The teenage years can be a challenging time for many young people, but Natalia faces more challenges than most.
Growing up in a remote village in Moldova, Natalia lives with her father Vasilli, mother Clava and elder brother Arin. Their house is comfortable but basic, with no running water and limited space, meaning their lounge doubles as a bedroom. They are grateful to have some internal heating but this can be intermittent and when the heating fails they rely on a log burner to keep warm in the colder months.
A year ago, Natalia’s mother Clava became seriously ill and fell into a coma.
Natalia recalls, ‘It was very difficult in my family. My mum was at the hospital in a coma. I felt very lonely at school.’
One day a friend invited her to attend a special event at a nearby church and she was excited to accept their invitation.
‘I’d always wanted to go to church, but I didn’t know how to approach it,’ she explained.
At the event Natalia was overjoyed to receive a shoebox gift. Her favourite item was an eye-catching Christmas card with a beautiful angel on the front. She loved exploring the many gifts inside her shoebox and was particularly happy to receive brand new hairbands and school supplies.
At the outreach event Natalia heard how much God loved her and how he gave The Greatest Gift of all – Jesus. She was intrigued and keen to learn more. When the local church partners invited her to take part in a follow up bible study programme called The Greatest Journey, in order to discover more about Jesus, she was delighted to go along.
She enjoyed the fun, interactive sessions and spending time with her new friends. During one session the group learned about prayer. Natalia began praying for her mother and their lives began to change.
She recounts, ‘We went and prayed for my mother in hospital. We cried as we were praying for her bad health situation… My mother was healed and today she joins us at church too. We have prayer times together and read the bible together every evening.’
Local Pastor and Operation Christmas Child ministry partner Ivan Sacara, speaks of many similar stories where whole families have found faith and hope through a simple shoebox gift. He said, ‘During my experience as a local pastor, I see children who after receiving their shoebox gift now attend church. Through them we are able to reach their families and share the gospel with them.’
Viorica received a shoebox gift as a child and now teaches The Greatest Journey programme in her local community. She said, ‘The Greatest Journey is a brilliant course that teaches children all about Jesus and it teaches them about God’s love… This course has offered Natalia the chance to find the Lord. I’m sure God will bless her in the future.’
National Leadership Team volunteer Lena was keen to share the impact that shoebox gifts are having in Moldova and to pass on her thanks to those who generously pack them each year:
“There are some children who have never received a gift from anyone and they have so much joy when they receive a shoebox… These shoeboxes help us to reach children of all ages… Thank you for helping us to share the Good News.”
Will you help reach even more children like Natalia with the joy of a shoebox gift and the Good News of Jesus?