Ted Foreman told his emotional story about how receiving a shoe box from Operation Christmas Child when he was 9 years-old meant the world to him, both emotionally and spiritually, during a presentation at Main Street Church in North Branch Oct. 1.
Operation Christmas Child is a program that sends shoe boxes packed with toys, hygiene items and school supplies to children all over the world giving each child an opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ.
Foreman was born in 1990 in the former Soviet Union and was placed in an orphanage when he was 3 years old along with his 2-year-old and 5-year-old sister.
“The economy was bad at the time and my parents were alcoholics and couldn’t take care of me of my two sisters,” he said. “We were separated in the orphanage due to gender and our age differences.”
According to Foreman, there were approximately 700,000 orphans in the system annually.
“Growing up was extremely difficult in that setting,” he said. “One of the hardest things for me was the fact that I felt no one loved me or cared for me.”
Foreman tried to fit in by hanging out with the cool kids and doing things like smoking, drinking and things that would make him feel better. They made him feel even worse.
“I’d do things that were against the rules to get some attention,” he said. “I tried so many things to find some kind of meaning, which always led to a dead end and more hopelessness.”
At the orphanage, Foreman explained he never received a gift and they never had any celebrations, until one April day in 1999.
“I came back from the eye doctor and something was different,” he said. “I heard joyful noises and saw a bunch of decorated shoe boxes and the teacher told me, ‘It’s a gift for you from some American people.’”
“Before I even opened it, I thought there is somebody that loves me, someone actually cares about me, and someone who doesn’t even know me chose to make this gift and send it to me,” he added.
Operation Christmas Child National Collection Week will be held Nov. 13-20. New Hope Community Church, located just outside of Cambridge, is a collection center that gathers thousands of boxes that go to children in need.
Last year, Operation Christmas Child nearly reached 7,000 boxes all coming from East Central Minnesota. They have drop off relay locations in Mora, Milaca, North Branch, Pine City and Siren that bring boxes to the Collection Center at New Hope Community Church. More information will be provided on the relay location as it gets closer to Collection Week.
Foreman remembers the significant items in that shoe box including a notebook, a washcloth, and SpongeBob toothpaste (bubble gum flavored) which Foreman ate the entire tube.
“The notebook was such a cool gift because we could only use school supplies during class time, and I used the paper to make envelopes to send letters to my sisters,” he said. “My absolute favorite gift was the wash cloth because in the orphanage I had to share a towel with 20 other children. I thought, this is my own personal towel and it was so special to me.”
Foreman’s sister Tanya also received a shoe box and began praying for a family. Later, Foreman received a letter from his sister stating that they were going to get adopted and were moving to the United States.
“It was a cultural change, but I had a family that loved me, a cupboard full of food, and we even had towels that were only used for decoration that we couldn’t use,” he said. “It was amazing. It was a sensory overload of so many things that we had.”
Foreman’s parents were Christians and began sharing the Gospel with their children. One day his mother came down the stairs wearing an Operation Christmas Child shirt and told her children that she has been packing shoe boxes since 1993.
“My mom told us we could pack shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and I was so excited to help,” Foreman said. “I had $67 in a mason jar that I saved up from vacuuming lady bugs out of my aunt’s attic. I went to Wal-Mart and spent more than that for stuff for the shoe boxes. My mom had to cover the rest,” he laughed.
Eventually, Foreman got to go to the Panama area to distribute shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. He told a story of how one mother asked if they had another box for her other twin daughter. There were no boxes left, and the mother was happy that her twin daughters could share one.
“When the kids opened their boxes, the box that the twins shared happened to have two of everything in their shoe box,” Foreman said. “We were so blessed at that moment. God saw to it that those twins received that particular shoe box.”
Foreman feels the shoe box he received truly made a difference in his life.
“Getting that shoe box was so amazing,” Foreman said. “God used that shoe box to plant a seed of hope in my heart,” Foreman said.
For more information on Operation Christmas Child visit www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/.