All Livia wanted was a hair clip.
She was 12, an abandoned child in one of Romanias infamous love-deprived state orphanages. A hug, a kiss, a friend were alien things. Food was rare, as was soap; she had to share a toothbrush.
I always had a dream to have a set of hair clips. I thought they were the coolest things ever. Even though I had a short boy-haircut. But I knew it was impossible to ever have them, said Livia Satterfield, now 25, who told her story Sunday at North Trenholm Baptist Church.
Her audience included more than 40 folks who this fall will be coordinating drives at local churches to help with Operation Christmas Child the collecting and sending of shoeboxes filled with useful, everyday items to needy children around the world in places like Africa, Latin America and Romania.
Thirteen years ago, Livia said, around Christmastime, American missionaries from Operation Christmas Child came to her orphanage with shoeboxes of gifts.
Before the missionaries gave out the shoeboxes at Livias orphanage, they told the children there was love inside and there was a God who loved them.
I thought, How can you love me? I dont know you. You dont know me. Theres no way you can love me! Livia said. Despite her skepticism, she was struck by the thought of a God who could love her. It finally opened doors to me to know that theres hope out there. I was so excited over the news.
When she opened her shoebox, the first thing she saw was a set of hair clips.
I was so excited I took them all out and tried to put them all in my hair my short, boy-haircut. I said I want them all. I touched them, I put them in my hair. I was so proud.
During the missionaries stay, Livia had latched on to one of them Connie Satterfield and wouldnt let her go. After Livia opened the shoebox, I told her that I loved her because I wanted to share my gratitude and tell her thank you, for the gift, for my dream come true.
Connie Satterfield decided on the spot to adopt Livia. It took two years, but Livia finally came to live in America.
So, Livia told the Operation Christmas Child church coordinators, they might wonder what difference their little packages will make to a child in a far-off land. Will a bar of soap, will a toothbrush really matter? Yes, it does. When I received my own toothbrush, my own toothpaste, it meant so much to me.
The shoeboxes, she stressed, can transform. This is a gift to bring us joy and an opportunity to hear the gospel. It brought the whole orphanage from being in such a dark place of hatred, of stealing, of anger, of jealousy, into a place of joy, hugs, laughing at the things we got.
Now in college studying marketing in Georgia, Livia Satterfield is a national spokeswoman for Operation Christmas Child, traveling to churches every fall to tell them her story of why its important to fill up a shoebox.
Last year, some 29,000 shoeboxes were collected from various Midlands churches. This year, the goal is 30,000. Some 6.5 million shoeboxes are expected to be collected from around the country. The shoebox operation is a ministry of Samaritans Purse, whose CEO is evangelist Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham.
Put a letter and a picture of yourself inside, she said, because the child will immediately consider you as family. And dont worry whether you choose the right items.
The minute you start packing your shoebox, God has a child for you, she said.
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.