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A girl growing up in war-torn Bosnia sees an answer to prayer when she receives a shoe box gift
Lejla Allison’s happy childhood was turned upside down by the bitter ethnic conflict in Bosnia in the 1990s. The rolling green hills that surrounded her village of Dubrave erupted with gunfire and shelling. The shadow of death was a constant presence. Hunger, fear, and misery were daily concerns.
But God had not forgotten Lejla or her family. She was among the first group of children to receive gift-filled shoe boxes when Operation Christmas Child was launched in 1993 in Bosnia.
Lejla, 11 years old at the time, remembers how much the brightly colored box with the beautiful items inside cheered her heart and kept her from despair. This was evidence that God loved and cared about her.
“I truly felt blessed,” she said. “I knew that God, my real God, had answered my prayers. I was so overwhelmed I started to cry. But these were not the tears I was used to. This time they were tears of joy. This time I knew it was worthwhile to keep on living.”
Today Lejla is married to Jesse, whom she met while working on a military base in Bosnia. Jesse was serving with NATO on a peace-keeping mission as a civilian contractor. They were married in her village and lived there for 8 months before moving to the United States.
Lejla and Jesse now live in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, where she works as a certified nursing assistant and cake decorator and he is employed as an elevator technician. They are the proud parents of a 6-year-old son, Calvin Gene, and a 4-year-old daughter, Jessica Lee.
Ironically, Lejla was not familiar with Operation Christmas Child by name until her sister-in-law told her several years ago about a shoe box packing project for needy children around the world. Leyla immediately made the connection.
“I got one of those boxes when I was younger!” Lejla exclaimed.
Because she knows first-hand what a blessing a shoe box gift can be to a hurting child, Lejla encourages anyone who wants to touch a life with Jesus’ love to consider packing a box.
“It is hard to put into words what that box meant to me,” she said. “It really changed my life. Now, thanks to the Lord, I get to pack some of those boxes and I get to pray that these children learn about my God. I pray that every one of these boys and girls will know that God loves them the same way I knew He loved me, because He gave His greatest gift, His only Son.”