Encouragement is difficult to quantify. Sometimes the smallest word can give encouragement beyond what you'd imagine, and God can bring encouragement from the most unlikely places.
Personally, this week I feel God's been giving me amazing gifts of encouragement. It started last Monday with an encouraging one-on-one call with my Operation Christmas Child regional manager, Bill. Later that day another boost came with a Facebook message that offered the possibility of a busload of local public high school students coming to help assemble boxes the week of our packing party. I mean, sometimes in the middle of the night I wonder how we're going to fold 30,000 boxes in four days so even the possibility of a large group to help got my heart beating faster. (Keep praying this works out.)
I wrote on Tuesday about how a couple came to my door with four boxes of beanie babies, and on Wednesday we had a terrific packing party work day. Over 60 people from the community came out and worked together to assemble 4500 jump ropes, 2550 bags of crayons, and hundreds of packs of folded paper in bags. When you're wondering how all the work will get done, this is a huge encouragement. Not only that, 269 more stuffed animals were brought to the work day pushing our stuffed animal total for the week to a crazy 1,584!
On Thursday we got a call we'd been praying about for several months giving confirmation that the church that served as our Central Drop-Off Site will continue this year. Yahoo! Praise God! Now to pray in a Central Drop-Off Team Leader. Jim and I were blessed to have dinner that night at Presque Isle State Park on nearby Lake Erie with Steve, our friend from Samaritan's Purse donor ministries. To know their whole staff has been praying for our need for a Central Drop-Off Site was a great encouragement. I can't think of anything that's a greater boost than knowing that others in the Family of God are interceding for you. You can tell in this picture we were having a great time...
Friday's yard sale safari yielded only three stuffed animals--a long way from the 1,500 we're praying for. I was encouraged, though, as I did some cleaning and saw evidences of all God's faithfulness in answered prayer from past months and years while I filed old meeting agendas and read through notes from past Connect conferences...well, yeah, my cleaning gets derailed a lot, I'm afraid...but sometimes you need the encouragement more than the order.
I thought I'd be the only one on safari on Saturday but was encouraged with an early-morning phone call from Donna telling me she'd be on the hunt after all. She faithfully searched and found 300 stuffed animals. Meanwhile, I only bagged 161.
Late on Saturday afternoon I got a surprise colossal dose of encouragement with a call from my fellow-area coordinator friends, Cliff and Sheryl Hartsfield. Turns out they were driving to Canada from Maryland and were going to be just a couple of miles from me. We made plans to meet for a quick dinner at Chick-fil-A.
It's hard not to be encouraged when you share with other OCC friends about all God is doing for your teams and in the ministry as a whole. We talked about how most of us who are leaders in OCC aren't high-powered executive types with strong leadership skills. Some are, but most of us are just bumbling along while we trust God to do things we never imagined He could do in us and through us. And, in our weakness He gets the glory. Wow! It's so encouraging to know it's HIM and not us getting the job done.
Cliff and Sheryl topped it off with another surprise--they brought me 50 brand new stuffed animals to add to the week's total. It's not easy to give to another what you really need for your own packing party, so they blessed me incredibly with this sacrificial gift.
As I left Cliff and Sheryl I headed to Pam's house for a mini work day with our team. Only Pam, Amanda, and I were able to get together but we had some much-needed laughs while we completed (well, almost completed) about a thousand school packs for our boxes.
That brings me to this morning. Not only did I have the encouragement of receiving Donna's haul of stuffed animals that brought us to 516 for the weekend (keep praying for another 984 by Friday) but Charles the Walmart manager who attends our church approached me and asked how many boxes of crayons I want to order. Guys, whenever someone approaches me so I don't have to make a phone call it's a glorious day!
But, wait...it gets better. We've been praying for God to enlarge our OCC team. So there I was in the women's restroom...in a stall...when I heard the familiar voice of a newly-retired missionary call my name and tell me she wanted to talk to me. A minute later we met at the sinks and she said, "People have been asking me what I'm going to do now that I'm retired and I'd really like to work with Operation Christmas Child." Wow!
We talked briefly and I sent her the application information this afternoon. At the risk of "poisoning the process" and falling even lower on the high-impact-scale I promise not to get too excited yet. Still, it was certainly a banner way to end an energy-filled week of encouragement.
God, you really are so good to me.