Oksana Nelson, a national spokesperson for Operation Christmas Child
Operation Christmas Child organizers are rallying support in the valley. The organization is an international effort that sends shoeboxes full of necessities and presents to kids all over the world. Tuesday at Bridgewater College, one of the national speakers shared her story of hope and survival through dark circumstances.
Oksana Nelson says her life turned around completely the day missionaries visited her orphanage in Russia. Now the 23-year-old travels the country - between taking classes toward earning her MBA - promoting Operation Christmas Child.
"Honestly it just blows my mind. Every single morning that I wake up and I have a bed and I have food and I have a car and I have a job and I go to school and I have a family and I have friends. And I had no idea that this would be the extent of my life," Nelson said.
As a child, her birthparents fell into poverty and drugs, and she was put in an orphanage where she didn't have any personal belongings. She said when her peers left the orphanage, many of them got into prostitution to make ends meet.
"You don't have hope - you never knew what that is. You don't know what love is. You don't know what a bright future is and then the missionaries came and that was just all turned around," Nelson said.
So when Operation Christmas Child brought her the first present of her life at age 9, Nelson says, "It was almost like a seed that was planted in my heart. It just tore down all these walls, all these barriers."
But the project goes beyond spreading material possessions; Nelson says the box also carries a more powerful message.
"I was so excited to receive a toothbrush because we all shared one toothbrush at the orphanage, and all of a sudden in this gift, I had my own. It turns what seems like a hopeless situation into a situation that's full of hope and full of life and full of love," Nelson said.
The collection period is the third week in November. Organizers say you can put together a box yourself or put together a packing party using preparation kits.
For valley volunteers, the drop-off location is at Harrisonburg First Church of the Nazarene.
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