Saturday, November 22, 2014

Let The Training Begin

Today I started training for my short-lived dream job--working at the Operation Christmas Child processing center near Baltimore.

I am totally overwhelmed by the amazing job the staff has done over the past few weeks in transforming a bare warehouse into a warm and inviting collection center (well, it's not literally warm--the place is downright chilly and I never took my coat off all day.)

It's interesting how perspective changes when you're looking at things from a new angle.  A few days ago I was advising relay center volunteers who were lamenting about over-filled boxes to "rubber band them tightly and send them on to the processing center."

Now I'm at the processing center where the final decision has to be made about those over-filled boxes.  Our supervisor reminded us again about maintaining the integrity of the box and said that if the box absolutely will not close it will need to be sent to the Shoe Box Hospital area where the items will be transferred to a larger box.  It would be so much easier if every box arrived at a relay or collection center being filled "just right" but, of course, we don't live in a perfect shoe box world.

Even though I got the chance to practice processing boxes, my actual job this year is to help manage the Gifts-In Kind--donated items used as fillers if inappropriate items need to be removed from boxes.

As I looked at these rows of cartons donated by companies, trying to memorize which stacks of boxes contained which items, it was like looking at my storage container times four.  These have to last until all the boxes are processed, so I will be praying for wisdom in how to manage the stock.

As cartons of donated filled items arrive from relay and collection centers I will need to make sure they are inspected and, in some cases, itemized for receipt purposes.

Another one of my duties is to supervise volunteers who will be serving to prepare fillers (bagging the soap, opening packages, etc.)

It's like taking shoe box packing to another level entirely.  Let the training begin.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One More Box

My friend, Pam Hatchell, put out a challenge in a Facebook group for all of us to pack "one more" Operation Christmas Child shoe box in honor of Mary Damron.

Mary is affectionately known as "The Shoe Box Lady" and she has an amazing story.  Back when Operation Christmas Child had barely begun in the United States, Mary felt a calling from the Lord to collect 300 gift-filled shoe boxes from her neighbors in her 'holler' in West Virginia. (note: I believe this was her initial goal but I can't find confirmation of that anywhere right now.)

I wish you could hear her tell the story.  Her daughter had typed up some flyers to take around to her neighbors telling them of her goal to collect 300 boxes.  That night as she lay in bed Mary says Satan "came against me" and told her she would fail...that "no one will listen to you."

In faith, Mary got up and crossed out the number 300 on every flyer and changed it to 1,000.  She ended up collecting 1,256 boxes which she loaded into a borrowed truck and, with her family, delivered to Boone, North Carolina.

Since that first delivery in 1994 Mary has became a national spokesperson for Operation Christmas Child and the Lord has used her to recruit millions of boxes for children around the world.

Whenever Mary speaks, she always encourages us to trust God to do more.  By God's grace we can always do one more box.

So, here it is, Mary--one more box packed this morning for a 10-14 year old girl--ready to bless her in the name of Jesus.

Will you pack one more today?  Do it in honor of Mary but do it for Jesus.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pack and Burn

A few days ago I thought I was nearly done with packing Operation Christmas Child boxes at home.  I love to put a few tool kit boxes together every year, and this year I got most of the tools for free at Harbor Freight.  When I got them assembled my total for home packing was at 555 boxes, and my items were just about gone.

Then on Monday I went to Walmart and found over 400 cute small notebooks and 38 pairs of adorable sandals.

Then I stopped at a local thrift store and chose 120 stuffed animals.  I waited in line to pay for them (they usually sell them to me for .10 each) and the cashier ended up giving them to me at no charge.  Hmm--I could see more shoe boxes in my future.

On Tuesday afternoon a kind woman stopped by with two bags of pristine Webkins.

And, so, the packing continued...

By late afternoon yesterday I was at 667 boxes when I ran out of crayons and toothbrushes.  We were going to church for an all-church worship night last night, so I took a flashlight with me and my husband and I ventured into that dark storage container and dragged out more crayons, paper, toothbrushes, water bottles, and some baseball hats.

During one portion of worship last night we kept singing over and over and over and over again the phrase "Our hearts burn for You" or maybe it was "My heart burns for You"--I can't really recall even though we sang it so many times.

The entire time I kept asking God if this was really true in my life.  Does my heart burn for You, Lord?  I want it to.  I am praying that it will.  I don't want my life to be so caught up in even something as good as packing Operation Christmas Child boxes that I don't love Him as I should.

I am trusting the promise in Philippians 1:6 that "He who began a good work in you (me) will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."

Meanwhile, here's what I woke up to this morning.

It's a perfect day for this retiree to snuggle in and pack shoe boxes...and pray for my heart to burn.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Clucking and Clicking

Well, this picture wasn't taken at Chick-fil-A yesterday--although it was warm enough for us to be outside yesterday.

We were inside collecting Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.  Each person who brought in a box was given a coupon for a free chicken sandwich.

We only have one Chick-fil-A store in our area of Northwestern PA and we are incredibly blessed by their partnership.

You could almost hear the happy clucking of the chickens as we clicked off box after box toward our goal of 55,700 boxes this year--each one ready to bless a child in the name of Jesus.

Over 200 boxes were collected yesterday.  That's a new record!

And that's a lot of clucking and clicking.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lord Ask Us How

I'm taking a little break from the evening's work of packing more Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.  And I'm sitting in my living room staring at the lettering on a cardboard box.   I know it's probably from a local company called "Lord Corporation" but its message makes me ponder....

Lord, ask us how.

--Lord, ask us how we think we can come up with a better plan than Yours.
--Lord, ask us how we think we can lack anything when You have promised us everything.
--Lord, ask us how we can waste the resources You've given us--time, talents, money--when so many in the world have never heard of Your love.
--Lord, ask us why we aren't "about the Father's business" just like You were.

And when He asks us...what will we say?

Okay...I'm heading back to pack a few more shoe boxes now...

Because every box packed means one more child will have a tangible way to know God's love.

Every one might be an answer to the Lord's questions.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Getting It Together

These last few weeks before Operation Christmas Child's National Collection Week are always like a sprint to the finish and today was no exception.

People often ask me, "Do you like retirement?"  I have to say I love it.  I love that I can wake up in the morning with no idea what I will be doing and then come to the end of my day finding it full and fulfilling.

This morning I did an interview on our local Christian radio station at 8 am and then hit Target on the way home.  Their Halloween items went to 90% off this morning and I scored nice socks for .20 a pair, T-shirts and boxer shorts for .59 each and some fun flashlights and stuffed animals.

After returning home I went on an errand with my husband and then got a message that four more large cartons--the remainder of our order of baseball hats--were delivered to our church.   After last Friday's delivery of 48 cartons this one was tiny, but I still needed to deal with it.  The problem was--I'd already made an appointment to get my hair cut on the other side of town and meet someone to give them a supply of OCC boxes at the same time. husband and I passed some fun time together putting caps on another 1000 water bottles and he graciously loaded the cartons into my car.  My trusty cohort Pam and I made plans to meet at the storage container at 3:30 pm, after my appointment.

A few hours later Pam and I stood in front of the container wrestling boxes of hats.  We opened them and found we could save a bunch of space by combining the boxes.  We were able to consolidate four cartons of boxes into two.  This made me wonder how much space we could have saved by opening the other 68 cartons we've already stored and consolidating them?

I will never know.

We finished putting the lids on the rest of the water bottles and got the last of them stacked neatly in the container just as twilight clicked away.  Thank goodness for that flashlight app on my cell phone.  I am so relieved the lids are on all 149 cases of water bottles and Pam worked her storage magic so they are snug and tight (and I do mean tight--like rammed in there with a battering ram tight.)  No wasted space there.

I cruised out of the parking lot just in time to drive to the next event--a youth packing party at Erie Christian Fellowship Church.  Truthfully, I was tired and not excited about going.  But that changed in a hurry when I saw their well-prepared tables lined with wonderful items.

I had such a great time watching the kids pack 144 boxes to bless a dozen dozen children.  It's going to take some strong rubber bands to get those boxes truly closed.

These days are really full but what joy to see the year's work finally coming together.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Interrupted By Heaven

My Operation Christmas Child life was put on hold for a few days--interrupted by heaven.

My 101-year-old mother has been failing over the last few months.  Last Thursday I visited her twice in her nursing home.  When I was there in the morning I put my head on her chest and said, "I love you," and in a weak but understandable voice she replied, "I love you."  That was my last conversation with my mother.  When I came back in the evening she was totally unresponsive and I received a call at 5:00 am on Friday morning with the news that she had, as I wrote in her obituary, "left her frail body behind and danced into her true home in heaven."

The past few days were a whirlwind of preparations for her funeral celebration--locating old pictures, scanning and copying them, and arranging them on display boards; copying and sorting pictures to give to family members; choosing music and pictures for my daughter to assemble into an amazing video which you can view by clicking here;  creating a bulletin for her service and copying it just an hour before the service; preparing comments to share at her service; finding suitable outfits.

In the middle of all that I had to clear my house of the mess created by packing Operation Christmas Child boxes so my family would have a place to stay when they returned home.  All the items I'd dragged out of the attic two weeks ago were toted back up to the attic.

All that activity kept me pretty busy but by God's grace there was still time to think about the wonder of Mom being with Jesus.  It will take some getting used to for me to realize I can't pick up the phone and call to ask her a question.

My father died in 1977 and it's strange to know I'm now an orphan.  But I am holding onto God's promise in Psalm 68:5 that He is "A father of the fatherless."

The weather was glorious for the funeral yesterday, and her service was truly glorifying to God and a fitting tribute for Mom's life.  My brother is a pastor, and many were praying for him as he officiated at the funeral and preached an amazing homily with a clear gospel message.

After the burial, my family and I took a flower from Mom's arrangements and put it on the grave of my sister who died in infancy 50 years ago.  I like to think about them being together again.

This morning my three daughters all left to go home.  I couldn't stop thinking about all the organizing that needs to be done in our storage container, so I called Pam--my faithful right arm OCC team member--and we made arrangements to go to work there.

When I pulled up at the container the Fed Ex truck was there and the first shipment of the 10,395 baseball hats I ordered was being delivered.  I didn't know it was coming; God was so gracious to allow me to be there and to send Pam to help.

We had to move 100 cartons of water bottles that still need to have lids put on them so we could stash the hats in the back of the container.  It's hard to believe how much stuff there is in that container in October.

After an hour and a half of maneuvering boxes all over the place we put lids on 250 water bottles then loaded my car with cartons of them to take home.

This evening I hauled them into my house and my husband and I spent some quality time together putting lids on 900 more bottles.

Now, as I take a little time to sit and think, I'm interrupted again by thoughts of heaven.  I think of children and adults all around the world whose lives still hang in the balance.

God is "not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."  It feels like time is getting short.  No other investment of my time or money should ever interrupt the mission of bringing others to heaven.