I went to the Dominican Republic in February to help distribute shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and when our van pulled up at each tiny church or school there was always a crowd of children waiting. A sea of beautiful faces on bodies pressed together as tightly as sticks of gum.
After we passed out stickers and presented a short evangelical program for the kids, the pastor and other workers would line them up according to age and gender groups.
And, once more, they’d wait.
Finally, one by one, a gift-filled box and ‘El Major Regalo’ (the Greatest Gift of All booklet that tells the story of the Bible) were placed into the hands of each child. But the waiting wasn’t over yet, because they couldn’t open their boxes until every child received one.
And so they waited.
Even the smallest two-year-olds sat quietly, holding their boxes closed on their laps. Well, maybe a few did give in and pry up the lids with their tiny fingers to sneak a quick peek, but most of them just sat.
When all had a box, Miguel, one of our interpreters, would yell, “Uno, dos, tres…” The wait was over and box lids were tugged off amid squeals of glee. Smiling faces reigned over the chaos.
But at each place I would look around and see more children--those who could not be invited to attend because there were not enough boxes.
Somber eyes peered in at the celebration. Dark-skinned hands wrapped around the iron rods of a fence or window. Mothers pressed in behind, shouting out their requests for their children to receive gifts also. “No mas,” we had to say. We had no more.
And still they wait.