Once an orphan, Vladimir “Ted” Foreman, 23, remembers what it was like to have nothing to call his own.
Shifting from one orphanage to the next since he was 3-years-old, it was the simple Christmas gift of a new washcloth and a small notebook packed into a shoebox given to him through the ministry of Operation Christmas Child that would change the course of Foreman’s life.
It was the first gift he had ever received.
Foreman visited Harrisonville Christian School Sept. 23 to share his full-circle story with students as to how the OCC’s ministry changed his life.
Along with the school’s church partnership, Foreman challenged students to pack at least 450 shoe boxes filled with trinkets and hygiene items to send to impoverished children all over the world, like somebody did for him and his peers at the orphanage.
Receiving a shoebox when he was 9-years-old brought Foreman hope that someone loved him because he had nothing of his own as an orphan.
“I had to share everything with about 20 other kids that lived in a room with me,” Foreman recalls. “We had to share one towel between all of us. We rarely brushed our teeth.”
Then came what is now a special day in his memory. Foreman remembers coming back to the orphanage from a doctor’s appointment with a surprise waiting for him.
“I remember walking into the orphanage and all of the kids had received a shoebox, and there was one waiting for me,” Foreman said.
“As I was looking through the gift, I had an overwhelming feeling of hope. The thought that somebody cared enough to take their time to pack this gift and give to me without even knowing who I was, was such an act of love.”
The washcloth was one of Foreman’s favorite gifts in the box as he would finally have something of his own to dry himself after he bathed. He also used the notebook to communicate with his sister after they became separated from the orphanage they were living in.
Foreman went through other challenges and hardship over the next four years, including being institutionalized into a psychiatric ward for a period of time, but because of the special gift, he never lost the sense of hope.
“In that time, I still remember looking out of the window and just thinking, ‘There is somebody who loves me. There is hope and something bigger in life,’” Foreman said.
At age 13, Foreman and his two sisters were adopted by a Minnesotan family.
“It blew my mind that these people actually loved me,” Foreman said.
When he began hearing about Jesus from his new family, Foreman realized there was a connection between the moment of hope he felt when he received a shoebox gift and the eternal hope he was hearing about through Christ.
Shortly after moving in with his new family, Foreman and his sisters discovered that their adoptive parents had been dedicated OCC volunteers since the early 1990s.
In broken English, the siblings explained to their mom that they had received gifts from the ministry while in Russia and became ecstatic when they learned they could send their own shoe boxes to different corners of the world.
Foreman would save up his allowances to buy gifts for the shoebox project.
“It was exciting because this was a way I could give back and for me to show love to kids in as much pain as I was in,” Foreman said. “If it weren’t for that person who packed my shoebox, I don’t know if I would be where I am now.”
Now as an adult, Foreman gives his time to help spread OCC’s message across the country.
He visited a number of churches and schools during a four-day trip in the Midwest over the last week, making stops in Kansas City, Columbia and Smithville, inspiring others to support OCC.
“For those of you who have packed a shoebox,” Foreman told students. “Sometimes you pack it so nonchalantly, but just remember, God has the ability and power to take a simple shoebox and use it for His glory.”
OCC’s parent organization, Samaritan’s Purse, works with local churches and ministry partners to deliver the gifts, which also come with the message of salvation.
In the last 20 years, more than 100 million children in 130 countries have received shoebox gifts from OCC.
Several churches throughout the county serve as drop-off locations for the ministry. National Collection Week is Nov. 18-25.
Shoebox gifts can be dropped off at the following churches:
First Baptist Church, 116 S. Washington St., Raymore.
Garden Valley Church, 1701 N. Third St., Garden City.
United Methodist Church, 2600 E. Mechanic St., Harrisonville.
Shoe boxes can also be shipped to the Operation Christmas Child Headquarters at 801 Bamboo Rd., Boone, N.C. 28607.
For more information about how to get involved with OCC, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.