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Christmas gift brings together Idaho boy and Filipina girl

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Tyrel and Joana Wolfe, a newly-married couple who connected as children through Operation Christmas Child, brought their gifts to Samaritan's Purse international headquarters during national shoebox collection week (Credit: Samaritan's Purse)

Tyrel Wolfe was a seven-year-old living in Idaho when he packed a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, part of Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse.  He enclosed a picture of himself.  The box was eventually given to eight-year-old Joana in the Philippines.  Through the box, she heard a presentation of the gospel and made Christ her Lord.  Not long afterward, her father also trusted Christ and eventually became a pastor.

Joana wrote a letter to Tyrel, explaining how his gift had impacted her and her family.  However, he never received it.  Eleven years later, having kept Tyrel’s picture, she decided to see if she could find him.  She eventually located him on Facebook, and the two began corresponding.  Tyrel saved up enough money to fly to Manila, where he and Joana spent 10 days together.  They began dating.  Last October they were married.  As part of their celebration, family and friends packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, and Tyrel and Joana recently brought them to Samaritan’s Purse headquarters and shared their story.

Tyrel says, “I remember as a little boy, I was so excited to know the toys and other items I put in the box would bring joy to another child somewhere else in the world.  I just didn’t know the joy it would bring back to me one day.”

When we give joy to others, we find joy in return.  This fact is nowhere more vital or obvious than during Christmas.  Retailers say stores will be busier than ever.  Airports and roads will be more congested than at any other time of the year.

At the first Christmas, God’s angels announced “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10).  How can we encounter such joy each day of this season?

It’s vital that we dedicate time every day to be alone with the Christ of Christmas.  Make time to worship him, to read his word, to listen to his Spirit.  Mother Teresa told her students that if they would spend time each morning praising Jesus, they would have all the power they needed for the day.

To help you encounter Jesus every day, my wife Janet has written our annual Advent guide, Let Heaven and Nature Sing.  The readings begin on Sunday, the first day of this year’s Advent.  You can visit our bookstore to download it.  Or you can go to the website of First15, our daily devotional, to find that day’s Advent article along with resources for worship and guided prayer.

Joy is one of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22).  When we find and share joy, people will take notice.  And it will be for us as it was for the apostles, that others “recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

Oswald Chambers asks, “Have I allowed my personal life to become a ‘Bethlehem’ for the Son of God?”  Will you?