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.