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Main Concerns

  • Operation Christmas Child is a fundamentalist evangelical endeavour that is poorly understood by most of the people who contribute to it.
  • The Public face of OCC has been covert about the existence of its evangelical activities until 2003.
  • The public face still plays down the evangelism:
e.g. Samaritan's purse state:

"The ultimate goal is to open the doors to share the good news of Jesus Christ, to evangelize wherever it's legal."

Samaritan's Purse officials deny the accusation, saying their charity program simply spreads Christmas gifts and God's love to children around the world.

"We don't force our belief system upon anybody," said Sean Campbell, executive director of Samaritan's Purse Canada.

"We're over there trying to help them, we're trying to make the quality of their lives better and we're not over there to convert them."

The Rev David Applin, chief executive of SPI, admits that a religious pamphlet - "The greatest gift of all" - is distributed with the boxes (though not inside them). But he denies that the appeal is evangelical. "The word evangelical has connotations and I prefer to think of us as a Christian group," he says, adding that he does not regard SPI as a missionary agency.

However Compare this with what Samaritan's Purse tell the faithful in their Newsletters and on fundamentalist church websites:

From www.samaritanspurse.org/about/pdf/AR2003.pdf
“We shared the Gospel with them and distributed Bibles,” Victor said. “Each time we do a distribution, it begins with a testimony that Jesus loves you and died for you...Operation Christmas Child is one of the best evangelistic tools because it is a gift,” ministry partner Victor Kulbich said. “It opens the door to telling about Jesus.”

From Rocky Mount Telegram
Operation Christmas Child is about spreading the Gospel as well as gifts. Samaritan's Purse is an evangelical Christian organization headed by Franklin Graham. Each gift comes with a small book that tells the story of Jesus’ life in the country's native language. ..."Many of the families in these lands have come to embrace Christianity," Bob said. "That's really the purpose, but it's also, of course, sharing God's love with children in every land."
[My emphasis]


When I asked the UK office of Samaritan’s Purse for a copy of the evangelising booklet they hand out to children I was sent 4 photocopied pages from the bible story section. When the General Adviser (RE and SACRE) wrote for a copy she was sent one of the bible story pages in Romanian! When my local Christian bookshop was asked for a copy they said that they do not stock anything by the publishers “WorldServe Ministries” since they consider them to be a (quote) “fringe group.”

Samaritan’s Purse do not link to the evangelising booklet that they hand out to children alongside the shoebox distribution. The leaflet is available at their Publisher’s website at http://mostimportantstory.com/mi/read.html.

The booklet is of very poor educational value, devoid of critical thought, carries a fundamentalist message and is carefully written to engender conversion in the young and naive. It comes complete with a “sinner’s prayer” of conversion and a religious pledge card. None of these overtly evangelical parts were copied to me or the General Adviser (RE and SACRE).

I then asked the headquarters of Samaritan’s Purse for a copy of the booklet. Under the impression that I was a supporter Operation Christmas Child they replied as follows:

Greetings from Samaritan' Purse and Operation Christmas Child.  We appreciate your support and participation in this special project. 

The booklet you are inquiring about is called "The Greatest Gift of All." This literature is not inserted into the boxes. The booklet is offered to the children at the time of distribution and has been translated into over 100 languages. The primary function of this literature is to provide the National Leadership Team members in each country with a follow-up tool for evangelism. You may obtain a copy through:

WorldServe Ministries
5795 Genesis Court
Frisco, Texas 75034
(888) 254-8005.
Should you have further questions or need additional assistance, please let us know.


Jessica Tabler
Operation Christmas Child
Samaritan's Purse
P.O. Box 3000
Boone, NC 28607
(828)262-1980 ext. 1493

I next asked the headquarters of Samaritan’s Purse for confirmation that the leaflet on the WorldServe Ministries website (“Most Important Story Ever Told”) was the same as the one titled “The Greatest Gift Of All” that is stated as being handed out to children alongside the shoebox distribution.

Under the impression that I was a supporter Operation Christmas Child they replied:

Greetings from Samaritan's Purse and Operation Christmas Child.

You are correct in your assumption that "The Most Important Story Ever Told" and "The Greatest Gift Of All" are basically one in the same.  Samaritan's Purse has adopted this version for distribution with each shoebox gift as a tool for evangelism.  Should you need additional assistance, please let us know.  It is because of caring people like you that this project is so successful.  Have a blessed day!


Jessica Tabler
Operation Christmas Child
Samaritan's Purse
P.O. Box 3000
Boone, NC 28607
(828)262-1980 ext. 1493

I was also told by John Bree, the UK manager of OCC, that the booklet
“The Greatest Gift Of All” is "the only literature offered to the children by our partners when the boxes are given out to the children." However contrast that with the following from an independent letter from Samaritan's Purse to a concerned supporter of OCC:

"Please be assured that the commitment of Samaritan's Purse to evangelism is as strong as ever.

Christian literature is not banned from Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in the United Kingdom or any other sending country. However, there is a difference in the way the boxes are processed in the U.K. for overseas shipment. The U.K. program removes all religious items (Christian as well as other religions) and forwards any Christian literature to our National Leadership Teams working in countries where shoebox gifts are distributed, so the Christian literature can be used with children through the local church.

Samaritan's Purse staff in the U.K. is dedicated, as we all are, to ensuring that Christian literature given by donors is used in effective ministry outreach to children through Operation Christmas Child.

The Gospel is also presented locally as part of the distribution of the gifts, and wherever possible, children are offered a Gospel storybook written in their own language called The Greatest Gift of All. Many children are also invited to enroll in a 10-lesson follow-up Bible study program, and upon completion receive a New Testament as a graduation gift.

In the United States, Christian literature remains inside the shoebox gifts given by donors. We are developing and implementing standard operating procedures to ensure that this practice is followed in the U.K. and other sending countries."
[From a letter from
Samaritan's Purse to a concerned supporter of OCC - see http://www.churchmarketingsucks.com/archives/2006/11/operation_chris.html]

    • Operation Christmas Child misleads Children about the beliefs of some of those donating the Shoeboxes.
    "Before the boxes were opened, the children were told they were sent by people who know Jesus."

    • There is a deep irony with the fact that the OCC leaflet states they will remove any religious literature that is put by a donor into a shoebox. Clearly they purport to perceive the problem with the appropriateness of distributing religious literature to children.. And yet up to last year this is precisely what they did with their own evangelical material inside shoeboxes. Following criticism they now distribute literature alongside the shoeboxes (not to mention introductory religious rallies and evangelical follow up meetings accompanying the shoebox distributions), as if that addresses the criticism of gifts accompanied by a religious agenda.
    Quotes from Franklin Graham
    Franklin Graham is a rightwing fundamentalist and the chief executive of Operation Christmas Child. He is the son of the evangelist Billy Graham and a close friend of President Bush.

    "[Operation Christmas Child]
    is about introducing children and their families to God's greatest gift - His Son, Jesus Christ. As long as evangelism is the focus, God will continue to bless it."

    Look if we do this program again we cannot just put smiles on
    children's faces, we cannot just make them happy just for a moment. We
    have got to do everything that we can to communicate the truth about
    Jesus Christ to these children

    We will be a witness for Lord Jesus Christ when we give away your

    We are to be a witness. We are to tell the truth. Let's use
    television. Let's use a shoebox. Let's use medicine in the Third
    World. And every time God opens up a door lets be a faithful witness

    That's 6 and a half million children that we had a chance to be God's
    Witness to. To tell them the Truth about God's son, the Lord Jesus
    Christ... ...Wonderful opportunities with these children.
    And when you think about ... 6 and a half million children that we
    gave boxes to. Every family in the Third World has a Mother & Father,
    Brothers & sisters, Aunts & Uncles & Cousins and when you look at the
    total number it's close to 60 million people a year. Last year that we
    touched. It's huge.
    And every box is a witness. It's a tool to be a witness. Every box is
    important. Every one.

    Excerpts from
    (you will have to search there for recordings of sermons by Franklin Graham).

    Bad reactions received by various people when going public about the evangelical activities of Operation Christmas Child

    • Being branded as having partisan religious views rather than genuine concerns about what is   appropriate for schools and charities.

    • Being shunned by friends and colleagues.

    • Being screamed at down the 'phone by supporters of Samaritan's Purse.

    • Being repeatedly threatened with unspecified legal action by Samaritan's Purse (never yet coming to fruition though).

    Read my letter of concern

    Subpages (1): Letter of Concern