Thursday, December 10, 2009

Shaking Hands

A few days ago behind the stage at the media event for Operation Christmas Child in Boone, NC, Franklin Graham shook my hand and said, "This is my favorite time of year. I get to see what everyone is doing all year round for the ministry and that really charges my batteries."

What really energizes all of us is seeing what God is doing. We know that there is no good in any of us in our own power. "for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." (Philippians 2:13)

I had the opportunity to be on the stage for a short time at OCC media events in Charlotte and Boone--representing the hundreds of year-round volunteers and 191 Area Coordinators who make this project happen every year. This was nothing I deserved but a blessing that came by God's grace

If you want to hear me stumble through my comments, Jana Snyder was kind enough to tape them....

If you want to read more about the event, here's a link to an article on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn. website

The scariest part of last week was renting a car at the Charlotte airport and driving myself around. I've never rented before and am terrible with directions. As I've learned, though, God is always sufficient and despite some tears and frustration I was okay, especially after I got a hug from Mary Damron.

The highlight of last week really wasn't shaking Franklin Graham's hand or even being on the platform for these events--it was meeting up with so many Area Coordinators from the Mid-Atlantic area and working in TWO processing centers to handle more of those precious boxes.

I also spent some hours working in the 'Inappropriate Items' section where I sorted countless bottles of liquids and scooped thousands of Tootsie Rolls (which are definitely inappropriate for boxes) into bins. The cool thing was seeing a list of all the ministries that were coming to pick up the items that had to be taken out of the boxes. Nothing is wasted. Every Tootsie Roll goes to help a local ministry survive. So I saw firsthand how OCC does help children in our country, as well.

As I watched thousands of boxes going through the processing center, I could visualize crowds of children, each one receiving a 'gospel opportunity' for the first time. Over 4.5 million boxes have already been processed in the six processing centers this season.

My hands are shaking with excitement.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Beyond Imagination

National Collection Week 2009 is over and so is Thanksgiving Day, but my thanksgiving for the harvest of shoeboxes God gave us is new every morning. The shine of God's amazing grace hasn't worn thin yet.

On Monday, November 16th, the Family Life Network did a live broadcast from the collection center at Church of the Covenant and by the end of the first day we had 1605 boxes already. Rose Dobson brought the 950 boxes from their small church of 35 members and they kept a crew of us busy cartonizing until nearly 6:00 pm.

On Tuesday and Wednesday we had plenty to keep us busy and on Thursday Pat Carter brought her 1166 boxes from Federated and a few other groups over to fill the truck. The first truck left on Friday morning with over 3,700 boxes.

On Saturday morning I worked with Judy Hyde and again we were busy cartonizing all morning. In the afternoon I called around to see how all the relay centers and the Warren collection center were doing and from the tallies I was pretty sure we'd make the 18,000 goal.

That evening I went to Fellowship Baptist--a small church that's been faithfully filling boxes for OCC since 1994--and helped with their packing party. It was great to see another 133 boxes filled.

On Sunday after church I drove to Church of the Covenant and found four cars in line to drop off boxes. I was the only one there and it was pretty busy for a while as car after car pulled up into the line. The garage was full and thankfully a few other people came to help.

That night the relay centers brought their boxes -- 2626 from Meadville and 1178 from Seneca. My fingers flew over the calculator adding up boxes. Depending on the final totals in Warren, I thought we might go beyond 21,000 and was so excited I couldn't sleep that night.

On Monday the boxes were still rolling in and Seph had to keep extending the collection center hours. Kristin Hesch helped him in the morning. I was making phone calls from school in spare moments to check on Warren and get updates on their relay centers.

After school I went down to help Seph put the final boxes in cartons and got the FINAL TOTALS by 5:30 pm. Last year we had 15,015 boxes and our goal this year was 18,000, including the new collection center in Warren.

Well, God did it again. Just comparing our Erie collection center were were up to 19,768--a 32% increase--and adding in the Warren center our grand total for Northwestern PA was 22,331 (loved those repeating numbers again)--a 49% increase from last year.

God, I'll never get used to this--seeing You do what only You can do and watching You go beyond my imagination.

Now I'm praying about next year's goal. Whatever it is, I want it to be beyond imagination.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

National Collection Week Eve

Actually, it just passed midnight, so it's NOW officially National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child. We area coordinator volunteers were having a Facebook discussion about how we felt on the eve of NCW. It's a butterflies-in-the-stomach blend of anticipation, excitement and apprehension. I liken it to the way I felt at the starting line of a marathon back when I did a lot of distance running. You've spent all those months training and preparing and you stand at the line and wonder how it will all work out. Then as soon as the starting gun sounds you take off running straight for the finish line.

So now we run.

Tonight I did my final speaking engagement for OCC. I went to the First Baptist Church in Meadville. It was a blessing that my husband drove since I forgot to take the church address and couldn't program the GPS. It's a good thing he loves me as he patiently waited for me to go into another Baptist Church's evening service and ask for directions. I'm so glad to be home.

The best news today, though, came from Linda Bennett, our Prayer Coordinator. Linda comes from a rural church that actually began OCC in Erie County back in 1995. Their small church doubled their shoebox numbers to 88 this year. This morning they had the children's Sunday school class pack 12 boxes. They showed the DVD and explained to the children that these boxes were being given to tell children about Jesus, and they also gave out those credit-card size Salvation Poems.

Linda said there were several children there who she sensed had never made a commitment of their lives to Jesus, so they shared the salvation message and gave an invitation. And THREE precious children trusted Christ today at a little church's OCC Packing Party. Linda says they are children who've had a tough life but now they know Christ. Just wanted to tell you that as an encouragement. Our boxes are ALREADY bringing little hearts to Jesus.

Will you pray with us for a great harvest of shoeboxes this week and an even greater harvest of souls?

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Today I'm trying to emulate the transparency that David displayed in the psalms he wrote. Today I'm feeling awfully Jonah-ish.
Today I don't want to do what it takes to obey God.

Today I don't want to be an Area Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child.

Today I don't want to be anything that requires leadership.

Today I don't want to be a servant.

Today, like Jonah, I don't even care about all the children around the world who "don't know their right hand from their left" and don't know God loves them.

Today I don't want to 'translate the cause'--not even to myself.

Today I want to read a mystery novel or watch a mindless movie.

Today I want to eat things that aren't good for me to try to make me feel better.

Today I want to pull the covers over my head (or sit under my dead vine and whine).

But God, by His mercy, reminds me that

Today God's truth is always there to be heard.

Today God has a plan and will make a way.

Today God may move someone to pray.

Today is too precious to waste and

Today is not over yet.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Generally Blessed

Today was one of the days I wait for--90% off at Dollar General on summer clothes and shoes. I made it to 8 stores today and was blessed with 444 clothing items for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. Now I'm sorting and bagging the bounty.

For the first year that I can remember, I don't really need these items to meet my goal of packed boxes for the current year so I'm trying to decide where to store them.

Should I start taking stuff to the loft at Grace Church in hopes of having another giant shoe box packing party next year? Should I take it to the basement of Wesley Church and keep packing boxes throughout the year?

In the midst of these questions I've been doing a lot of speaking for OCC. Last night I was in Albion to speak to the Lions Club's auxiliary and ended up getting lost in the country. I hate country roads--especially at night. They're so creepy and dark and lonely. By God's grace I didn't get attacked by an ax murderer but it felt like I might. Tomorrow I'm headed back into the country again--down to Seneca, PA. Sunday before last I was in Guys Mills (country again) and this Sunday I'm off to Clintonville--which I'm SURE is in the country. Creepy. But I'll drive to the ends of the earth (or at least what seems like it) to beg for more shoe boxes to be packed.

Enough of this. I'm off to sort sandals and think about how to inspire country folks to pack more shoe boxes.

I really am Generally blessed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Great Number

My Bible reading yesterday took me to the first chapter of Numbers where I was reading about the census God commanded them to take of all the men over the age of 20 who could fight for Israel. When I got to verse 46 I read, "The total number was 603,550."

It just made me stop and think of what a perfect total number of Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes that would be for the Mid-Atlantic region this year. We've all been praying for the goal of 600,000 anyway--so why not up it to 603,550? What a great biblical number. Just think of 603,550 gospel opportunities touching 603,550 children who could then fight to take the gospel to others. Of course I had to grab my calculator to check and I found it's just a little over a 15% increase over last year's Mid-Atlantic total.

Also, I noticed how the numbers in Numbers chapter 1 are counted as a total from those of individual tribes just as ours will be a total from area teams--we'll have our own little paraphrase of this chapter. It gave me a new appreciation for the idea of all those numbers in the Bible.

Just thought I'd share that I have a new prayer goal--603,550.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

He Did It!

I am amazed at all God has done. A week ago all the items to pack the shoe boxes were still in the loft area at Grace Church or in the basement at Wesley Church. Now, just seven days later, they're all packed into shoe boxes and ready to be transported to children around the world.

Last night I wrote about how I tossed in bed crying out for God to do what only He could do.

And today He did it!

The packing started a bit after 9:00 am and by 1:00 pm we were past the 5,000 goal. Streams of volunteers--around 150 of them--piled items into boxes as I prowled the perimeter and tried to stay out of the chaos. If there were complaints, I didn't hear them. God likely closed my ears to keep my sanity. I only spent a few minutes in a corner of a dark room praying about whether to send my husband on a one-hour trip to pick up more notebooks from our old church where some of the supplies were stored.

Interesting about the supplies--the toothpaste I thought we'd never run out of because I had so much extra was the first thing to deplete. Well, right after the pencils. We started to divide the 24-packs of crayons into bags of 8 to make them stretch and then ended up with extra. And the clothing items? By my count we didn't have enough to do 5,000 boxes but we ended up packing 5,577 and still had some left over. Unexplainable. The notebooks I sent my husband to get weren't really needed in the end but the bagged candy he got there was.

After the packing party was over, Heather, Elizabeth, Kristin and I went back to Wesley Church and packed another 126 boxes to bring the total there to 4,126. We'll meet there tomorrow at 2:00 pm and hopefully have enough volunteers to move those boxes upstairs, cartonize them, and truck them to Grace Church to put them on the semi.

5,577 plus 4,126 plus 318 boxes brought in by individuals at Grace Church= 10,021 boxes to put on the truck so far. Why did I have those moments of doubt in the night?

Only You, God. Only You.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Commit Your Way

I've been tossing in bed on this eve of the giant packing party. Sleep eludes me. Earlier this evening I was feeling excitement but now I feel like a condemned prisoner--no turning back.

I wish I could just stand on a balcony and watch the packing party happen instead of having to be in the middle of the chaos and deal with questions and complaints and feel my lack of leadership skills slapping me over and over again.

As we worked today to organize items on tables, all I could think was that it just doesn't look like enough to nicely fill 5,000 boxes. I know I have the basics but there just aren't enough filler items and the stacks of stuffed animals look slim.

Jesus, take what we have just like you took that little boy's lunch so many centuries ago and multiply it. Make it last. Make it fill the corners of those boxes. Make it bless children in Your name. Give us baskets left over.

I've been clinging to Psalm 37:5 that promises, "Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in Him and He will do this."

Do it, Lord, or it won't be done.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


'sufficient' is sort of an antiquated word. We don't use it all that much anymore except in the context of 'self-sufficient'--being able to take care of yourself. I'm not feeling self-sufficient right now. Not hardly.

I should be sleeping. But I'm not. I'm thinking. I'm not worrying, mind you, I'm just thinking. My thoughts bounce around from anticipation to consternation when I think about this giant packing party for Operation Christmas Child on September 26th and realize it will all be over in three weeks. We're asking God to let us pack 5,000 gift-filled boxes in one day for needy children around the world. Will I be sorry that I didn't do more to prepare?

I've been doing an inventory of items for the boxes and calculating what we could run out of first. I think we need more than another 1,500 stuffed animals. From where will they appear?

I bought and hauled another 1,176 notebooks from Target in the last two days. Will we have enough?

It's all still pretty much a mystery. Some of the details are coming together but a lot remains undecided and uncharted. As I tossed in bed minutes ago, Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 12:9 kept running through my head. Paul said that God told him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." I don't know how God told him that, but Paul writes it as a quote from God and he passed it on to us.

God says His grace is sufficient and an online definition of 'sufficient' is "as much as is needed." I've sure got the weakness to make His power show up for the perfection it is and He's got the sufficient grace to meet every need. By the time September 27th comes around and the semi trailer's loaded with thousands of boxes and ready to roll this will all be just another story of God's sufficiency.

Sufficient. Yeah, it's gonna be more than okay.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


It’s amazing what can happen when you inspire a lot of people to even a little involvement. I’ve been reading about the building of the Tabernacle in Exodus , and I was struck by the fact that the people gave over 3¾ tons of silver for its construction.

But I was even more dumbfounded when I read Exodus 38:26 and realized that each person over the age of 20 gave only 1/5th of an ounce of silver. I’ve wondered at times if God is pleased with the concept of megachurches. It seems, though, that the Israelites were the original megachurch—a couple million strong. Each person gave this tiny amount and they ended up with a mountain of silver.

I think of how this applies to Operation Christmas Child and I realize anew how important it is to spread the vision for this ministry to as many churches and individuals as possible.

If we could get only 180 churches to each contribute 100 gift-filled shoe boxes from their congregation, we’d easily reach our goal of 18,000 boxes from Northwestern PA. And if we got 1,000 churches from each of the 50 states to pack 100 boxes each, we’d have 5 million—very close to our goal of 5.2 million boxes nationwide. Hey, Texas does things in a big way, so we’ll get them to pack an extra 200,001 to put us over the top.

And if I could get 1,000 people to each buy 10 boxes of crayons—well, I’d have 10,000 boxes with no sweat.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

3/4 Ton Waxed Me Out

I spend a lot of time praying for things like crayons for my Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes and last week I got an answer. Last Sunday K-Mart advertised their 24-packs of Crayola crayons for a sale price of 20 cents, so I talked with a Wal-Mart manager on Monday and he agreed to match the K-Mart sale price and order me 6,000 boxes of crayons. I was ecstatic and prayed all week that the crayons would arrive by the end of the week during the time of the sale.

On Friday the call from Wal-Mart came right on schedule and I drove my Dodge Caravan to pick up my precious bundles of joy--all 119 cartons of them. It took longer than I expected to pay for them and load them into my car, but I was rejoicing that they all fit!

I was on my way to a funeral that started at 11:00 AM and I left the Peach St. Wal-Mart parking lot at 10:50 to make the drive to West 12th and Asbury--probably a normal 20 minute drive. I was proud that I was only 2 minutes late for the start of the funeral but I did wonder why my car sounded a little funny.

After the service I drove home, and my husband arrived a few minutes after I did and burst into the house yelling, "When are you gonna get those crayons out of the car!" My confusion must have showed, because he went on to 'explain' (kinda loudly) that the rear end of the car was only six inches off the ground and he thought my tires looked flat.

So we unloaded part of the crayons into his truck. Then he and my daughter Jen drove both vehicles to Grace Church where we carried the cartons up two flights of stairs to a loft for storage. Oh, there was also a wall at the top of the stairs to lift them over. Actually Jim and I did the stairs--25 trips or so up and down for each of us carrying 2 cartons per trip--and handed the cargo to Jen to carry across the loft and stack. There was a lot of sweat flowing.

Jim later weighed a carton (14.5 pounds) and after doing the math he found that the total weight was in excess of 3/4 ton. No wonder the car was dragging.

I'm praising God but right now I'm waxed out.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Under Grace

It took a real clear leading to get us to leave our former church--Wesley Church--last November. We'd been talking about the need to leave for some time but I kept dragging my feet and wondering how I could keep packing large numbers of shoe boxes in a new church.

I remember my OCC Mid-Atlantic director, Leigh, telling me, "You have to do what God's telling you to do." So we started attending Grace Church--a church with more than 1,000 attending on the weekend--a mega church by Erie standards. I continued packing boxes at my old church and no one has asked me to stop yet, even though I feel like I'm trespassing as I work quietly in the church basement.

Some weeks ago Grace Church offered me a huge storage space and this week I had a second meeting with staff members to discuss involving Grace in Operation Christmas Child. Really, all I wanted was for them to give me space in their facility to hold a one-day community packing party.

Instead, God went so far beyond my expectations in that meeting. They fully embraced the project and ideas bounced around that table like hyperactive toddlers. They'll be asking church attenders to donate items for packing boxes and then host a huge packing party with the goal of packing more than 4,000 shoe boxes in one day.

Now I'm calculating and making lists and waiting on God to provide all the items to make it happen. Can't wait to see Him do it.

There's nothing like being under His grace at Grace.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Full Circle and Small Beginnings

I've been praying for almost two years for God to provide a Prayer Coordinator for our NW PA Operation Christmas Child team. On Thursday we had a team meeting and a guest named Linda came. She's been wanting to come for a year now but just made it. Actually, she almost didn't make the meeting this week. She lives in Albion (almost an hour away) and when she went out to get in her car she found her husband had taken her keys. But I called another team member who lives near her and graciously offered her a ride.

The cool thing is that Linda was responsible for first bringing OCC to Erie County back in 1994. Her small church served as a 'relay center' before that term even came into being. They collected boxes from around our county and trucked them two hours away to the nearest collection point.

At the end of our meeting we had a time of group prayer and as Linda started to pray I knew why Satan had tried to keep her from coming. Her prayer went something like this, "God, in Your Word you say that we shouldn't 'despise the day of small beginnings' and I remember all those years ago sitting on my living room floor and watching a TV program that mentioned Operation Christmas Child. I knew it was something I wanted to be involved with and now all these years later there's this team here..."

As Linda continued to pray, tears rolled down my cheeks and I thought, God, I think this is our Prayer Coordinator--coming back to us after starting OCC in Erie 15 years ago.

When the meeting ended I asked Linda if she'd consider signing on to be Prayer Coordinator and she answered, "I'll pray about it." Just the reply I wanted.

Not able to sleep that night, I checked that reference to the 'day of small beginnings.' It's from Zechariah 4:10. I began reading the book of Zechariah and with the help of a commentary I learned that the book is full of God's assurances that Zerubbabel would finish rebuilding the temple, even though he'd made only a 'small beginning'. In an earlier verse (4:6) God reminds him (and us) that it's "not by might nor by power but my Spirit."

I thought of God bringing Linda back in a full circle from the small beginnings of OCC in our area to our growing team. And I thought of how small our team's beginnings seem even now. And I thought of God who is always faithful to His promises and will 'bring it to pass'--by His Spirit.

In His time.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Thankful

Today is my mother's 96th birthday. A few years back one of my daughters asked her, "Gma, what's a secret for living so long?" and my mother answered, "Don't worry."

The Bible has direct commands that tell us not to worry and the only way I've found to keep from falling into that sin is to focus on God's promises. I also have been praying lately day by day that God will help me to recognize His goodness and praise and thank Him for it. Worry doesn't exist very well in the company of praise, as Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:6,7.

Lately, though, I've found myself 'concerned' (euphemism for worry) about how God will provide enough clothing items for my Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes this year. Though it's not required, I like to put some item of clothing in my boxes--a shirt, shorts, etc. So I'll need more than 6,000 more. And the sales where I usually find these items haven't materialized this year so far. I've been 'thinking' (euphemism for concerned) about this quite a lot.

At Grace Church yesterday Pastor Al preached about financial freedom. One of his teaching points was the importance of being financially free in order to avoid worry. As I was following his text and turned to Matthew 6, my eyes fell instantly to verse 28 and I read, "And why do you worry about clothes?"

Yes, Lord.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Power of Hope

I watch the Operation Christmas Child DVD and see those beautiful smiling children while the background song lyrics proclaim, “It’s the gift. It’s the power of hope.” I’ve been so in need of that hope.

Yesterday I stood in the church basement packing shoeboxes by myself. Negative thoughts started to throw their weight around like WWE wrestlers. Maybe I should forget about packing boxes. I could just buy stuff on sale and send it to the Processing Center for fillers. And next: why not forget about OCC entirely? I could lie in the hammock and read books

I contemplated the way I’d been procrastinating about making phone calls—a dreaded task for me—and mourned about how the expected sale to give me clothing to put into the boxes at a low price never materialized. I thought of how little help I’ve had with packing. I sank lower in the quicksand of self-pity. Hopeless.

Then a woman who has committed to pray for me phoned to see if I was okay and asked for a list of updated prayer requests. Her call brought a sliver of hope. My phone chirped again bringing news that a church in a neighboring county will be a relay center and collect shoeboxes in their area. The sliver widened.

And today another call brought the potential of doing a large packing party this year—an idea I’d abandoned as being logistically impossible. Maybe I won’t have to spend so many lonely hours in the church basement after all. The light is starting to shine again.

Hope does have power.

Friday, July 3, 2009


I'm weary. I used to laugh at my mother for saying that but now I know how she felt. Maybe it's from working over the past few days to help Grace Church landscape the neighborhood around the Extreme Makeover home in Erie combined with donating blood. Maybe I'm just getting old.

I'm also feeling overwhelmed about Operation Christmas Child. I drove over to my old church on Thursday and Friday and packed another 166 boxes to bring the total to 2,761--about on pace with last year at this time. It takes about 3 to 3 1/2 hours to pack one round of 75-90 boxes by myself. I need more help.

And it's my job to get it. People always say, "Call me and I'll come help you pack." But I don't want to call them. I want them to call me. It doesn't work that way, though. I'm supposed to be out there casting vision and motivating and stimulating people to join in the effort. Instead, I'm packing boxes by myself in the basement. Weary.

I've been reading in Exodus and noticed that when God brought His people out of Egypt He told them He would give them the promised land "little by little" so they wouldn't be frightened and want to return to Egypt. Well, of course they still wanted to go back to Egypt and He ended up making them wander around for 40 years. But that concept of "little by little" is one I'm going to stand on.

The goal of 10,000 boxes seems impossible today, but I'm going to keep packing "little by little". Because it's always one box at a time--one box to bless one child in Jesus' name.

And a friend reminded me of Jesus' invitation in Matthew 11:28 "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."

I'm coming.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Extreme Home Makeover

The Extreme Home Makeover show crew is coming to Erie this week to bless a local family with a home makeover.  I have to say that I'm not much of a fan of the show because the practicality in me says that they could help many more people if they were a lot less 'extreme' with the makeovers.  I always wonder how the families who receive those extravagant homes are able to maintain them after the show is over.  

And when you've watched a Jamaican mother with three children cry for joy because you built her a 10 foot by 10 foot one room home, it's hard to keep a positive perspective on the TV show.

Still, I know that Jesus is moved by extreme generosity; after all, He is the ultimate giver.  It's just that He sees who is truly generous and we often don't.  

I imagine if there had been TV cameras in Jesus' day they would have been filming the public good deeds of some lavish building program.  But over there in an obscure corner of the temple Jesus was watching a widow give two very small coins--all that she had.  No one else even noticed her but Jesus memorialized her extreme generosity forever and we can still read about it in Luke 21.  

I think about that when it comes to Operation Christmas Child.  I think about Rose, a woman of modest means who attends a very small church.  That little congregation has banded together to collect and recycle aluminum to fund their shoe box packing and last year Rose led them in packing 342 gift-filled shoe boxes to show God's love to needy children.  No TV cameras filmed them, but I know that Jesus noticed.  And Jesus notices the person who packs one shoe box with extreme sacrifice.

God, I want so much to learn how to be extremely generous.  Show me how to give until there's no more left.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Voices In The Night

Woke out of a sound sleep at 1:08 am and then again at 2:15 am.  What is it that jolts my mind into consciousness and moves me immediately to prayer?  

Same thing happened last night, too, and the theme of those prayers was begging God for wisdom to find the right yard sales to buy stuffed animals.  He answered those prayers with a haul of 353 of them.  That means over the past two weekends alone He's provided 777--a perfect number.

As I unloaded the car after the sales, Jim informed me that his sister and her significant other are coming to stay with us for a few days this week.  Yikes!  Where am I going to hide all this stuff?  Not enough space to stash all the blessings.  

And should I drive to Hagerstown, MD to pick up white shoe boxes?

I think of these questions in the night and then I turn my voice back to prayer.  I remember leafing through the book of Joshua in my Bible a few days ago and seeing in chapter 10 how God made the sun stand still when Joshua prayed.  Verse 13 says, "And there was no day like that before it or after it, when the Lord listened to the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel."  Oh to be heard like that.

God, when you wake me in the night I'm not asking for the sun to stand still, but I am asking You to listen to my voice.  I'm asking You to work out the myriad of details and provide 10,000 shoe boxes this year--and the stuff to fill them and the volunteers to pack them.  

And I'm asking for 18,000 boxes from our Northwestern PA area and 600,000 boxes from the Mid-Atlantic region and 5.2 million boxes nationwide.

Because there are children's voices calling in the night--children who need to know You love them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Alabaster Box

And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.  Luke 7:37,38 (KJV)
I was looking through a concordance to see if I could find any Bible references to the word 'box' when I came across this passage in Luke.  We always hear about Mary and her jar of perfume but I was intrigued to see the King James Version calls it an "alabaster box".
I started thinking of all the white cardboard boxes we fill for Operation Christmas Child.   They are our alabaster boxes.  We offer these treasure-filled boxes to Jesus and pour them out on the 'least of His brethren' as a means of anointing Him.  
We recognize that all our treasure is pitiful compared to His glory but it's all we have and so we pour it out.  We let down our hair and open ourselves up to disgrace just to show our love for Him.  We're willing to do the inconspicuous behind-the-scenes day-to-day menial work of sorting and hauling and packing and stacking and the even harder work of praying and trusting and hoping.
The irony is that He is the one who provides the offering.  Just today He answered my continual prayer for more crayons by allowing Mt. Carmel School to loan me 151 boxes of Crayolas from their school store with the promise that I'll return them when the back-to-school sales come around in a few weeks.  
He gives us these alabaster boxes and then He allows us the privilege of spilling them out on precious children in His name.
Thank You, Jesus--for being the gift and the giver and the gracious recipient.

Friday, May 29, 2009

They're Waiting

I went to the Dominican Republic in February to help distribute shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and when our van pulled up at each tiny church or school there was always a crowd of children waiting.  A sea of beautiful faces on bodies pressed together as tightly as sticks of gum. 

After we passed out stickers and presented a short evangelical program for the kids, the pastor and other workers would line them up according to age and gender groups.

And, once more, they’d wait.

Finally, one by one, a gift-filled box and ‘El Major Regalo’ (the Greatest Gift of All booklet that tells the story of the Bible) were placed into the hands of each child.  But the waiting wasn’t over yet, because they couldn’t open their boxes until every child received one.

And so they waited.

Even the smallest two-year-olds sat quietly, holding their boxes closed on their laps.  Well, maybe a few did give in and pry up the lids with their tiny fingers to sneak a quick peek, but most of them just sat.


When all had a box, Miguel, one of our interpreters, would yell, “Uno, dos, tres…”  The wait was over and box lids were tugged off amid squeals of glee.  Smiling faces reigned over the chaos.

But at each place I would look around and see more children--those who could not be invited to attend because there were not enough boxes. 

Somber eyes peered in at the celebration.  Dark-skinned hands wrapped around the iron rods of a fence or window.  Mothers pressed in behind, shouting out their requests for their children to receive gifts also.  “No mas,” we had to say.  We had no more.

And still they wait.



Saturday, May 23, 2009

You're Always On My Mind

I'm in the great city of Chicago for one of the most exciting occasions of my life--my daughter Julie's graduation from medical school. The time went so quickly from that day in the birthing room (pictured above) when they were all so little and new.  I honestly never anticipated how successful each of my daughters would be in the career realm. I am only just starting to learn to trust God for big things myself over the last few years, so I can take no credit for the huge dreams they've followed, but it's amazing to sit back and watch their lives unfold.

My oldest daughter Amy, a poised and caring woman, does production in digital media for National Public Radio in Washington, DC and travels around the country for music festivals and conferences. Daughter Jen works long hours in construction with a Christian non-profit ministry called Hosanna Industries that repairs and builds homes for low-income clients in the greater Pittsburgh area. And now Julie, after surviving years of training with perseverance and commitment, is ready to launch into her residency in ob/gyn. I never imagined any of this.

They are always on my mind.

But in the midst of this excitingly surreal weekend, Operation Christmas Child is in my thoughts and prayers as well. I think of how I'm running out of storage space and I ponder how I can get more boxes and strategize about ways to get more churches involved in the project. My mind won't stop meandering back to that OCC pathway.

And this weekend whenever I think of that elusive goal of packing 10,000 shoe boxes this year I have new inspiration for that dream. I look at my three daughters and see young women who continue to dare to move beyond themselves and pursue hard-won goals. They lead me. They humble me. They challenge me.

They are always on my mind.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I tried going to bed but I can't sleep.  It's one of those days when I just keep wondering how all these Operation Christmas Child 'ends' will come together.  I was so happy yesterday when God provided 230 stuffed animals and a bunch of filler toys at yard and rummage sales.  Even though I had to teach a mother-daughter class at St. Vincent, God led me to the right sales at the right times to get a haul of stuff.

Today, though, the doubts are creeping in.  The staff at Wesley Church is dwindling and I wonder how long I'll be able to keep packing boxes there.  I haven't approached anyone at Grace Church to see if they have any space or any interest in being involved with the project.  I don't even know who to speak with about it.  

All day I kept reprogramming myself--reminding myself that I just want to listen to God's voice and have Him coach me to do my very best for Him.  I don't know how it'll all work out, but I can do whatever He puts in front of me today.  He is my sovereign God and has everything under control.  

I just keep praying that He'll lead me to people I can encourage to pack more boxes.  Every box is one more child who can have a 'gospel opportunity' and learn about God's love.

God, there must be so many people right here in Erie who'd be willing to pack a simple shoebox full of gifts if they just knew about Operation Christmas Child.  Show us how to get the word out.  There are so many millions of children waiting to know Your love.  

I keep thinking of that goal I have to pack 10,000 boxes this year.  That's an average of almost 200 boxes every week.  I'm certainly not on track to do that and I don't know if it's possible with so little help, space or resources.  

But God, Your resources are unlimited.   Will you do what only You can do?  You specialize in what Bill Hybels calls Big Hairy Audacious Goals.  

It's a BHAG.  Do it again, God.  Please.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mothers' Day Thoughts

I'm thinking today of all the mothers in the world who cannot give their children the basic needs of life--clean water, food, medical care or decent shelter.  I have never had to watch my children lack for basic needs and I can't imagine how that feels.

I live in luxury and have a responsibility to steward all God has given me.  What does He want me to do in the face of all the need I see around me?  I spend so much time and money packing shoeboxes full of gifts to send to needy children to tell them about the love of God.  And I support a number of other ministries around the world as well.  Still, I have so much left over and in the face of such need I wonder, God, if You're calling me to do more.

I want to be obedient.

Today I got 184 more empty shoeboxes hauled over to church along with this weekend's catch of 81 stuffed animals and nearly 300 tubes of toothpaste.  I need to get more boxes packed and make some space there.

I truly believe there must be people in this city who would love to help me pack boxes.  Why do I do such a poor job of finding them?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"You won't relent until you have it all"

Deviating from the shoe box theme I had a few thoughts during church.  I noticed in the bulletin today that the word 'hypocrisy' was misspelled (as 'hypocracy') but I thought it was probably hypercritical to mention it.  Still, I couldn't refrain so I did tell someone.  Why is it so easy for me to see mistakes that other people make while I'm so blind to my own?

Then while we were singing a song called, I think, "You Won't Relent Until You Have It All"--at least that's the first line--I was struck by one line that was being sung to God and said "Until You and I are one."  I stumbled on that and now can't stop thinking about whether it's biblical to think that we can ever be one with God.  

Jesus said, "I and the Father are one," and He prayed that we (His followers) would be one as He and the Father are one.  But after getting out the concordance and doing a word search under 'one' I couldn't find anything in scripture to support us becoming one with God.  I leafed through 10 pages on Google but couldn't find any discussion about this point.  

Am I crazy?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Precious China

On Monday, April 27th, a cargo plane carrying 65,000 Operation Christmas Child shoe box gifts left North Carolina.  I've been following pictures posted by Randy Riddle, US Director for OCC, of those boxes arriving in China and being delivered.  Such wonderful gifts for precious children who've survived the devastation of an earthquake.  

Seeing their faces in the pictures reminds me again that all the day-to-day work is worth it.  Last night I steamed the labels from 200 shoe boxes then packed them all back up.   This morning I loaded the cartons into the car and after school I drove over to church and hauled them all down the steps into the storage room.  I need to remind myself often that this is all part of the circle that gets these boxes into the hands of children around the world.

Most of what I do is so mundane--tomorrow I'll drive around to yard sales looking for toys and I'll stop at more Dollar General stores to buy toothpaste and I'll stuff everything in my car until I can get it to storage.  It's not glamorous--this work of OCC--but it's rewarding like nothing I've ever done before.   Sometimes I feel like God created this amazing ministry just for me.  Could that be possible?  So precious.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

One Box

I spent this morning at Asbury United Methodist Church in Waterford, PA where Lejla Allison was invited to speak.  Lejla received a shoe box as an 11-year-old girl in Bosnia in 1993 and came to know the Lord through that box.  

She was asked to speak here and made the drive with her husband and two children from their home four hours away.  She was only given 10 minutes to speak in each morning service and 45 minutes to speak during Sunday school.  I was amazed at her attitude after traveling all that way to speak so briefly--she told those in attendance that if their hearts were open to God they could hear from Him in only a minute and if they weren't she could speak to them for hours and it wouldn't make a difference.

Though I've heard Lejla's amazing testimony before, I was struck anew by something she said today.  She wasn't saved by 8 million boxes; she was saved by ONE box--by one box that one person took the time to pack and pray over.  

Even though Lejla traveled a long way and didn't get to speak to many people today nor for very long, she spoke tremendous encouragement to me.  

I am renewing my efforts to pack more boxes.  Because EVERY box is THE box for one more child.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Sometimes it's hard to know what to do with all God's blessings.  I've been praying for stuffed animals and got 96 more on the yard sale circuit this morning.   When I got home at noon I loaded the 8 cartons of shoe boxes I picked up on Wednesday into the back of the van.  Then I went to visit my mother (and out to lunch with her and my sister) and finally stopped to unload the van at Wesley Church.  

I was so proud of myself for getting my van and most of my house cleared out and getting everything stored in the church storage area.

When I got home there was a message from DSW Shoe Warehouse that they had more boxes for me.  No time to pick them up then as I was headed to Grace Church for the 5:30 service.   After a fantastic time of worship with a clear presentation of God's truth I made the shoe box run and picked up 7 more garbage bags full of boxes.  

The blessings never stop.  Sometimes I'm amazed when I ponder the fact that each of these boxes that I haul and fill will end up in the hands of a child somewhere far away.  God, thank You for the privilege of being able to serve with Operation Christmas Child.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stuffed Again

So last Sunday I went to Target when they opened at 8:00 and I was the only one there just shoving those 90% off stuffed animals into my cart--79 of them to be exact.  Then on Tuesday when I got over to church to pack more boxes I found that someone else had dropped off donations of stuffed toys.  In one weekend God provided several hundred great lovable stuffed animals--what an answer to prayer!

On Tuesday evening I packed another 61 boxes to bring the total to 1,745.  I packed boxes for 2-4 year old girls and left out the crayons in order to conserve them.  Boy, when crayons go on sale in June I'm going to be buying thousands of boxes.  I can't wait.

Last night we had our Operation Christmas Child area team meeting here at my house.  It was such a joy to meet with friends who share my passion for OCC.  We watched together the 'death crawl' scene from the movie "Facing The Giants" and talked about how we want to do our VERY BEST every day for God in this project of OCC.  I ponder a lot about what my 'very best' would look like.  How far would you help me go for You, God, if I were really and truly 'all in' for You?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Getting Stuffed

So I've been praying for stuffed animals.  I like to put a stuffed animal in every box I pack for Operation Christmas Child so the child who receives it will have something to love.  

My prayers were answered this weekend.  Between three rummage sales, two Walgreens with 75% off on Easter toys, 50% off at the Goodwill and some extra donations, I amassed several hundred stuffed toys over the past two days.  

Tomorrow I'm going to hit Target to see if their Easter stuff's at 90% off so I can get some more because you can never have too many stuffies.

Now I'll keep praying for crayons so the packing will continue without a hitch.  Heather Rogers, my OCC Church Relations Coordinator, and I packed 84 more boxes on Friday evening.  

Total now at 1,684.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lucky April 13th

Hey, spring vacation's over and I got to go back to school today.  No crises developed and it was a good day.

Yesterday on my last day off I packed another 79 shoe boxes to bring the total up to 1,600.   Down to my last 350 boxes of crayons, though, so I need to keep praying for more. 

Also used up all but a dozen stuffed animals--back on the hunt for those, too.

Can't wait to see how God provides.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Long Time No Post

Okay, so it's April already and tomorrow is Easter.  I meant to blog during the past two months.  I really did.

From February 9-13 I was in the Dominican Republic where I was privileged to be able to help distribute Operation Christmas Child gift-filled shoe boxes to children in poor rural areas.  I helped with six distributions--two per day--and found them amazing, chaotic, crazy, joy-filled and overwhelming.  

Now I'm back to the ongoing task of packing boxes.  God has been answering prayer to supply items for the boxes and I spent all but one day of my past week off from school working to pack more.  We're up to a total of 1,521 now.  We ran out of stuffed toys, and I'm praying for more.

Today at a flea market I got 62 new stuffed bunnies for under 30 cents each.  Also today's paper printed a small article asking for donations of stuffed animals and small toys.  I'm eager to see if that brings us more toys.

Meanwhile I'm putting candy into bags for the boxes, gathering and wrapping empty boxes to fill (got 216 just in this past week) and putting together paint kits.  

Oh, yeah, did I mention I used coupons to get 412 tubes of toothpaste for free this week?  

Never bored.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


In November my husband and I left the only church I've ever really attended--the place where I've been since my days in the church nursery.  Now we're 'church hunting' and since I've never been much of a hunter, I'm finding this very, very difficult.  Someone ought to write a book called 'Church Hunting for Dummies'.  I'd be first in line to buy it.

We've been going off and on to a church called Grace Church.  Big place.  I sit there and think that all of these people around me must have stories but I don't know them.  Nor they, mine.  

They don't know that I'm struggling.  Should I go on the distribution trip to the Dominican Republic next week when the co-worker who would have to assume my job responsibilities in my absence has been off for five weeks because of an automobile accident AND just had her son die two days ago?  I'd love to ask someone to pray for me....but who?

At my old church there is a basement storage room full of supplies to pack shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  We packed 7,327 boxes there last year.  Now that I'm looking for a new church....can I find one that will welcome that ministry and find storage space for me?  I keep using space at my old church.   Will they throw me out?  

God, please show me a place to connect.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Operation Christmas Child-- The Journey

So back in 1995 I packed three shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child--an international outreach project that sends gift-filled shoe boxes to needy kids in 100 countries around the world. The next year I packed 5 but the year after that I got serious and decided to collect items year-round with the goal of packing 40 boxes. I ended up packing 80 that year and 125 the next.

God just kept growing the project and in 2008 it was up to 7,327 boxes. I don't know what goal God has for us in 2009 but today I packed 70 more boxes to get our total up to 272 for this year so far. I'm hoping to use this blog to chronicle the day-by-day journey to pack these boxes.

On February 9th I'm scheduled to travel to the Dominican Republic with Operation Christmas Child to help distribute boxes there. This has been a dream of mine for more than a decade and I'm praying it'll change me.

Today I got a package in the mail from OCC with some info about the trip. It had a cool red OCC shirt for the trip and a book of Beginning, Beginning Spanish. Si. I don't know any Spanish except what I learned from Sesame Street--and that was more than two decades ago.

Oy vey--oops, that's Yiddish, not Spanish.