Downplayed evangelism

For a few years I have been using the "Google Alert" service to collect local UK news reports about solicitations for shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Out of hundreds of appeals in the local press I am yet to see one that mentions the religious evangelism of OCC. The only time it is mentioned is when a critical article appears and OCC are asked for their response.

Here is a typical newspaper appeal from an OCC manager in a UK newspaper:

Send love by the boxful

Published Date: 10 September 2009
By Staff Copy
KIND-hearted residents are being urged to think ahead to Christmas and donate gift-filled shoe boxes to vulnerable children in Eastern Europe and Africa.

Operation Christmas Child is now underway and is calling on the continued support of individuals and communities despite the recession.

Regional manager Keith Gibbons said: “Circumstances are worrying for many people, but it’s an awful lot worse for the vulnerable children and orphans we seek to support.

“Many are abandoned by their parents, removed from abusive situations, are ill, or are living in poverty or squalid conditions that have worsened significantly during the global recession.

“These children may well receive nothing at all if we cannot get them a shoe box.

“It’s amazing to see the power of giving, to see what simple things like a toy car, a doll, some crayons or even toothpaste and a toothbrush of their own means to these kids – it puts our expectations of Christmas into a fresh perspective.”

In 2008, Selby Times readers’ boxes were among 20,400 delivered by Samaritan’s Purse charity representatives to children living in difficult conditions in Belarus, Bosnia, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine.

To donate, visit www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk or call 0870 0112002 for guidelines on contents, how to pack and where to send along with a requested £2.50 donation towards promotion, transport, processing and distribution.

Deadline for boxes is November 18.


Would you have known from that report that OCC uses evangelising material and methods?

Compare the above to what OCC report to their Christian supporters in their campaign newsletters that they used to have on their UK website but have now been removed. I have the originals below:
Here are some excerpts:

The Lord blessed the work of Samaritan’s Purse abundantly during 2003, and
it gives me great joy to share with you how He used your prayers and support to
reach a sin-darkened world with His light. In more than 110 countries around the
globe, Samaritan’s Purse met the physical and spiritual needs of multitudes of
hurting people—Christians and Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, atheists and
animists. Working through local believers and ministries, we saw thousands of
people commit their lives to Jesus Christ and thousands more renewed and
strengthened in their faith.

.........................

“There are lots of villages that have never heard the Gospel,”
said Victor Kulbich, a Samaritan’s Purse ministry partner who
works in Russia. “They have never heard of Jesus. The people
practice shamanism and idol worship.
They believe in spirits. Their hearts are
looking for God, but they don’t know
where to find Him.”
This past year, many families in
Siberia learned about the one true
God and His love when our Operation
Christmas Child project delivered
thousands of gift-filled shoe boxes
to children in this remote region.
“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.”

Many of the boys and girls who received shoe box gifts
responded enthusiastically to the opportunity to participate
in discipleship programs. Samaritan’s Purse worked with an
international children’s ministry to provide local churches in 25
countries with follow-up materials that help boys and girls
learn more about Jesus Christ and the Christian life. During
2003, more than a million children were enrolled in Bible
correspondence courses and over half a million reported making
decisions for Christ.
They included 10-year-old Raja, who was one of 265,000
children in India who enrolled in the program after receiving
shoe box gifts.

.........................


.........................

Operation Christmas Child paid a visit to
the state hospital. Among the Christians who
delivered gift-filled shoe boxes was a deaf man named
Sergey who knew how to sign. Erlan was delighted that
God cared enough to send him such a special friend.
Without a word being spoken, Sergey told Erlan about
the love of Jesus Christ and led him in a prayer to accept
the Savior.

.........................

Along with the boxes, children are offered Gospel storybooks and
invited to learn more about Jesus through our follow-up discipleship
program.

.........................

In the past year, more than half a million children indicated
that they made life-changing commitments to Jesus Christ
through our Operation Christmas Child Discipleship Program,
a voluntary Bible study course taught by local churches.

.........................

Gwedolina is among the millions of children who
have begun a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
through our evangelistic literature and followup
Discipleship Program. Along with the
shoe box gifts, we offer colorful Gospel
storybooks called The Greatest Gift of All that
we have translated into some 72 languages, so
boys and girls can read the story of Jesus to
themselves and their families. We also provide many
churches that distribute boxes with a 10-lesson Bible study
course to help children understand God’s Word and become
faithful followers of Christ.

.........................

How does OCC respond when it is noted by critics in the press that they evangelise?

Read the following from http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/Christmas-Child-group-under-fire.3579798.jp


Christmas Child group under fire


Published Date:
12 December 2007
A Christmas charity scheme involving thousands of Northamptonshire schoolchildren has been accused of using gifts as 'honeytraps' to convert youngsters to a fundamentalist branch of Christianity.
Thousands of boxes full of gifts are sent out to developing countries every year through Operation Christmas Child, a charitable scheme run by a US-based organisation called Samaritan's Purse.

But now concerns have been raised that the scheme has fundamentalist Christian motives which are not made clear to children, teachers and parents.

Paul Crofts, former director of Northampton Race Equality Council, said: "Many people who take part in this scheme do so without realising Samaritan's Purse is a US-based evangelical Christian organisation which distributes proselytising leaflets – in many cases targeted at people of other faiths.

"Samaritan's Purse is somewhat coy about this aspect of their operation and until 2003 they made no mention of these 'extras' that were added to the shoe boxes, until forced to do so by the Charity Commission.

Even now their leaflets promoting the scheme are hardly explicit on this matter."

Dr Margaret Atkins, chair of Northants Secular and Humanist Society, added Samaritan's Purse manipulated the kindness of children.

She said: "Samaritan's Purse is an unabashed missionary organisation with evangelical zeal.

"The gifts given by the children out of a desire to help are being misused.

The gifts are used to target children who are in a state of distress and are especially vulnerable following some catastrophic event in their lives such as war or a natural disaster.

"Each gift is used as a bribe and carries with it religious literature designed to be attractive to children.

"Samaritan's Purse is a fundamentalist organisation and its objective is to convert the children.

"Religious fundamentalism is threatening to tear apart the fabric of societies.

Hatred, intolerance and violence are generated by religious zealots of every type.

I appeal to parents and teachers to research carefully the credentials of charities and weed out these trouble makers."

'There is no hidden agenda here'
Jane Simmonds, midlands manager of Operation Christmas Child, told the Chronicle & Echo Samaritan's Purse was a humanitarian organisation, but added the motivation to run the scheme came from Christian beliefs.

She said: "We are very open about the fact that Operation Christmas Child is a project run by the Christian humanitarian organisation Samaritan's Purse.

Every copy of the leaflet we distribute explaining how people can take part and donate a shoebox – and we distribute over four million of these promotional leaflets annually in the UK – makes this abundantly clear.

"What we do not do is add any literature, religious or otherwise, to the shoeboxes.

The shoeboxes we send out from the UK are distributed by indigenous organisations, often charities, in the destination countries, not by ourselves.

In less than half of these countries, some of the local organisations may have a simple booklet of bible stories available because it is Christmas time, and this is explained in our promotional leaflet.

"What is important to understand is that there is no requirement for anyone to take a booklet.

The shoeboxes are a present given absolutely on their own and those readers who may have been kind enough to donate one can be assured that their shoebox goes to a needy child as something for them to enjoy, play with and share as intended.

"There is no hidden agenda in what we do. There is no 'honey trap'; no 'targeting'; no 'proselytising', no 'adding of extras'.

Our aim is to deliver a little happiness to a needy child at Christmas, and thanks to the continuing generosity of so many people – children and adults – who look at what we do and understand the special way that Operation Christmas Child helps them give a personal gift to a child living a difficult, challenging, sometimes lonely life, we will continue to do our best to make sure that what they donate is what the child receives."


Note that Jane Simmonds, Midlands manager of Operation Christmas Child, said:
What we do not do is add any literature, religious or otherwise, to the shoeboxes

That's right, they put it on top of the shoeboxes



or just hand it out alongside the shoebox distribution, as I was told when I rung up my local OCC representative.


My local OCC representative also said that this booklet is optional and is just on a table for the children to "choose". Whereas you can see the booklet is not even an added extra, children may receive it even before they get the shoeboxes:



Note my local OCC representative also said to me:
"Some of the local organisations may have a simple booklet of bible stories available because it is Christmas time, and this is explained in our promotional leaflet.

Is it honest to call it a "simple book of bible stories"?  Is it really explained in the promotional leaflet just what this is?
When I first started investigating OCC, I rung up my local organiser and expressed my concern. She told me that "no literature is put in the shoeboxes" and invited me to come to the local distribution centre to see this for myself, along with a video that does not show any evangelism. I told her that I already knew that literature is not put inside the shoeboxes any more since OCC was criticised for this in the press and investigated by the charities commission. Instead in distributions organised by the UK branch literature is handed out alongside the shoeboxes. She then admitted to this but said that "nobody is forced to take the leaflets" although the pictures above make this look more proactive than the passive table of literature she mentioned. However why any child would not take a cartoon booklet called The most Important Story Ever Told and how they were meant to make an informed decision not to be evangelised was not explained.

So note that even though my local OCC representative knew the evangelising booklet was used she was perfectly willing for me to go to the packing centre to be led to believe that the booklet is not used. I then told her that not only did I know (and get her to admit) that the evangelising booklet is used but I also had videos of the evangelism in action that I would like to show her packers. I asked when then could I come to the packing centre. After initially having invited me at the beginning of the conversation she then told me that they were too busy and I couldn't come!

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