Faith & Service

Packed with care: Students experience Operation Christmas Child shoebox delivery

February 26, 2019

Liberty University freshman Joy Nicholson will never look at a shoebox the same way again.

She, along with five members of her community group (made up of students on her residence hall), traveled to Trinidad and Tobago in January to deliver boxes filled with gifts for children as part of Operation Christmas Child (OCC), a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse.

“I think I’ll always pack a shoebox now,” Nicholson said. “It was incredible to see how God provided for the children through their boxes. Every box a child opened seemed to have something in it that the specific child needed.”

The group was chosen by Samaritan’s Purse and Liberty to serve as the university’s representatives on the trip. The students were selected after they created a video promoting OCC. The group dressed in nurses’ scrubs and surgical face masks and filmed themselves “operating” on the box.

The video was part of a challenge issued during Global Focus Week, when students, faculty, and staff packed nearly 5,000 boxes to break the university’s record for the most shoeboxes packed for OCC.

“God gives His love so freely to us, so we should freely give to others,” said sophomore Mackenzie Winkel. “While we were editing the video, we prayed that God would use the boxes to reveal himself to kids in need.”

The group first traveled to Boone, N.C., where they toured the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters before flying to the Caribbean. Once in Trinidad, they visited three local churches and Christian schools where shoeboxes were delivered. Over the three-day trip, they saw more than 400 children receive boxes.

“After a leader would go through the Gospel story, they would tell the kids they had a present for them,” Nicholson said. “The kids had no idea. I always thought that children knew about the shoeboxes they were going to receive, but they didn’t. They were so excited. Once they started opening them, there was a lot of screaming.”

Winkel said the trip helped her learn more about the scope of the operation.

“It wasn’t just a Christmas gift. It was a representation of the free gift of salvation God truly gives. Before the kids even knew presents were involved, you could see that they were so receptive to the Gospel.”

Since returning to Lynchburg, Winkel said she’s already encouraging people to pack shoeboxes in the fall.


During Spring Break, faculty, students, and staff will embark on 30 LU Send trips to places such as Rwanda, Jamaica, Israel, Spain, India, Greece, and England.

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