There was a time in her life when Ukrainian-born Elizabeth Groff felt completely bereft of hope and love.
Living in an orphanage with no family at all, she felt forgotten and alone.
But a one-time but meaningful act of Christmas giving – involving a shoebox full of toys, sent and distributed by people who didn’t even know her – lit a light in the darkness of her young life.
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“I had nothing to prove to receive this shoebox gift, nothing to do to earn it,” she told Fox News Digital in an email about her life.
“Through this act of unconditional love, I was suddenly washed with bright hope,” she said.
“God was not going to abandon me,” she added, sharing her deep faith. “He met me right there, at the lowest.”
Groff, 28 now and a 2017 graduate of Virginia Tech University, is reaching out to those in need this holiday season and also letting them know they’re not alone — and others are caring. care.
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As people around the world prepare to make or buy gifts for their loved ones this year, Samaritan’s Purse, the evangelical Christian relief group, anticipates an important marker of giving and generosity towards fellow human beings.
He will collect and distribute his 200 millionth Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift in December 2022 – and Elizabeth Groff herself will be the one to hand it to a child in need.
“I am so grateful to Elizabeth’s adoptive parents and all the other fathers and mothers who have welcomed a child into their family to love and care for them.” — Reverend Franklin Graham
Said Groff to Fox News Digital, “At age 11, God planted a seed of hope in my life through the ministry of Operation Christmas Child. [And] at 13, God blessed me with a family that adopted me and continues to show me the unconditional love of Jesus Christ through the way they love me,” she added.
“God used this shoebox to tell me, ‘You are not an orphan. You are my daughter.’ The gift of the shoebox opened my heart to God and he began to nurture my heart, gradually replacing my feelings of abandonment with hope and tenderness.”
The Reverend Franklin Graham, CEO and President of North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse, told Fox News Digital, “I am so grateful to Elizabeth’s adoptive parents and all of the other fathers and mothers who have welcomed a child into their family to love and care for them.”
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He added, “With an adopted grandson, I know firsthand what an incredible blessing adoption can be, not only for the child, but also for the parents and extended family.”
He also said, “That kind of love is one of the greatest pictures we have of what God has done for us. The Word of God tells us that when we put our faith and trust in the son of God, Jesus Christ, we are adopted into his family!”
He added, “God created adoption – and everyone who chooses to welcome children into their homes and families as he welcomes us deserves our deepest gratitude.”
Says Groff of how a simple box of items changed his life so many years ago, “A gift in a shoebox opened my heart to the Word of God, a family from around the world welcomed me home, and a Christ-centered community gathered around me when devastation struck when the war has broken out in Ukraine.”
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She said she now has “the chance to show the unconditional love I have received to my sister and my nephew and to children around the world through the ministry of Operation Christmas Child”.
Of the gift of adoption, she also said, “I couldn’t have done any of this without my adoptive parents saying ‘yes’ to God’s call to adopt me. What a faithful God we serve!
She shared more details about her adoption journey – and how she came to live in America and grow up with a family who loved her.
“Once I was placed in the orphanage [in Ukraine], I joined the choir of the orphanage. The choir had the opportunity to travel to the United States for two weeks. I was about 11 at the time,” she said.
She continued: “During my stay in the United States, I was hosted by a family in Williamsburg, Virginia. During my last days with them, my host family would drive me home after one of my choir events and we decided to stop for lunch.”
On the way to lunch, however, she said she fell asleep in the backseat of the car.
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“My foster dad decided to stay in the car with me to let me sleep while the rest of the foster family went to lunch,” she said. “As he was sitting in the front seat, he turned around to check on me and he heard God say to him, ‘That’s your daughter.'”
Groff added: “My foster dad couldn’t believe God was calling him back to Ukraine. At that time they had a biological daughter – and three years before they took me in they adopted a baby girl from Ukraine and the process was very difficult. They had no intention of returning to Ukraine, but God had other plans.”
“I couldn’t believe I finally had my own family.”
And so, “on my last day in the United States,” she said, “the whole foster family sat me down and asked me if I wanted to be adopted — and of course my answer. was to shout “YES!” I was so excited. I couldn’t believe I finally had my own family.
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After all these years, however, Groff hasn’t forgotten the shiny yo-yo she received as a child when she lived in an orphanage.
Someone had wrapped it for her in the Christmas shoebox she had received.
That simple toy – and the far more important act of giving and caring – changed her forever and is why she is active in giving to others today, she said.
Recently, Groff has traveled across the country wrapping and preparing gift sets for others; she went to Denver, Chicago, Nashville and Charlotte, North Carolina.
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She is now preparing to hand-deliver the 200 millionth shoebox to a Ukrainian child affected by the Russo-Ukrainian war.
To learn more, watch the video at the top of this article, or Click here to see it.