One of our own shares how she received Operation Christmas Child boxes as a child.

As Gabrielle Nord carefully filled a shoebox with gifts, tears filled her eyes. She had come full circle. She closed the shoebox and wondered who would be on the receiving end of it and remembered how, years ago, she was.

Growing up in an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was not easy. Life was filled with bullies and bare feet. Gabrielle never knew her birth parents, and though she had a biological brother in the orphanage with her, he was much older. She was mostly on her own, and there were days when food was scarce.

One day around Christmas, when Gabrielle was six years old, everyone in the orphanage was told to dress in their finest clothes to go on a day trip. All the kids packed into a big yellow school bus and later arrived at a stadium filled with children from other orphanages in the area. There was prayer and worship, and then everyone was fed. “After we were all full, they started passing out these boxes,” Gabrielle says. “Everyone got one, and they really blessed us.” Gabrielle’s orphanage was able to take that trip two years in a row and then stopped. It wasn’t until she was adopted by a family in the United States 10 years later and saw Gateway partnering with Samaritan’s Purse to send out Operation Christmas Child boxes that she realized where the boxes came from. “I remember seeing one day that Gateway sent out boxes and thinking, Wait! I received two of those!” she says.

Christmas in a Haitian orphanage doesn’t come with many good memories, but those two years Gabrielle received Operation Christmas Child boxes became favorite moments. “I grew up with nothing. What little I did have was usually taken by older kids,” Gabrielle says. “So we enjoyed and cherished those gifts as much as possible. We especially liked the hard candies and little dolls or cars!”

In 2010, after the devastating earthquake shook Haiti and destroyed the orphanage where she lived, Gabrielle and three other young girls from the orphanage were adopted by Gateway members Greg and Heather Main. Gabrielle spent several hard years learning English, adjusting to American life, and undergoing freedom ministry to conquer the things she experienced as a child. Now she lovingly serves in Gateway Kids at the North Fort Worth Campus, sings in the Gateway Worship Choir, and is currently writing out her experiences in a book. And every year around Christmastime, she thinks back to those boxes she received.

“At the time, we couldn’t say thank you to the people who sent the boxes, but we were so grateful,” Gabrielle says. “Let me tell you, these boxes actually do something. And the kid you bless today may become the adult you see tomorrow doing something that matters. Any little thing, like putting gifts in a shoebox, can impact someone.”

Last Christmas, Gabrielle set out to send her own Operation Christmas Child boxes. “It was an amazing feeling. I wanted to stuff the boxes with as much as I could!” she says with a laugh, “If I had a ton of money, I would send thousands of boxes to all the kids. Because I used to be one of them, and I know how much it meant to me.”