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Local Church prepping for holidays with 'Operation Christmas Child'

Stephens United Methodist Church prepping to pack shoebox gifts for kids in need around the world. (ABC 7 Amarillo- Jala Washington).

Stephen United Methodist Church is prepping for the holidays early with Operation Christmas Child, a program that packs shoebox gifts for children in need around the world.

Yuliya Shubina, a former shoebox gift recipient, never imagined her life being forever changed with a simple shoebox.

"Me living in a former Soviet Union country, and also a third-world country, I remember receiving a gift from America [and] it was just beyond exciting," Shubina said.

At just nine years old, Shubina didn't exactly know how to react.

"I think the biggest surprise and the biggest puzzle for me was why would a stranger that has never met me, that is living half-way across the world, send me a gift," Shubina said.

In fact, her older sister got a shoebox too. But both were cautious.

"We were afraid to open them because we wanted for the shoeboxes to stay exactly the same way that they came," Shubina said.

Now looking back, Shubina says receiving her shoebox gift was a defining moment.

"I am praying for you and for your family," These are words Shubina says her shoebox packer, turned pen pal, ended every letter with. "And every time I would read that sentence, I didn't fully understand the meaning of it," Shubina said.

However, these simple words are clear now, and have helped Shubina's faith surface, feeding her spiritually.

"She prayed for me for years," Shubina said.

"There is a great need for more shoeboxes," Texas Regional Manager of Operation Christmas Child, Kevin Brown said. "We consider them gospel opportunities to share the love of Jesus Christ around the world," he said."

"This year we're hoping to collect 10 million shoe boxes worldwide," Shubina said.

And Brown says the time to impact more lives, is now.

"Operation Christmas Child is hope and joy to those who need it most," he said.

"We cannot underestimate the power of a simple shoebox gift because it starts with simple items, toys and school supplies, but God can take that and write a whole testimony out of it," Shubina said.

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