Charity recipient visits Evanston to share her life-changing story

By Kayne Pyatt, Herald Reporter
Posted 6/5/24

EVANSTON — Evangeline Franzon, who at age 13 received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox filled with gifts, is now one of the organization’s tour speakers. Franzon was in Evanston at …

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Charity recipient visits Evanston to share her life-changing story


EVANSTON — Evangeline Franzon, who at age 13 received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox filled with gifts, is now one of the organization’s tour speakers. Franzon was in Evanston at Pete’s Coffee Shop on Friday, May 10, for one of the stops on her scheduled tour of the southwest region of Wyoming and Salt Lake City.

To a large crowd gathered around tables at the coffee shop, Franzon shared her personal story of how receiving the shoebox was a life-changing event for her.

“My parents were teenagers when they married and my brother and I went to live with our grandparents when our parents went to the city to find work,” Franzon said. “I was 6 years old when my grandmother died, so my brother and I went back to live with our parents. They decided to have more children then, though I’m not sure why.”

Franzon said the island in the Philippines they lived on was very beautiful, but they were poor and lived near a city dump, and the smoke from the burning garbage would make all of their clothes stink. Her father became an alcoholic and her parents divorced.

Her mother and her older brother would go to the dump to find things they could sell at the market. Her mother and brother would also go to the fish market and ask vendors if they could work for fish. Franzon said she had to watch her younger siblings so her mother could work and had to drop out of school to take care of them.

“We were hungry most of the time and often went to bed hungry,” Franzon said. “If we got sick, there was no money for medicine, so we got hot water and vinegar for medicine. Our house was made out of cardboard boxes with a dirt floor.”

Franzon said she used to take her little sister to a nearby church, and the pastor there kept asking her to help with the children and finally she said she would help, because if you helped you could eat. She said after being asked many times by the pastor, she finally accepted Jesus as her savior at Easter services.

When the church sponsored the Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts, she took her little sister and brother in hopes they would all receive one. Franzon said she is tall compared to most Filipinos and she thinks the people giving out the shoeboxes thought she was her siblings’ mother, so they didn’t give her a shoebox.

“I prayed and prayed that I would get one,” Franzon said. “I told God that it would be really nice if I got one. At the end of the distribution, I still hadn’t got one. I was ready to cry when a lady came up and gave me a shoebox. I was so excited I forgot to thank her. I remember the shoebox smelled so good, so clean. I opened it and it was full of school supplies. It was my favorite thing because now I could go to school that year. This gift solidified my relationship with my heavenly father, who would never forsake me or leave me, unlike my earth father. I then became the youth leader at that small church and now I am a tour speaker for the shoebox organization.”

Franzon has lived in Kansas City, Missouri, for 15 years. She is married to Anders Franzon and the couple have two young daughters — Bella, age 11, and Sabima, age 9. She said her husband works from home so he is at home with the girls when she is on tour.

“I am proud of my mother and how hard she worked to care for her children,” Franzon said. “She did what she could and had a hard life. When I received that shoebox gift, it impacted my life in so many ways. I was the first in my family to become a Christian and have brought others in my family to Jesus. I am now married to a wonderful man and am working on my master’s degree in counseling.”

Franzon said it is wonderful that the children who receive a shoebox also receive a Bible written in their own language and an illustrated Christian children’s book which has the potential to change their lives. She said she is proud to be a part of sharing the gospel around the world.

“You pack Jesus in these shoeboxes, and they impact children around the world,” Franzon said. “It gives them hope for the future. The greatest gift is Jesus and I am an example of that. Who would have thought that a girl from a dumpsite would be here today sharing her story in Wyoming? Thank you for coming.”

After a loud applause for Franzon, regional coordinator for Operation Christmas Child Alison Long provided information on what can and cannot be placed in the shoeboxes. She explained that in some countries that are “closed,” they are not allowed to put Christian information in the boxes but they work with underground churches in those countries to get the gospel to the children in another way.

Long said they are no longer able to put soap, candy or toothpaste in the boxes, as officials in other countries do not know the ingredients in the products and will not allow them.

“If you aren’t able to help fill shoeboxes in November of each year, you can fill one online,” Long said. “The online shoeboxes are used in countries where customs are stricter and won’t allow the physical shoebox in. We adjust; God always makes a way.”