Désiré Nana grew up in a poor family of nine in Burkina Faso, West Africa. He walked 3 miles each way to school every day, often searching for discarded food along the way.

At the age of 8, Nana received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift. He said two items inside stood out in particular: a green toy car and a light-up yo-yo.

“That was the first time I had received a gift in my entire life,” he recalled. 

Along with the box, Nana received a booklet called “The Greatest Gift,” which told him about the love of Jesus. He said he would read through the booklet several times a day.

Today Nana is a college student in the United States.  He will be in Hays on Saturday, June 16, to share how that one Christmas gift changed his life completely.

Nana will be speaking from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Downtown Pavilion, 10th and Main. Jared Thom, a local singer/songwriter, will be performing praise music.

The shoebox gift that Nana received as a child is part of Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, headquartered in Boone, S.C. 

Each Christmas season, individuals are encouraged to wrap a shoebox containing small gifts for a needy child. The shoeboxes are then dropped off at sites all across the U.S. and are sent to children in Third World countries.  For many children, the small gifts inside those shoeboxes are the first gifts the children have ever received.

Last year, 2,933 boxes were collected from people in Hays and the surrounding area, said Rachel Albin, the ministry’s area director for northwest Kansas.  In all of Northwest Kansas, 6,399 shoeboxes were collected.

This year’s shoebox National Collection Week is Nov. 12-19.  Hays will have two shoebox drop-off sites, Messiah Lutheran Church, 2000 Main, and Cross Point Church, 1300 Harvest Road.

Nana said receiving that shoebox and learning about Jesus’ love ultimately inspired him to work with children. He eventually went on to serve with the team of volunteers who coordinate the efforts of Operation Christmas Child in Burkina Faso.

Today Nana is studying at Victory Bible College in Oklahoma.

Hays will not be Nana’s only stop in Northwest Kansas. He will be speaking at 11 a.m.Saturday, June 16, at First United Methodist Church in Norton. His presentation there will be followed by a free lunch. Although both events are open to the public, lunch reservations are required to Albin by Thursday at (785) 639-1325 or ralbinmk@yahoo.com.

The following day, Sunday, June 17, Nana will be speaking during the 10:30 morning worship service at Oakley Christian Church.  Albin also will be presenting the church with an award for being a shoebox drop-off site for 10 years.