"All this abundance that we have provided for building...comes from your hand and is all your own." 1 Chronicles 29:16
I'm not sure 2020 will be known in most circles as a year of abundance but it certainly has been that for our Operation Christmas Child team here in Northwestern PA.
By God's grace He provided almost all the items we needed to pack 22,000 boxes before the pandemic hit. Had it not been for that it might have been easy to say we'd skip our large shoebox packing party for 2020--our 12th year. But with God's provision so evident we KNEW (and kept reminding one another) that He wanted these boxes to be packed.
It was that assurance that kept us going despite roadblocks along the way. We lost our storage space and had to move most of our items with just a few weeks' notice. On the day we met with the church pastor to confirm plans for our September packing party the governor of PA limited indoor gatherings to no more than 25 people. We knew then we'd have to shift gears to make this packing party happen.
But God went before us to open new doors and happen it did! Granted, we could only have fewer than 25 people practicing social distancing to pack. Only 5-10 people packed at a time at individual stations while others folded boxes, stocked items, or dealt with the mountains of cardboard.
We packed one truck in August with a total of 5499 boxes in 3 days and today we finished filling 3 more trucks with another 17,198 boxes and it only took us 5 days this time!
As I look back over my journal at prayer requests through these past months I see how God answered us so clearly step by step. We prayed about items to purchase last October and November and God gave us direction. We prayed about a source for balls and whether to even purchase them and God answered (we bought all the wholesaler had so don't even ask me where we got them--lol.)
We prayed over deliveries and trucks and volunteers and God provided in every way at just the right times.
We hated not being able to involve the whole community this year but we still prayed to make an impact in the lives of people on "this side of the box." And wouldn't you know it--on one night of packing a sweet woman wandered in looking for Celebrate Recovery. It's no longer held at the church but God provided another volunteer there who was packing (the only few hours she was there this week) who was able to offer support to this woman as they packed boxes and promised to take her to a meeting. I'm telling you--pandemic or not--God is ALWAYS up to something!
Packing was easier and quicker than we imagined possible with so few people. And today, before noon, Donna folded the LAST box.
After all these months, we filled the last box that was sent. I even found one extra at home from 2 years ago and we filled that one, too.
Since we cleaned each day as we went it was a breeze to get everything stored back in our container. We even had the time and energy for the core packing party team to debrief a bit and celebrate. Something that usually has to wait for a few weeks until we recover.
With this our 12th year of packing parties we just crossed the quarter million mark. This makes a total of 256,126 gospel opportunities packed in a dozen years.
Our theme verse for this 2020 Peculiar Pandemic Packing Party was from Nehemiah 2:18 "Rise up and build!" It's no coincidence I'm sure that my morning Bible reading was in 1 Chronicles 29--David's prayer as he prepared for his son to build a temple to the Lord. Verse 16 reads "O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own."
I was able to read that with my team today as we thanked God for His provision for every step and for every box. Great is His faithfulness!