihoods; Medical Ministries; The Greatest Journey; and Women at Risk.

How can I partner with Samaritan’s Purse?

There are many ways for you to partner with Samaritan’s Purse. Prayer is always the most powerful form of supporting the ministry work we do. It also supports our vision to see transformation—of both individual lives and whole communities. 

Making a financial gift to a project of Samaritan’s Purse assists us in meeting the ongoing needs of some of the most vulnerable individuals and providing funding to development projects around the world. We have a mailing list to keep supporters up to date with our projects and crisis deployments. You can sign up on our homepage.

Do you have to be a Christian to support Samaritan’s Purse?

We welcome all supporters who want to be a part of the work that Samaritan’s Purse does across the world. The aid given to those in need is provided to people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions. 

What type of donations do you take?

Samaritan’s Purse accepts donations by cheque, cash, charity vouchers and pledges, BACS transfers, and credit and debit card payments. You can give a regular monthly, quarterly, or yearly donation by direct debit or standing order. We can also take donations by credit or debit card, or set up direct debits over the phone. For more information, please call our Donor Services team on 0208 559 1180, and a member of our friendly team will be happy to help you.  

Do you take donations of medical supplies or other essential items?

Unfortunately, this is not something we are currently able to accept, as it is not logistically possible for us, but please check back as we may have capacity for this in the near future.

How can I volunteer to help during a disaster?

The Samaritan’s Purse International Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) is committed to meeting the critical needs of victims of war, poverty, famine, disease, and natural disaster. We stand ready to respond at a moment’s notice whenever and wherever disaster strikes. The DART specialises in providing water, food, shelter, and medical care while sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The DART is composed of a roster of on-call professionals trained to respond at short notice.

Our DART members work in the midst of devastation and tragedy. We need flexible people who can overcome daunting logistical challenges to bring help to those who need it most. If this is something you would like to know more about, visit our DART page here.

child with shoebox gift in Namibia

What is Operation Christmas Child?

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse. Our mission is to provide local partners around the world with shoeboxes filled with fun toys, school supplies, accessories, and personal care items as a means of reaching out to children in their own communities with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We ship these simple gifts outside the United Kingdom to children affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine, and disease.

Who started Operation Christmas Child?

The programme was started in the United Kingdom in 1990 by Dave and Jill Cooke. Three years after this beginning, the Wales-based shoebox gift project merged in a partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, allowing us to share 20 years of expertise in relief and aid work and expand the reach of the shoebox gifts to more than 28,000 children that year. Every year since, Samaritan’s Purse has collected shoebox gifts filled with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items for children around the world. Since 1993, more than 209 million children in more than 170 countries and territories have received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox. The project delivers not only the joy of what, for many kids, is their first gift ever, but also gives them a tangible expression of God’s love.

How does a shoebox gift impact a child in need?

Operation Christmas Child allows local churches overseas to reach out in love and meet the spiritual needs of children in their communities. A shoebox is an unexpected gift that delights and sparks hope in the life of a child as they hear of Jesus’ love for them. Shoebox gifts are given freely in Jesus’ Name.

Who delivers shoebox gifts?

Operation Christmas Child is a global programme facilitated through hundreds of thousands of trained volunteers. Local believers in more than 170 countries deliver Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts, present the Gospel, and facilitate our follow-up discipleship programme, The Greatest Journey.

With this approach, local Christians who know the culture and language best are given effective resources with a solid Biblical foundation to share the Gospel in their communities. We equip ministry partners—local pastors or church leaders—to be our volunteer representatives by providing thorough, detailed training for them to facilitate a shoebox outreach event and present the Gospel.

Trained National Leadership Team members, ministry partners, and The Greatest Journey teachers are volunteer roles filled exclusively by these national Christians.

How can I partner with Operation Christmas Child?

You can partner with Operation Christmas Child through prayer, giving, or serving.

What size shoebox should I use?

You are welcome to use any empty shoebox, but we find medium sized boxes are ideal. As a rough guide the dimensions of our preprinted shoeboxes are 18cm x 10.5cm x 28.5cm. Larger boxes are accepted but can be more costly to send as fewer are able to fit into a shipping carton. Keeping shoeboxes a similar size helps us with practical aspects of transporting and distributing them. It also allows children to receive similar sized gifts.

What items can I put in a box?

We suggest packing a selection of fun toys, school supplies, accessories, and personal care items. You can find further guidance on what can and cannot be packed here

When is the deadline for getting my shoebox gift to you?

Around a thousand drop-off locations open across the UK during National Collection Week in November (dates coming soon).

Do you open my box before it gets to the child?

All boxes need to be checked by a volunteer at one of our processing centres to ensure the contents are appropriate and suitable for customs purposes in the receiving country. We understand and respect that you carefully choose the items you include in your shoebox gifts. Volunteers at our processing centres are trained to remove only items on the “Do Not Include” list. Any items that must be removed because they cannot be shipped are donated to local charities who need these items. We do not empty and repack your gifts, nor do we remove items from a very full shoebox to help fill another. 

Can I tape my box shut?

We prefer that you secure your shoebox gifts with rubber bands. This way gifts can be processed more efficiently at our Processing Centres. If wrapping your gift, be sure to wrap the box and lid separately so that it can be easily opened without ruining the wrapping.

Can I find out where my shoebox went?

Yes, if you make your project donation online you will receive a “follow your box” barcode to print and place inside your shoebox. This will be scanned during processing, and we will let you know the country or region your gift was sent to by the end of January. 

Do children have to say or do anything to receive a shoebox gift?

Shoebox gifts are given to children regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or faith. We seek to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way through each shoebox gift. Children do not have to do or say anything to receive the gifts. We work through local Christians who understand the context in their area. Simple gifts—packed with love in Jesus’ Name—deliver hope and joy to children all around the world, regardless of their faith or religious background.

Is this project forcing religion on the child who gets a gift?

Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child seek to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way through each shoebox gift. One of our core values is to never be manipulative. Our volunteers understand the culture in each country and are respectful to the people they serve. At the same time, we do seek to share the Gospel wherever we go, which can be challenging at times. In some regions, we are not permitted to distribute literature, but we are still grateful for the opportunity to bless the children with gift boxes carefully prepared by people who want them to know they are loved. 

Do you put Christian literature into the shoeboxes before they are shipped?

We do not put Christian literature into shoeboxes before they are shipped.  Where possible, the local church or Christian partner distributing the shoeboxes will offer children a free copy of a Bible story booklet in their own language. This colourful child-friendly booklet shares the Good News of the Gospel and is called The Greatest Gift. 

What is The Greatest Gift?

The Greatest Gift Gospel booklet, available in more than 90 languages, is given out alongside shoebox gifts. With the Apostle John as narrator, the booklet shares 11 Bible stories in a child-friendly manner and invites children to learn more about and follow Jesus.

Does a child have to attend The Greatest Journey before they receive a shoebox gift?

No, The Greatest Journey is an optional follow-up course that may be offered after a child has received a shoebox gift. The Greatest Journey is offered free of charge, without obligation, and usually with the consent of the child’s parent or guardian. Read more about The Greatest Journey here

How do shoebox gifts impact local economies?

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to provide local churches that are our ministry partners around the world with shoebox gifts as a way to reach children in their communities. For many children, this is the first gift they will ever receive. The gifts are an opportunity to share God’s love—and the Good News of Jesus Christ—with children in need.

In each shoebox receiving country, we partner with a National Leadership Team that consists of year-round volunteers from various church denominations. Together, they strategise how to reach children in their country with the Gospel. It is our desire to give one shoebox to a child in his or her lifetime, and this is the model used in our training. Local churches distribute shoebox gifts to children in different communities each year to avoid giving the same children gifts year after year. Because of this strategy, the economic impact on a community is minimal and allows us to reach millions of new children every year with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We disciple thousands of these boys and girls each year, with millions now sharing their faith with their friends, family, and beyond.

According to Henry Manthanamba, our Operation Christmas Child prayer coordinator in Malawi, “If shoebox gifts impacted our local economy negatively, the government would never allow them. They see it as a blessing to the children of Malawi.”

How are different cultures and local contexts incorporated into shoebox distribution events?

More than 75,000 pastors and church leaders share the Gospel every year at outreach events where shoebox gifts are delivered. The shoebox outreach events are planned and implemented by volunteers in the local church who know the culture and language best. Through our volunteer National Leadership Team, local believers are trained to present the Gospel in a child-friendly way. We work with the volunteer National Leadership Team to develop an annual strategy for evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication of believers and churches in their communities.

How do you use the project donation for each shoebox?

Your project donation of £5 covers collection costs, processing costs, shipping to the destination country, training for local churches, and project materials. 

Can you donate to Operation Christmas Child via cash or cheque?

Yes. Giving online remains the most efficient way to give towards covering essential project costs and allows you to discover where your shoebox was sent. However, if you are not able to give online, you can donate by cheque using the prepaid postal envelope in our “How to Pack a Shoebox” leaflet to return donations directly to us, or by posting it to: Samaritan's Purse, Richardson Way, Cross Point Business Park, Coventry CV2 2TA. Cheques should be made payable to Samaritan’s Purse and can cover multiple boxes. Follow Your Box is only available for online donations. 

Which age group receives the most Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts?

On an average year, we tend to receive the most shoebox gifts for our 5-9 age category and the least for the 2-4 age group. 

How do I follow my box?

Make a donation through our Follow Your Box facility to receive a unique bar-code. You must print this bar-code and place it inside your shoebox. If you are donating for multiple shoeboxes, please place a copy of your bar-code in each. The specific bar-code is connected to your email address, which enables us to scan each shoebox gift during processing and notify you regarding how to discover the destination country of your gifts.

boy with shoebox gift

Is there a place I can enter my bar-code to track my shoebox gifts?

We do not currently have a lookup tool feature. 

Once the bar-codes have been scanned, we will send you an email towards the end of January with a link to discover the destination of your shoebox gift(s). 

If you have not received an email by mid-February please email occsocialmedia@samaritans-purse.org.uk

I paid my Operation Christmas Child shipping donation online, but I have not received an email telling me how to discover where my shoeboxes went.

Bar-codes are only provided when you donate through the “Donate and Follow Your Box” section of our website. By donating online, participants receive a unique bar-code that must be printed and placed inside each of your shoeboxes. The unique bar-code on the label is scanned during the shipment process.

If you included a bar-code in your shoebox and have not received your Follow Your Box email by mid-February, it may be worth checking your junk/spam/promotions folders and emailing email occsocialmedia@samaritans-purse.org.uk.

Please note: Covering your bar-code with tape or damaging it in any way could affect scanning, as could using an ink-saving printing mode. This may prevent us from tracking your gift.

Will I get an email for each shoebox I packed?

You will receive one email towards the end of January with a link to discover the destination(s) of your shoebox(es). The link will show you all the different destinations scanned for bar-codes linked to your email address. If you packed multiple boxes and all your boxes went to the same location, just one destination will be shown.

Will I receive information about the child who receives my shoebox?

No. You can discover the country your box was sent to, but unfortunately we are not able to provide pictures or information on the specific child who receives your shoebox.

Why does the destination information indicate that my shoebox gift was sent to a region, not a specific country?

Many countries in areas such as Central Asia or the Middle East are considered sensitive countries for Operation Christmas Child. For the safety of our partners working in the region, we are unable to be more specific about the country destination if your box was shipped to one of these countries. We have, however, shared some insights and stories from hard-to-reach areas around the world and hope you will enjoy them.

Can I select where my shoebox gift is sent?

Each year globally we collect and distribute millions of shoebox gifts in over 100 countries and territories. Because of the tremendous growth of Operation Christmas Child, the logistics involved in collecting, processing, and distributing this many boxes prevent us from designating specific boxes for certain countries or climates in advance. We can assure you that whoever receives your box will need and appreciate your gift.

I packed cold weather items in my shoebox, and it went to a warm weather country. What can I do?

There is no way for us to designate which country shoebox gifts are sent to based on the contents of the box. However, it is our experience that items like hats and gloves are enjoyed in a range of climates. In fact, putting on these items is often the first thing a child does upon opening their shoebox gift. If you have concerns, we suggest packing items that can be enjoyed wherever the box is sent.

Can I send a second shoebox gift to the same child who received my box or sponsor the child who received my shoebox gift?

Operation Christmas Child is unable to facilitate this. However, you are welcome to include personal contact information at your own discretion in hopes of establishing communication with the child who receives your gift. With a £5 donation to The Greatest Journey, you can also sponsor one shoebox recipient’s complete participation in our follow-up discipleship program, including workbook, graduation certificate, and a copy of the New Testament written in his or her own language. Samaritan’s Purse also has a gift catalogue with a variety of items that support the needs of children and families outside of shoebox gifts.

boys reading The Greatest Journey book

What is the purpose of The Greatest Journey programme alongside Operation Christmas Child?

The Greatest Journey consists of 12 fun and interactive Bible-based lessons delivered through local churches to children who receive Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. It is offered in the children’s native language as a follow-up to shoebox outreach events. Local teachers are trained to lead children through the course and equipped with the knowledge to continue children’s ministry once the programme is complete. A graduation ceremony and certificate is offered to children who complete all 12 lessons. Every graduate will also receive a copy of a New Testament in their own language at the graduation event.

Who developed The Greatest Journey?

The Greatest Journey was developed as a response to a global need for a non-Western Biblical children’s curriculum, in partnership with some of the world’s leading children’s curriculum experts. Development was conducted by Samaritan’s Purse in partnership with Logosdor and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Development included representatives from various continents and input was collected from 30 countries.

How does The Greatest Journey impact the local church?

The Greatest Journey equips the local church with training and resources to connect personally with children in their community and to help them find their own faith in Jesus Christ. It provides Biblical resources that the church may not otherwise afford and emphasises the value of children’s ministry. Children who participate often want to continue attending the church, sometimes bringing their families with them.

Samaritan’s Purse equips local churches around the world with training and materials to teach The Greatest Journey.

How long has The Greatest Journey been a part of Operation Christmas Child?

The Greatest Journey curriculum development was launched in 2008. The first classes were successfully launched in 2009-10 in Latin America. Samaritan’s Purse continues to introduce the programme to new countries each year as funding and capacity grows. Since 2009, over 35 million children have enrolled, and 1.7 million teachers have been trained. It is now taught in over 100 countries.

If a child receives a shoebox gift, are they automatically enrolled in The Greatest Journey programme?

Not every child who receives a shoebox has the opportunity to participate in The Greatest Journey. We estimate that 75% of the children given a shoebox are eligible to participate. The Greatest Journey is offered free of charge, without obligation and with the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.

Some countries where shoeboxes are distributed have strict regulations on the distribution of evangelical literature, thus keeping us from offering The Greatest Journey in such countries. There are also children who are at a non-literate age (2-4 years) who will not participate.

Over 200 million children have received shoebox gifts since the programme began and more than 35 million children have taken part in The Greatest Journey programme.

How long does it take for the children to complete the lessons?

The Greatest Journey curriculum is a 12-lesson course. Our local partners are taking several different approaches to this design. Most are offering one lesson a week.

Do illiterate children have the opportunity to participate in The Greatest Journey?

Illiterate children are not necessarily excluded from participating in The Greatest Journey. The curriculum intentionally includes artwork that helps teachers tell the Biblical stories to low-literate or non-literate children. Although the educational level aims for 8- to 12-year-old children, the lessons are designed to be usable even with children who have difficulty reading.

How much does the programme cost per child?

Just £5 ensures the child is led by trained local teachers, as well as providing all the fun study materials they need and a copy of the New Testament in their own language, so they can continue their own journey after graduation.

Who teaches the lessons?

Local churches identify and encourage members and teachers to volunteer to attend training and disciple children through The Greatest Journey. An average class is around 30 students and could take place as part of children’s ministry during the Sunday service, at after-school clubs, children’s camps, or a school classroom.

What happens after the children complete the programme?

We celebrate! At the end of each course, the teacher puts together a celebration for the children and their families. Each child receives a certificate recognising his or her accomplishment. In most cases, the graduate is given a New Testament. The churches are trained to use these events as outreach opportunities to build relationships with the children’s families.

What impact can The Greatest Journey have on communities?

The Greatest Journey serves as a catalytic resource for many local churches to proclaim Jesus Christ and study Scripture through discipleship relationships. It often serves as a platform to encourage and train local churches to be witnesses of Christ in their communities. In some cases, churches have used this in coordination with their church planting strategies. The Greatest Journey is an investment not only in the children themselves but also in the teachers and the local churches that can learn, grow, and continue to know and serve Christ with the momentum that has been gained.

Children hear the Gospel and believe, but does it last?

It is the intent of Operation Christmas Child that The Greatest Journey will be used to connect children to the Word of God and to local churches. We want them to have a personal and ongoing relationship with another believer to receive God’s Word and learn more about what it means to follow Christ. This is the work of the Holy Spirit through God’s Word. Local churches can proclaim, instruct, and disciple the children, and this is why it is important for Samaritan’s Purse to equip the church to build personal relationships with the children.

In the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20), the seeds of evangelism are scattered. Some seeds sprout quickly and are choked by weeds, others wither under the sun because they lack roots, and others are eaten by birds. Yet some fall on fertile soil and produce a harvest of up to 100 times.

Operation Christmas Child is investing in the fertile soil. Once seeds (shoebox gifts) are scattered, they may take root, mature, and multiply their harvest. This emphasises the critical role of discipleship, and The Greatest Journey is that tool for nurturing the harvest.

How can I support The Greatest Journey?

You can give a child the opportunity to participate in The Greatest Journey. Your donation will provide a trained teacher, a colourful workbook, a certificate, and a New Testament in the child’s own language. Learn more here.

Will you really make up and send out my online shoebox?

Yes, we make up and send out each shoebox created online. Each gift you choose online will have a corresponding gift packed inside an actual shoebox. On some occasions, we may have to substitute one gift for another similar gift if stocks run out.

How have you worked out the prices of the gifts?

Each gift price is better than average high-street or online prices, and we buy all of our gifts in bulk to achieve this. When sourcing these items, it is important to us that they are good quality gifts the children will love. Your Shoebox Online donation also includes a project donation to cover the cost of shipping your shoebox gifts and providing training and project materials for local churches overseas to run the Operation Christmas Child outreach events where children receive shoebox gifts. Any surplus funds from your Shoebox Online donation go towards covering the cost of purchasing shoeboxes, running Shoebox Online, and the work of Samaritan’s Purse with children and families around the world.

Where will the actual shoeboxes be created?

We have a warehouse in Coventry where our dedicated staff and volunteers will assemble the shoeboxes, fill them with your gifts and messages, and prepare them to be shipped overseas.

When will the child receive my shoebox?

Many of our online shoeboxes will arrive in time for Christmas. However, because it will take time to purchase the gifts, assemble and pack each shoebox, and prepare them for shipment, some online shoeboxes will not arrive in time for Christmas, especially those packed later or travelling further afield, e.g., Africa. However, each shoebox will end up in the hands of a child in need in the next few months, extending the joy of the Christmas season.

Can you tell me where my online shoebox will go?

We do not currently have the ‘Follow Your Box’ function for Shoebox Online gifts, but you will receive an email letting you know which countries our Shoebox Online gifts were sent to.