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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cards (11/06/08)

TITLE: Shoebox Sunshine
By Anita van der Elst


Held in her grubby hand, the edges are tattered. The fold at the back is so worn it has split almost from top to bottom. Miriam pats the front of the card. A sunshine smile breaks across her face as she gazes at the once sparkly scene, snowy hills with a village nestled in the valley. She’s learned about snow in her own village school. Her finger traces the scripted letters as she mouths the words. M-e-r-r-y C-h-r-i-s-t-m-a-s. Carefully she opens the card to view the photo glued inside.

Father God, I pray for the little girl who receives this card and the box I’ve prepared. I hope she enjoys the gifts, the practical toothbrush and comb but also the purse, the hair accessories, the stickers, colored pens and paper; and that she will know how precious she is.

Months have passed since the card came into her life. That exciting day the village children had gathered on the packed earth schoolyard, waiting for the truck, bare legs jiggling in excitement. A dust cloud delivered a rattletrap vehicle with a shudder at the schoolyard gate. The children cheered. Guided by their teachers they got into order, jiggling legs and all.

The banner stretched across the side of the truck read, “Samaritan’s Purse: Operation Christmas Child”. The driver trotted to the back and jumped up into the bed. He pulled the heavy tarp away and there they were, dozens of brightly wrapped boxes—shoeboxes. Each child took a turn. Raising their hands up to receive a box, they politely said their thank you. The hubbub of excited voices grew as one by one, boxes were opened and admired.

Miriam had gaped at her treasures. The hair barrettes, all eight of them, pink, yellow, green and purple, immediately claimed her pigtails. Operating the zipper on the purple flowered purse occupied her for several minutes, another hour organizing the notebooks and colored pens, and girlish vanity intermittently consulted the tiny cosmetic mirror in its padded cover. Finally she opened the envelope at the bottom of the box. The sun caught on the sparkles frosting the cardstock. She tentatively touched her finger to it and when she took it away, saw with amazement it glistened just like the scene on the card. Her smile competed with the glitter.

Father God, Please, provide for her and her family in practical and wholesome ways. I hope she will come to know you vitally. I wish I could know who she is but you know her completely. Thank you for her life. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you with this small box of love.

The man and woman in the photo got her full attention. Looking pleasant and very well fed, they smiled at her. Next to the photo Miriam read, “To the precious girl who receives this box. Please enjoy these gifts. We care about you. We don’t know your name but we believe God does and he loves you. With greetings from Sam and Karen.”

Miriam wishes she could thank these far away people for showing their love in shoeboxes, people who didn’t even know her. She thinks of the classes provided by Samaritan’s Purse that many in the village have attended since then. They’d learned how Jesus loves them and how he came to give them spiritual life in him. Now it is graduation day. She, her family and other villagers have become followers of Jesus. Today some people from that distant country are coming to celebrate with them.

Father God, I’m looking out at this part of the world you made—so different from what I’m used to. I am so not a good traveler. But Sam wanted to come. And he wanted me with him. So here I am. I do thank you though, Father, that this is a great day for this village; so many want to follow you, to embrace the life you designed for them, to love one another and grow in your grace. I will need much of your grace today for sure. With such heat, I feel like I need a big pail to carry myself in. Oh my, we’re here!

The dust cloud settles and a man and a woman step from the trail battered van. Miriam looks at the photo of Sam and Karen in her Christmas card. Looks at the people standing in front of her. Then they smile and in recognition sunshine sparkles across her face.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke11/13/08
Oh this is BEAUTIFUL!It literally took my breath away! I could clearly see the village and the children and the dust and hear the noises! I LOVE that Sam & Karen come and get to meet Miriam.
At first reading the one place that caught me was Miriam being able to read the english words that Karen has written on the card but I think as I read on, it was assumed she has grasped a very good understanding of english through the school there.
My favorite line was the 'frosting the card" one. Lovely story. and I'm not just saying all this because you are my....:) (u-no)
Joy Faire Stewart11/15/08
Wonderful story and love the prayers sprinkled throughout. The descriptions are vivid and great emotions.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge11/15/08
Beautiful message...there are so many outside of our immediate families that would love to hear from us during the holidays.
Chrissi Dunn11/18/08
A truly beautiful story, and so well told. Thank you.
Yvette Roelofse11/21/08
Such a beautiful, touching reminder of how our lives touch others when we reach out in love. Congratulations on your commendation :)