Walden Media and 20th Century Fox are teaming up with international relief group Samaritan's Purse this winter to help make a difference in the lives of children around the world.
Through "Operation Narnia," Samaritan's Purse and the makers of upcoming film "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" are looking to provide even more children with shoe boxes filled with supplies and love than in any of the previous years since the relief group launched the Operation Christmas Child project.
Samaritan's Purse, led by well-known evangelist Franklin Graham, provides spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since the 1970s, it has helped meet the needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine in the name of Jesus Christ.
In 1993, Samaritan's Purse launched Operation Christmas Child to provide gifts for children in need. The project's mission is "to demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ."
Last year, the organization collected 8.2 million shoeboxes worldwide, 5 million of which came from the United States. National collection week for the 2010 Operation Christmas Child – this year named Operation Narnia – is Nov. 15-22. Thirteen other countries are participating this year.
Leigh Fisher, regional director of the Mid-Atlantic region for Operation Christmas Child, says the impact of the ministry has been enormous This year, the Mid-Atlantic region has set a goal of 630,000 boxes in hopes of surpassing last year's total of 571,966 boxes.
Noting that the project has transformed people's hearts, she stressed how "God changes not just the life of a child, but families, and communities."
Last year, 14 new churches were started in the Dominican Republican as a result of the shoe boxes being sent there.
"The boxes give more than gifts, they give joy and hope, and the best gift of all Jesus Christ," Fisher said.
Lejla Allison is one of the countless children whose lives have been changed through the OCC ministry. At 11 years old, she was among the first group of children to receive gift-filled shoe boxes when OCC was launched in Bosnia. Lejla remembers how much hope the gift-filled box gave her.
"I truly felt blessed. I knew that God had answered my prayers," Lejla said. "I was so overwhelmed I started to cry. But these were not the tears I was used to crying. This time they were tears of joy. This time I knew it was worthwhile to keep on living."
Now living in the United States, Lejla remembers firsthand what a blessing a shoe box gift can be to a hurting child even if it may just contain candy, pencils, and sneakers. Lejla encourages anyone who wants to touch a life to consider packing a box.
"It is hard to put into words what that box meant to me. It really changed my life," said Lejla. "Now I pack some of those boxes. I pray that all of the boys and girls who receive shoe box gifts will know that they are loved."
The upcoming Narnia film, from which this year's project is named, is the third installment of the blockbuster series based on the fantasy novels written by renowned Christian author and apologist C.S. Lewis . "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is set to hit theaters Dec. 10
On the Web: www.samaritanspurse.org/OCC