Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spring Training

This morning our pastor talked about the importance of spiritual training. My favorite point was that in addition to equipping ourselves through studying the Bible and imitating the disciplines of Jesus, we grow when God puts us in "need to know and need to grow" situations.

I immediately thought of Operation Christmas Child and how this ministry of packing gift-filled shoeboxes for children around the world has become an amazing spiritual training ground for me and so many others. Through Operation Christmas Child we've taken risks and asked God for things that are impossible without Him showing up, and in the midst of that all of us have learned His love and faithfulness in new ways.

It happened again this week. I calculated that we have 19 weeks until our community-wide Operation Christmas Child packing party and that we need an average of 605 stuffed animals each week to reach our gaol by September 24th. So this week I and my team and others were praying for 600 stuffed animals. This was a huge challenge, especially when I realized I had to teach a class for our local hospital on Saturday morning and would miss prime-time yard sales.

But today, by God's grace, the official weekly total stands at 554 and since I know two other area team members got 'about 30' each I'd say we're beyond the goal. And how did God do it this week?

Well, on Wednesday at our Area Team meeting Elizabeth brought in 56 that had been donated and on Friday one of the teachers at my school brought in 63 from her children. On Friday evening I went to the local church that was hosting a huge rummage sale and asked for permission to shop early because I couldn't be there on Saturday morning. They allowed me to choose a bag of 89 animals and set them aside to pay for on Saturday.

I hit all the yard sales I could on Saturday afternoon and found that when I talked to people about Operation Christmas Child in many cases one of my team members had already been to their home and picked up animals. They must be well trained.

And now the animals are crossing state lines to get here. On Saturday night my friend Judy brought me animals she'd bought at a yard sale in Cincinnati that morning. On Sunday I got a special package that was delivered to my church. It was sent from Cheryl Lawrence in Indiana who reads this blog and was moved to shop for animals and mail them to me.

Getting that package from someone I've never met was like a special hug from God. My OCC Regional Director, Leigh Fisher, had prayed with me on the phone on Monday that God would send me new animals and that's just what Cheryl sent. Cheryl, you encouraged me in unknown ways.

I went through the Operation Christmas Child Area Team training with three new team members in the past few weeks--each of them an answer to prayer. God is training us through these blessings.

And God is training us in the mundane pressures of the day. My husband and daughter are hopefully in Haiti right now working to build two houses this week. They were scheduled to arrive there on Saturday but fog kept their plane circling JFK until they missed their connecting flight. This delay made them arrive in Haiti a full day late. And this trip was already delayed for months when their supply containers could not pass through customs at the port in Haiti. More training.

Today I tried to visit a team member who is with her sick father at the hospital but after struggling to find a parking area I couldn't figure out how to get into the facility. Disgusted, I came home to find my neighbor sweeping up glass from my front step. He did a good deed and mowed our front lawn only to have the glass in the front storm door explode just as he finished. More training.

And so, we praise God for the blessings and we keep praying for 600 more animals to come into the ark this coming week from any state in the union.

But they'd better be trained.

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