My name is Diane Pledger, and my husband Bobby and I are year round volunteers with Samaritan’s Purse for Operation Christmas Child. We have been in this role since 2008, and have been blessed by every moment of it. Over the years leading up to this role, the Lord prepared us in some pretty incredible ways.

One of the ways God prepared us was by walking us through some very dark valleys in life that helped shape us into who we are today. In 1987, when I was pregnant with my son, Philip, the doctors discovered that I had kidney disease. I was also told at that time I could not have any more children due to the risk. Bobby and I learned to be content with our family of three, but God had other plans. In 1997, we met Michael, who was an orphan from Belarus that came to live with us for the summer. He ended up staying with us for three summers in a row and we fell in love with him. We wanted to give him a better life, so as a family, we prayed and decided to adopt him. In 2000, after an almost two year long process, Michael came to live with us permanently. He was getting ready to turn 13, and we had no idea what the impact of abuse, abandonment, and neglect had done to him. Our home became a battlefield. We held onto the Lord and each other through the storm of those next few years. Only by the grace of God and the prayers of our family, friends, and Bible Fellowship class were we able to make it through that tumultuous time. Then in 2007, I entered end-stage kidney failure, so I started the difficult journey of dialysis and searching for a donor. We had to trust the Lord and lean on Him every day while I was sick, and I got very close to dying during this time. Then God sent us a miracle kidney through the sacrifice of a dear friend, Elaine Davis. Twelve people came forward and were tested to be donors, and Elaine was the twelfth. The doctors told us it was unheard of to have that many people be willing to test; we knew it was because of the incredible generosity of our Christian brothers and sisters. On October 8, I celebrated my eighth kidney anniversary. This new kidney, and a new outlook on life, gave me the opportunity to connect out through service in a new way.

Through my illness, God proved to us that He is absolutely worthy of our complete and total trust in everything.

We first volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse by going to Boone in 2008 to process shoeboxes. We had helped Philip pack shoeboxes at school for years, but never much more than that. Upon arrival, the Lord gave us a passion for this ministry and called us to be a part of it. It is so exciting to be able to work together as a couple in the same ministry. What impressed us so much about Samaritan’s Purse is that they are truly Gospel-centered, they are fiscally responsible with their donations, and they stay within communities and continue working instead of just dropping off humanitarian aid and leaving. Last year, we had the opportunity to go to Togo, West Africa on a shoebox distribution trip. Getting to personally experience giving shoeboxes, sharing the Gospel with the children, and observing the discipleship program being taught was absolutely life-changing.

We have learned so much in working with Samaritan’s Purse. We have become more compassionate towards others, and we have more empathy for those who are going through struggles. And now, as my kidney is declining in function, we are leaning on the Lord once again, and are trusting that He will be continue to be faithful. Looking back, it is amazing to see how God orchestrates so many aspects of our lives to work together for His glory. Through Michael, we were able to experience firsthand the many needs of orphans and children in poverty around the world. Operation Christmas Child offered us a way to love on more of those children than just the two entrusted to us. Through my illness, God proved to us that He is absolutely worthy of our complete and total trust in everything. He also allowed us to experience what it is like to have a great need and someone else selflessly meet that need. Operation Christmas Child helps meet the actual needs of children in poverty, both physical and spiritual. These children are able to see God’s love and know they can trust in Him for everything. Many of these children are in war-torn countries, in deep poverty, orphaned, and without hope. These shoebox gifts are a tangible expression of God’s love, and they can help fill the greatest need of all through sharing the Gospel with each child and impacting them for eternity.