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Omaha Magazine

Operation Christmas Child

Sep 24, 2013 11:55AM ● By Bailey Hemphill
Often, the effects of kind deeds go unseen. Who receives that donated coat? What food is purchased with that monetary donation? Whose life was impacted?

Breanna Burklund, 17, a student at Millard South High School, decided it was time to witness the good her work had done.

For the past 12 years, Burklund has volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization that follows the motto, “Go and do likewise.” More specifically, she has helped with Operation Christmas Child, one of the organization’s programs that aims to spread love to needy children around the world.

The heart of OCC is packing shoeboxes for boys and girls ages 2 to 10. Individuals, families, churches, and other groups in the U.S. and 10 other countries fill these shoeboxes to the brim with items that impoverished children may not be able to afford—toys, school supplies, hygienic items, and clothing. Then, the boxes are delivered to children across the globe.

“As a child, my family and I used to pack boxes,” Burklund says. “We then got our high-school youth involved.”

But Burklund got the opportunity of a lifetime this past July. She traveled to the Philippines to personally deliver shoeboxes to children.

Burklund started her distributions in the Philippines at People’s Missionaries Church and a public school, delivering packages to 400 children between the two locations.

“If everyone could pack twice the number of boxes they did last year, we could see a box in the hands of every child in need.” - Breanna Burklund
“I couldn’t believe how overjoyed all the kids were,” Burklund remembers. “I also noticed that they were very protective of their box. Most of the kids have never received a gift like this or had anything of their own, so even for us to try and play with them or see what they got was hard. They were very skeptical and wanted to make sure nobody was going to take [the box].”

As she delivered more and more boxes to boarding and public schools, she noticed that, while so many children were benefiting from the program, many others were being left out.

“How do you stand there and watch [the children] watch you give out boxes to only a select few, but turn way because there aren’t enough?” Burklund asks. “If everyone could pack twice the number of boxes they did last year, we could see a box in the hands of every child in need.”

Last year, Nebraska and the surrounding area sent 534,136 shoeboxes abroad. Burklund, as well as the Samaritan’s Purse Eastern Nebraska division, hope that number can be doubled by getting more people involved.

Still, even if every child were to receive a box, there is no guarantee of what each child would receive since the delivery is left up to chance (though Samaritan’s Purse has a helpful list of shoebox gift suggestions on their website). Burklund prays that each child receives what he or she truly needs.

“Two twin girls came up to receive their boxes, and they ended up getting separated in line,” Burklund recalls. “I didn’t really think much of it, but later, when I was playing with the kids, I came across them, and they both held up pictures of two twin girls that had packed their box from the U.S.—a jaw-dropping moment! That’s really when it hit me that this has to be God. How else would the two separated girls both get the twin boxes?”

Burklund’s trip piqued her interest in missionary work. She says she would love to do more missionary work, especially with children, and has her sights set on a trip next summer to an orphanage in China. For now, however, she will continue sending shoeboxes abroad.

“A lot of people get strung up on what to put in the boxes, but the real focus is on the message the kids receive. The gift is the bonus, but with it, a seed is planted.”

Shoeboxes will be collected during National Collection Week, Nov. 18-25. Locations for shoebox drop-off include Benson Baptist Church (6319 Maple St.), Westwood Church (13056 Atwood Ave.), First Lutheran Church (3200 E. Military), and First Baptist Church (206 E. 23rd Ave.). For more information about how to pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, visit or call 660-744-4729.

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