The Little Girl Who Became FamousIn 2011 writer Anne Coomes and photographer James Fletcher went to Montenegro to gather stories and images during Operation Christmas Child distributions for the 2012 campaign. James took a winning photograph of this lovely little girl with her delightful smile. We used the image in much of our literature for OCC 2012 and within the leaflet – thus reproducing it literally millions of times. As it was on the underside of the 'Girl' sticker the photo was on every girl's shoebox.
Faith Spinks from the SP UK office had an interesting trip to Montenegro recently. She says, "I had the privilege of meeting the little girl whose picture is featured on the OCC bangtail. Her family is Roma, Muslim and originally from Kosova. But her father brought them to Montenegro a year and a half ago and they have had an incredible journey. Astred, the father, told me that before he came to Montenegro he was a bad guy: 'I was using drugs, a big liar, and playing games.' "
When they arrived at a refugee camp in 2011 they met a friend who invited them to Church. At first he said no because he was a Muslim. But later Astred became sad at his behaviour to his family and accepted God into his life. He was away working when his little girl Bleona received her shoebox that year. As a result of the shoebox this Bleona's mother also became a Christian and the family now pray and attend church together. Each night Bleona prays for all their family back in Kosova that God would look after them.
During the 2012 shoebox distributions in Podgorica a young boy was astonished when he found a photo of his 7 year old sister in the box. He showed his father who was so excited to see the image, but could not understand how this had happened. Bleona remembered that a foreigner had taken her picture when she received her shoebox – but she had been so excited by her gifts that she had forgotten all about it.
Bleona (pictured above with her photo on the OCC leaflet) is so happy and excited to see her picture and keeps asking her father “Why did they choose me?” The father says that at first he tried to count how many shoeboxes his daughter was on. He is amazed to think of his daughter’s photo in all the shoeboxes across the camp, but then also the many all across Montenegro and even beyond that. He is excited that God is using his daughter’s photo to encourage others to do shoeboxes and so many more children will be blessed with a gift. He hopes that through the photo and his story that many will be encouraged.
He is a very thankful man and said “My life was black but now I am in the light. I hope that all people would turn from bad ways and follow Jesus’s way because he is the best way.”
Faith says, "As I left, I was just overwhelmed with all I had seen and heard. I felt so privileged to have met this family and shared in their lives. In the following days, the thing that really struck me was the father’s attitude, his responses to his family’s circumstances, to the people around him and to the discovery of his daughter’s photo on so many shoeboxes. His responses could have been so different!"
Photos: James Fletcher & Faith Spinks