How Operation Christmas Joy Changed My Life
We sat down with Yusef and asked him to help us understand how OCJ (Operation Christmas Joy) changes lives – and how it changed his life in particular.
What did OCJ mean to you personally?
It was an expression of real joy – joy that I had never seen before. Just a few months before my first OCJ I moved to Turkey and gave my life to the Lord. I joined a 222 Church and through my church, I was invited to the OCJ program. It was amazing for me to see people my own age and even younger, praise God with such joy! The way I saw believers gather as friends and enjoy fellowship, give each other time, share in joyful experiences, all of these were incredibly precious to me. This way of praising with joy, I would go as far as saying it was a strange experience for me and certainly totally new. It left a lasting impact on me and taught me much. It changed me.
OCJ was an expression of real joy – joy that I had never seen before.
What gifts did you receive?
I remember the first year so vividly because it left such a lasting impression on me. My gift was a school bag in which was a set of scarf, gloves and hat, a warm red sweater for the winter and a ball.
After that I can’t remember what was in each year but I can tell you there was always something warm to wear, a toy, and something practical. They had thought of my recreational as well as practical needs and it was always so personal to me.
What did you think of the celebration?
These celebrations were something that we would look forward to for months in the lead up! I always went with my brother Benjamin. The first year I was 14 and he was 10. The celebrations were captivating. They were full of worship, games and entertainment (acting, singing…) and as we got more involved, we were part of these too. Then there was a time given to sharing gifts. It was so special that this was a time that was specially dedicated to children!
If anyone is considering donating to OCJ, what would you say to them?
I would say, without any doubt and without any hesitation, go for it!
These gifts that you give that becomes gifts in the hands of children in need are not just physical gifts. They are hope for these children. Each year these children are literally waiting for Christmas which is a light for them in an otherwise year long struggle. Yes they may get other gifts from family, but when they get gifts from the church , that is something different! And I can tell you from personal experience, it is a source of GREAT joy! I remember I used to literally count days to when the OCJ celebration would happen – I looked forward to it with huge anticipation.
These gifts are not just physical gifts – they are hope!
Know that with these gifts you are impacting the next generation of Iran. There are children and youth that in the future will be the future-builders of Iran!
When did you give your life to Jesus – tell us what led to that decision.
It was in Oct 2016 that I gave my heart to Jesus. I had just moved to Turkey. It was the first time I had been in a church meeting. During worship I saw how people were worshipping with great joy. It was so different to my experience of worship as a Muslim. It gripped me. I knew I wanted to worship my God in this same way. Not with wailing and lamentation but with joy and with celebration. That very day I gave my life to Jesus.
Christian joyful worship gripped me. I knew I wanted to worship God in this way. That very day I gave my life to Jesus. I was 14 years old.
How would you describe your life and circumstances today?
Right now we are refugees in Turkey and have been for more than seven years. Throughout this time we have been waiting to be accepted into a destination country so that we can put down roots and built a more stable life. Opportunities are very limited for us here. For education, for employment. The situation is very difficult. I can’t tell you what is ahead for me but I can tell you that if today I was not a believer and I was not part of a Christian community I’m sure my circumstances would be much more difficult for me and more intolerable without the support of Jesus and my Christian family
The fact is that today we have the Lord and it is HE the one that gives us peace in all circumstances. Then there is our Christian family who are with us in every way. They support and lead us. This is a big thing that helps us to stand firm in these difficult circumstances and make the most of – and create – opportunities that will allow us to move forward and do all that we can with what is before us.
OCJ was such an important part of my life when I was a child. Now I want to see other young people impacted in the way that I was.
Each Yusef matters and has the potential to reach hundreds more.
Your gift will allow us to continue to help some of the most vulnerable children in the Middle East today.