Hope can be the most powerful gift of all

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That's the advice of the executive director of Samaritan's Purse Canada

The biggest gift we can bring to refugees and the poor is hope, according to the guest speaker at this year’s Olds Ministerial Association’s Prayer Breakfast.

Sean Campbell is the executive director of Calgary-based Samaritan’s Purse Canada, an evangelical Christian organization which distributes aid to countries ravaged by war, famine and poverty.

He spoke during the 17th annual breakfast, held March 1 at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites.

Perhaps the most well-known aspect of Samaritan’s Purse is its Operation Christmas Child, in which “shoeboxes” are filled with gifts and necessities and shipped to more than 113 million children in more than 45 war-torn and/or poor countries around the world.

Campbell began his career working in refugee camps in Thailand, then worked for Billy Graham’s evangelistic international headquarters in North Carolina before moving back to Calgary.

He has travelled to more than 150 countries to provide humanitarian assistance in times of war or natural disasters. Some of those countries include Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Rwanda and Bosnia.

“The one thing that grieves me most are wars – in southern Sudan, in Bosnia, in Chechnya, in Rwanda and places in Afghanistan, and places in Iraq and now in Syria,” Campbell said during a 26-minute speech.

“These places that I go to: you know, people can live without a lot, but if they don’t have hope, they’ll die.

“And how incumbent it is upon us as people of faith, to always come back to ‘there is hope.’ And where does our hope lay? It lays in God himself and his son, Jesus,” Campbell said.

Campbell said Operation Christmas Child and its shoeboxes can have a huge impact.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it that brings hope and reminds people that they’ve been loved,” he said.

He recalled the first time he provided a shoebox to a child in a psychiatric hospital in Zagreb, Croatia in 1993 during the war in the former Yugoslavia.

“There was a 13-year-old boy sitting there and he opened the box and he pulled out a Beanie Baby. He looked at it and he smiled,” Campbell said.

“I thought that was a very normal, natural reaction for a 13-year-old child who gets a gift. I look in the corner and there are two doctors and nurses and they burst into tears.

“They say, ‘Sean, we have to tell you this little boy’s story. About six, seven months ago, he was brought to us. His neighbours, who are Serbs, came to their house, marched his parents out in front of him, decapitated his parents, and left him.

“‘We brought him to the hospital here and he has not smiled in six months, and that was the first time he smiled,’” Campbell said.

“This is a powerful simple shoebox to remind that kid that he hasn’t been forgotten and to remind that young boy that there’s somebody else who loves him and cares for him. That opened up and changed his life.

“I see the power of these kinds of things. And what do they do? They bring hope.”

dcollie@olds.greatwest.ca

“These places that I go to: you know, people can live without a lot, but if they don’t have hope, they’ll die.”SEAN CAMPBELLEXECUTIVE DIRECTORSAMARITAN’S PURSE CANADA

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Doug Collie

Doug Collie joined the Olds Albertan in 2014 as editor. He covers municipal politics, news, community events, arts and entertainment and sports happening in and around Bowden and Olds.