HARRISONBURG — Growing up in an orphanage in Honduras, Yuri Lopez didn’t have many belongings.
She recalled sharing one toothbrush with 25 other girls. School supplies were also scarce. She received one notebook and pencil for the entire school year.
At 6 years old, her life changed when she received a shoebox through Operation Christmas Child. She then had her own toothbrush and pack of 10 pencils.
That wasn’t all Lopez, who is now in her mid-20s, received.
“The most important thing was the picture and note from the American little girl who sent that shoebox to me,” she wrote in a letter posted on OCC’s website. “Her note said, ‘Jesus loves you and I love you too.’ At that moment it made a big impact on me, and it continued to for years.”
On Sunday, as the Shenandoah Valley’s shoebox collection campaign ramps up, Lopez will be speaking at the Harrisonburg First Church of the Nazarene. The church serves as the main collection point for the Shenandoah Valley.
English services are set for 9 and 10:30 a.m. and a Spanish service is scheduled for 11:45 a.m.
Grayson Willis, a church member and OCC volunteer, said it’s important for people to hear stories from those who have received the boxes.
“It’s encouraging,” he said. “You hear the numbers, but it puts a face to the numbers. It’s probably the first time she heard about Christ and that somebody loved her and cared about her.”
Last year, Valley residents donated roughly 21,000 shoeboxes containing school supplies, toys and toiletries to the project.
OCC, part of the Rev. Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse organization, was founded in 1993.
Shoeboxes have been delivered to 168 million children in more than 160 countries. Boxes are collected in the United States, Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Spain.
After the boxes are collected at the Port Republic Road church, they are loaded onto a truck and sent to one of eight regional distribution centers to be inspected and shipped throughout the world.
Box collection is underway and wraps up Nov. 25.
Visit https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child for more information.