Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Celebration & The Biggest Loser

What a great Operation Christmas Child Celebrarion Meeting we had on Tuesday, April 26th here in Erie, PA. We were blessed that Grace Church allowed us to use a meeting room in their comfortable facility and Leigh Fisher, our OCC Regional Director came from Baltimore to be with us and even treated our team to dinner from Chick-fil-A before the meeting.

There were 24 of us at the meeting--a definite answer to prayer--and I think the best part was hearing firsthand from two members of the Grace Church mission team who were able to distribute Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in Haiti. Pam and Brenda shared from their heart about how much these boxes meant to the children who received them and Pam crafted an amazing video of the shoebox distribution. The greatest celebration of all came at that distibution when 14 children responded to the gospel message and came forward to pray to receive Christ. All of heaven was rejoicing that day and you can't ask for a better celebration than that.

I'm also celebrating another blessing that happened back on April 15th. That was the day that our Biggest Loser competition ended at work and I was declared The Biggest Loser (no surpise--I've known that for a while). In this case, though, it was an official title I earned by losing the highest percentage of weight over 10 weeks. I let all the other 'contestants' know that the prize money was being used to pay for the 1000 water bottles I ordered for shoeboxes a few weeks before from a tip I got on the Operation Christmas Child Extranet website. The water bottles were only about 20 cents each but to have the bill for them paid just by NOT eating was a real cause for celebration.

This week I found white cotton 'bucket hats' on the Oriental Trading Company website and was able to get them for about 17 cents each. Another cause for celebration.

If you want to be blessed in another way to hear about how God is working right now (even with a guitar with 5 strings) at shoebox distributions in Panama, check out Matthew West's blog at

Honestly, seeing God provide for all our needs is the biggest reason to celebrate every day of the year

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Waiting For God

Two years ago one of my first blog posts featured this picture and it was titled "Waiting". The post was about my trip to help distribute Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in the Dominican Republic and how the idea of 'waiting' seemed to be the theme of that trip for me. Two years later I am still driven by the fact that so many children are waiting to hear of God's love through a simple shoebox.

But on this day between Good Friday and Easter morning, I'm thinking of another kind of waiting. Waiting for God. Can you imagine how the disciples must have felt on that 'day between'? They thought of all Jesus' talk of resurrection but all they could remember was the sight of Him on the cross (or at least the thought of it since most of them deserted Him there). Where was their hope? What were they thinking as they waited?

In my high school French class we read (in French, of course) Samuel Beckett's play "Waiting For Godot"--an Existentialist's classic about two men waiting for Godot (God) who never shows up. Our God, though, is not a god who doesn't show up. Our God is a God who is HERE--always.

So often it seems like I'm waiting for Him to show up with what I need--stuffed animals and pencils and crayons and volunteers and a myriad of other things I feel I need to get to the goal of packing thousands of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. But the fact is still true that in the midst of my waiting He is always HERE. And He is also with every child who waits to receive a shoebox and hear of His love.

On this 'day between', God, I thank You that You, our omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent God, are always HERE.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dollars In General

The amazing thing about Operation Christmas Child is that as simple as the program seems (get a shoebox and fill it with gifts) it's a journey of life change that can only be completed through God's power. Gifts are packed and transported and inspected and shipped, receiving countries arrange for transportation and make plans for distributions, and discipleship training programs are instituted and completed. But in the midst of all of that activity, if God doesn't bring life change the project won't have any eternal impact. That fact is overwhelming and freeing all at the same time.

And over the years I've found that even the simple things about this act of packing shoeboxes can be complex. As the goals increase year by year--local, regional, national goals--and as we look at the billions of children who are still waiting to know they are loved by God, it's clear that we're all in over our heads here. If God doesn't come through for us, this project won't happen.

Today my church received a grant from a local community foundation that they will use to buy a trailer to haul equipment for local community service projects in our city. That amount of money would be enough to pay for packing 15,000 shoeboxes and I had a moment when I thought, "Why can't I get a grant like that?" Then I realized that I DO get a grant every year from God Himself. Since I have access to unlimited resources from the God of the universe who owns all things, I can certainly get along without a local grant.

And today was another example of God's provision. I went to 6 Dollar General stores today and found 287 clothing items--hats, gloves, and scarves--for 25 cents each that will be great for shoeboxes. I already have over 14,000 pieces of clothing and that amazes me. I know God has a plan for all the stuffed animals and crayons and pens and paper and soap and pencils we need, too. Oh, yeah, those pencils I ordered last week arrived today. And a few other people got their box of 1008 pencils also. God's provision is never too good to be true.

Yesterday I watched the movie "Facing The Giants" again and cried again as I reminded myself that NOTHING is impossible with God. It's okay that our Operation Christmas Child project is utterly dependent on God because He is utterly dependable.

Whether it's dollars or stuffed animals or team members--in general God will keep His promise to provide. As Leigh Fisher told me today, "We just have to keep praying as we crawl across the field...nothing is impossible with God. NOTHING!! "

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Too Good To Be True

I'm always looking for good deals for items to fill our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. In fact, the only way we can hope to get enough items to fill 15,000 boxes is by trusting God to provide us with deals that are "too good to be true".

I found another one of those this week when --an online wholesale website where I've often bought such items as soap and toothbrushes--had a deal for free shipping on school supplies and also had a coupon code for $20 off. I was able to buy 1000 mini pencils with erasers for only 16 cents! And, using Facebook, I was able to have several others order some for our boxes too. Now, this MAY be too good to be true, since we haven't received the pencils yet but my order's been processed and my 16 cent payment made. This is just another example of God's great provision. I can't wait to see what He'll do to bring in all the other items we need.

We have an Operation Christmas Child Area Team meeting at my home tonight and I've been thinking that the impact God has allowed our team to make around the world is also almost too good to be true. Along with supporting a number of Christian ministries, I also believe it's important to support non-profit organizations to better my community. So I give to the United Way and to other non-profits that work in our area. It takes a lot of resources for these organizations to make a difference.

Then I think about our little Operation Christmas Child team. By God's grace we worked together with NO operating budget and NO paid employees to make a difference in the lives of 27,444 children in 2010 (not to mention the difference those boxes may have made in their families and their communities.) For 2011 we are prayerfully asking God to allow us to collect 32011 boxes to make a difference for even more. Only in God's economy is this possible.

At the OCC Connect Conference we learned about the 12-lesson discipleship course offered to children after they receive their shoeboxes called The Greatest Journey. By the end of this course each child is taught how to share the gospel and encouraged to choose 9 persons to pray for and share with. Can you imagine how this ministry THROUGH these well-trained children can multiply?

God, we stand amazed. What You do through Operation Christmas Child is, quite simply, too good to be true.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Unfailing Love

"The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love." Psalm 33:5 "But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love." Psalm 33:18

I've been thinking a lot since I read these verses yesterday about the 'unfailing' love of God. From a human standpoint unfailing love is incomprehensible. I can't even imagine that kind of love--a love that never fails despite my own frquent failures.

But I don't think I've ever seen more evidence in my own life of God's unfailing love than I have through working with Operation Christmas Child. Nearly every day I am amazed by God's provision, by His answers to my feeble prayers, by constant reminders of His extravagant and specific care for me. He's a God who answers my prayers--for ball pumps, for cheap soap, for large orders of crayons, for the chance to be in a specific store when items go on clearance.

God's care is evidence of His unfailing love. I Peter 5:7 reminds me to "cast all (my) cares upon Him because He cares for (me)." He cares that I need 13,400 more stuffed animals, and He cared enough to give me a huge garbage bag full of pristine ones at a rummage sale just last evening. He cares that I'm concerned about Samaritan's Purse getting enough donations to cover the cost of shipping all these Operation Christmas Child boxes. He cares that the right people are recruited and selected and equipped and developed on the Northwestern PA Operation Christmas Child area team.

I'm reminded of a little song I used to sing at camp when I was young--and still sing when I need to be reminded of God's unfailing love.

How strong and sweet my Father's care
That 'round about me like the air
Is with me always, everywhere.
He cares for me.

The thought great wonder with it brings,
My cares are all such little things,
Yet to the truth my glad heart clings,
He cares for me.

Oh keep me ever in Your love,
Dear Father watching from above,
And as through life my steps shall move,
Oh care for me.

Oh Father help me then each day
To follow always Your good way
And show in all I do or say
Your care for me.

God cares for you and for me. And His love is unfailing.