– Watch Izabella McMillon’s Full Circle Story with Operation Child as she explains where her story with the ministry first began.
To kick off the Operation Christmas Child season, Kristy speaks with Izabella McMillon, who received a shoebox as a child growing up in communist Romania. Now serving as the Speakers Bureau Manager for Operation Christmas Child, she shares her story and equips other shoebox recipients to do the same.
Like many children around the globe who receive a gift-filled shoebox, encountering Operation Christmas Child at the age of 13 changed Izabella’s world. Some of Izabella’s earliest childhood memories were of her parents huddled around a table, strategizing how they would provide food for their family the next day. She recalls living under a communist regime where decisions were made on behalf of her family, including where they lived and worked. Churches were prohibited and owning a copy of the Bible was dangerous.
Izabella remembered the day her life changed forever. When she and her brother were bored and looking for something to do one afternoon, they discovered a loose floorboard in their living room. They found a Bible hidden under the floor. They were thrilled to find a new book to read so they started on page one and were drawn into the stories. When Izabella’s parents came home, she shared this news about the new book. Her father told them to keep it hidden, knowing the Scriptures could put them all in danger.
A couple of years later, Izabella was invited to an underground church and decided to attend.
God used this hidden Bible, a secret church, and the pastor’s discipleship to teach Izabella about God’s love for her. She asked her pastor to teach her how to pray. When he asked why she wanted to learn, she explained she wanted it to snow. Hoping God would answer this prayer to prove that he was real, she asked God fervently for snow.
When she was discouraged by the lack of snow, her pastor responded,
“Let me tell you something about God. He always answers prayers just like I told you before, but sometimes his answers look differently than what we imagine. Keep your eyes open, keep watching, and God will answer.”
Izabella continued to pray for snow. The day after Christmas, people began running in the streets. In Romania, this typically meant that a delivery of food rations or other supplies was coming so she and her brother quickly joined them. When they arrived to the town center, they found three trucks filled with colorful boxes. People began unloading these boxes and passing them out to all of the children. A woman approached Izabella and handed her a gift-filled shoebox.
“I remember just looking at her, thinking that cannot be,” Izabella said. “People don’t just come here and give you something for nothing, no strings attached. That does not happen.”
The woman told her there was nothing she needed to do in return, but asked if she could pray with her. Izabella agreed and eagerly asked her to pray for snow. After the woman prayed with her, she dug into her box and her fervent prayer was answered.
“It was this beautiful, plastic snow globe,” Izabella told Kristy. “In that moment, to me was God saying ‘I am here. And I am listening. And I see you. And I know you by name.’”
After growing in her faith and education through the years, she started working for Samaritan’s Purse. In 2010, she and her husband had the opportunity to go back to Romania and distribute Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. She tells Kristy a story about how she met Maria, a 13-year-old orphaned girl whose only wish was to have five minutes with a family who loved her.
Izabella is continuing to serve Operation Christmas Child and yearly packs shoeboxes with her husband and two boys. They always pack a soft stuffed animal, a ball, school supplies, a photo, and a letter. She encourages listeners to be prayerful about the items to pack in their own shoeboxes, reminding them of how the snow globe in her box solidified her faith and changed the trajectory of her life.