Jessica Lee shared yesterday at church during Redemption No Borders. She wrote in an earlier email:
Maybe I’m the only cynic but honestly when I heard we were participating in OCC, I guess I was skeptical about how effective one box might be for children with such huge needs. But then i heard this on the radio while driving and was totally put to shame! It’s a really powerful story and I didn’t want to keep it to myself. I thought I’d share in case it could be used somehow.
This is the audio we played yesterday. Lejla’s testimony starts at the 18:00 mark. Jessica typed out the full transcript below. Let’s make as many boxes as possible this year and send it with love and prayer that God would use every box for his glory.
My name is Lejla Allison and I was born and raised in Bosnia. The beginning of my childhood was filled with joy and laughter until the day the news broke there was going to be a war there. Me, my friends, or any other child didn’t even know what war meant. Our dads and brothers were taken away and some of them never came back. From that time, everything started going downhill. War had taken everything from us, including our freedom. And that’s when us kids started understanding what war meant. It meant pain and sorrow. It meant we could no longer go out and play. We could no longer run free, or we would get killed.
Then the school I was going to was bombed, and we had to move. That’s when I had to walk about five miles to get to school, not knowing if I was going to make it. All I had at that time was a notebook and a pencil and I would run out of space to write in the notebook. Then I’d have to start from the beginning by erasing the previous lessons. The notebook didn’t even look recognizable anymore. I no longer felt as a child, not even a human. I didn’t see any purpose of living. My childhood was taken away.
I’d ask myself the same question over and over again. If God loves me, why does he make me live like this? Why doesn’t he just let me die, and let me end this suffering? Of course, then I didn’t know the real God, because my parents were Muslims. I was told that the real god was Allah but I knew I couldn’t pray to him anymore.
And then the day that would change the rest of my life came.
That morning we had about three to four feet of snow covering the ground, and I was getting ready to go to school. I had these old sneakers that were falling apart. As a child, the front of the sneaker made me think of a big, hungry mouth. They had holes all over them. They were also at least three sizes bigger because they used to be my older brother’s shoes. That morning, I had to go to school, and I was crying to my mother that I didn’t want to go because I was so tired of getting my feet wet and cold to the point when I couldn’t feel them anymore. She then told me that she would put a pair of hand-made woven socks on my feet. Then she would tie the bags around them, and then put another pair of pretty socks on, so nobody could see my bags. And that way, my feet wouldn’t get wet. I told her that that’s the way we had been doing it for months, but it didn’t work; my feet would still get wet. She looked at me with eyes full of tears and said, “My dear, it’ll work this time, I promise.” So I didn’t say anything anymore, knowing that there was nothing she could do.
That morning I went off to school trying not to step in the very deep snow so my feet wouldn’t get as wet. When I finally came to the school after about two hours of walking, there was a big group of children standing in front of the building holding pretty, decorated boxes. When I got closer, kids seemed to be very happy, with smiles on their faces, which was very strange to me. I went to the closest group of the kids and asked what was happening. They told me that there were these foreigner people inside giving out these shoeboxes, and I should go in and get one too.
I thought to myself, Why would I need a shoebox? I don’t have anything to put in it. When I finally got up to the front, I saw that our whole entire classroom was filled with shoeboxes. I never saw so many shoeboxes in my life. An older man was standing in the doorway. He looked very friendly, with sadness on his face.
He said to me, Zdravo, which meant “hello” in Bosnian. He then asked me how old I was. I told him I was ten. He nodded his head and handed me a shoebox decorated with pretty paper. I said “thank you” to him in English because I knew he wasn’t Bosnian. When he handed me a box, I realized it wasn’t empty. It had something in it! The first thing that came to my mind was Shoes, I got shoes! I ran to the first corner I could possibly find and opened the box. When I opened it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought I was dreaming. There were brand new white sneakers lying in a box, right before my eyes. There were pencils and notebooks. I didn’t have to reuse my old notebook over and over again.
It was so good. It was better than good. It was the feeling that all words of this world couldn’t explain. I felt rich. I truly felt blessed. 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 living.
I truly felt blessed. But I still didn’t know who sent me this gift. I realized that someone I didn’t even know thought of me in a special way, and sent me this wonderful gift. Although I was thrilled to receive a shoebox gift, I wondered who had sent it and why. I waited until the man who gave me a box was done giving all the boxes out. And then I went over and asked him Who sent this box to me?
The man said This gift was sent to you by Jesus. He told me that the greatest gift of all is Jesus and he will come to me if I ask him, and he would give me the greatest gift. I asked him Now who is this guy Jesus? Why is he doing this? And he told me to look at the little booklet I got in my shoebox, and that should explain everything. All excited, I skipped the class that day, didn’t even think about it—raced straight home to show the shoes to my mom.
When I went to bed that night I took my booklet out to read it, but it was written in English and Russian, so I couldn’t get the whole story about my now best friend, Jesus. Even though I didn’t know much about who Jesus was, I prayed to my real God every night for him and asked him to take care of Jesus. I wrote letters to Jesus every night, and gave them to the man who gave the shoebox to give it to him when he goes back to America.
He then pulled me aside and told me that Jesus already knew about every word I wrote to him. I said Yeah right! How would he know if he didn’t even read them yet? He then whispered in my ear very cautiously, so nobody could hear him, and said that Jesus is God, and that he is God’s only son. I knew it, I knew it! I said. I knew that there was a real God that loves me and cares about me. I’d been asking about a God all this time, and I knew that he would come. And that’s when I invited Jesus in my life and I was saved.
And that day on, I continued to receive gifts from my real God, whose name I now know and I am proud to say is my God, only God, and real God, Jesus Christ.