Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Shirtin' Up

I love how God provides in such neat ways for our Operation Christmas Child boxes. A Christian friend supports his ministry to the poor and homeless by buying and reselling large lots of items. He got a deal on these Old Navy T-shirts and offered to sell me some. All the same color, all adult small, and great for either gender.

As a special blessing, he offered to drop them off at our container on his way back from picking them up in Dayton. And it was a true answer to prayer that they arrived just after my school day was over.

So at 3:15 pm my husband, OCC area team member Nikki Korrell and I met at the storage container. First we moved 294 filled GO boxes from the back of the container to the front to make room for the cartons of T-shirts.

Then the truck arrived and we worked to move all 5 pallets of T-shirts--238 cartons of them--into the back of the truck. When you volunteer for Operation Christmas Child who needs a gym membership?

So we have a great start on next year's boxes with 13, 566 T-shirts in the container already.

After that I headed over to my old church on the other side of town, carted supplies out of my car, and worked with Heather Rogers and her mom to fill another 75 boxes.

I'm thinking I'll sleep well tonight.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Praying for Funding

I was going to take a day off from Operation Christmas Child activity--a sabbath of sorts--but it hasn't worked out that way. First, after church we had to do some work in straightening up the storage container after Friday's packing party. I can't believe how many different sizes of storage containers we had to sort out and match with lids.

Then after lunch I started doing some media work and submitting announcements to radio and TV stations' online calendar events listings. In the midst of that I got an unexpected call from an OCC friend and staff member who just wanted to ask for prayer requests and pray for me. That was like hearing God's voice in my ear coaching me, in the words of my so-frequently-watched movie 'Facing The Giants', "Don't give up! Give me twenty more steps!"

Before I ended my phone conversation with that OCC friend, however, we got onto the topic of praying for God to provide the funds to support these thousands of Operation Christmas Child boxes we're packing.

I pray constantly about this. OCC asks for a 'suggested' donation of $7.00 to cover shipping of the boxes and the cost for the literature and ministry expenses to support them.

Back in 2006 they raised the suggested donation from $5.00 to $7.00 per box. I packed 3,100 boxes that year and it was the first year I couldn't make the full shipping donation--even with help from donations from members of my church.

Ever since then I've been struggling, because as the number of boxes I can pack is rising, the amount of donations for shipping has remained about the same. This year I'll only be able to contribute somewhere between 50 and 75 cents per box for shipping--not nearly enough to cover the costs.

I could scale back to packing 3,500 boxes or so that are fully funded. Is that what God's calling me to do? The OCC staff person I spoke with today challenged me to keep packing thousands of boxes but to pray for someone(s) who are gifted at fundraising to come alongside and partner in that area.

So now that's all I can think about. That's all I keep praying about this afternoon and evening. I joked once with Leigh Fisher that the only way I could think of to subsidize the shipping costs was to take out a life insurance policy and make Samaritan's Purse the beneficiary, but I'm not sure I'm even worth that much.

Doing the math--at $7.00 per box for (so far) 17,508 boxes--adds up to $122,556.00. Whoa--that's almost an eighth of a million. In the words of Bill Hybels, that's a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).

But, tell me, what is impossible with God?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Short Again

Fresh from another Operation Christmas Child packing party and I have to wonder when I'll ever learn to figure in God's amazing multiplication when I'm ordering supplies.

When our major packing party ended on September 24th and I realized how many items we had left over, my first thought was to do enough additional boxes to fill the remaining 14 cartons we had--maybe another 300 boxes or so.

Later, though, I found that the wonderful folks at Operation Christmas Child headquarters would send me more boxes and more cartons so I decided 1,000 would be a do-able goal with the amount of items we had (not that I stopped to actually count every item of clothing mind you).

When I talked with Amanda from Boone I said at one point, "Maybe I should order 1,200 boxes just to be sure" but then I ended up just ordering 1,000. I also ordered 50 cartons to ship the 1,000 boxes and the bagged candy that we couldn't use.

I sensed that we had a problem on Wednesday night when the candy filled 28 cartons. I was pretty sure we'd run out of cartons at the packing party and I worried we'd run out of boxes also.

So this morning at 7:15 I drove to my old church and got all the plain shoeboxes I could find. Then at school I managed to get 12 large empty cartons from the cafeteria. I hoped we'd be set to pack around 1,075 boxes.

When I arrived at church tonight for the packing party, Debbie Rimmer from our team, her pastor husband, and her son Gideon were already packing boxes. The rest of the volunteers arrived at 5:30 and we watched the Operation Christmas Child video together and then set to work.

Wow--did things ever start moving fast! Within a little over an hour all the 1,000 white boxes were filled but the supplies to pack boxes were still mounding the tables.

So we broke out the plain shoe boxes and kept packing but they were soon filled, too. The only thing to do was to start packing the pre-printed OCC GO boxes. I knew they couldn't go on the truck with the other boxes for special access countries, but with all these items and all these willing volunteers it seemed like we HAD to keep packing.

So we folded GO boxes and filled them and stacked them in the back of our storage container for National Collection Week.

At the end of the night we'd packed 1,069 'special' boxes and 294 GO boxes for a grand total of

1,363 BOXES

When you add that in with the total from our September 24th packing party that makes 17,508 boxes so far.

And we're going to pack more this coming Wednesday at our "2nd Annual Praying Patriotic Pig Packing Party" (with all the things we couldn't put into our special boxes.

My only regret is that I didn't order more boxes and cartons so the truck could be fuller when we send it on Monday. There we are with a half-empty truck and a container full of boxes.

Well, God has a plan for that, too. Maybe He's trying to teach me to have a bigger vision. Hmm, I wonder how many boxes I should order next year??

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ready Again

So much answered prayer today for our upcoming Operation Christmas Child packing party. I didn't know what to expect but God brought just the right number of volunteers and they worked together like a real team.

My husband Jim and Nikki Korrell were joined in the truck by Pastor Rimmer, Dan, and Terry from Bethel Presbyterian Church in Cranesville, PA to get the candy put into cartons on the truck. I couldn't believe we had enough candy to fill 28 cartons. Now I hope we don't run out of cartons for the boxes tomorrow.

Then they loaded the 32 cartons left over from the last packing party into the truck.

We got everything set up and also folded the other 500 boxes. We are ready! I have no idea how many volunteers will show up tomorrow but I'm trusting that once again they will be just who we need.

I think tomorrow I'll get some extra boxes in case we run out....and if we need more cartons....well, I can deal with that on Saturday or Sunday.

We're praying the boys coming from Harborcreek Youth Services will enjoy their time with us tomorrow and that God will be glorifed...

We're ready for Him to show up....again.

Rockin' the Region

Our Operation Christmas Child volunteers nationwide are organized into regions. Our Northwestern PA Operation Christmas Child Area Team is part of the Mid-Atlantic region which covers PA, MD, NJ, VA, DE and a part of WV.

I am so blessed to be part of the Mid-Atlantic region where all of us who are involved with Operation Christmas Child are really like a family. Leigh Fisher is our regional director and our two regional managers are Mesfin Abera and Holly Moerer. JoAnn Waters, administrative assistant, keeps everyone together, and seasonal employees Emilia Campoy and Lauren Booher are special blessings for this busiest of OCC times.

Under Leigh's leadership we work together and support one another. The biggest blessing is that we have the chance to see God answer so many prayers we pray for one another and increase the praise we offer.

I just read the most encouraging message from Amy and Will Shaw, area coordinators in the Philadelphia area, about how God is moving in their area. It's nothing short of miraculous.

Jim Urban in the Northern Pittsburgh area saw God work a miracle. Jim tallied up the cost of the items he needed to purchase for their upcoming packing party and calculated it to be $2500. Well, the next day someone came into the church and donated $2500 for Operation Christmas Child. Seeing the provision of our great Jehovah Jireh at every turn is really the definition of living the abundant life.

As we look toward another packing party on Friday I know my OCC Mid-Atlantic family will be praying, and they'll be rejoicing with me when God shows up again.

Our goal for the Mid-Atlantic region this year is 700,000 shoeboxes aka "Gospel Opportunities". Last year our goal was 630,000 and we prayed fervently for it. Well, God in His signature way, went above and beyond and blessed us with 640,778!!!!!!

But so many more children are waiting. Won't you pray with us that the Lord of the Harvest will bless us (and almost a quarter million children) with another over-the-top harvest this year.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sacrifice is Relative

God sure has a sense of humor and also has His ways of trying to use His 'rod and staff' to correct my signature sin of pride. I was feeling pretty self-righteous this morning because I was driving to Union City (35 minutes each way) to talk for 15 minutes about Operation Christmas Child in the church service at First Baptist Church.

When I got there, I was setting up my display table when a man and his wife came in. It turns out he was a volunteer from the Gideons and they had driven 4 hours yesterday and stayed overnight so he also could speak for 15 minutes in that morning service. (okay, Lord, I repent). Oh, and the church was planning on having a sermon by the pastor also! It turns out the pastor cut out his sermon and just gave a testimony about the impact the Gideons made on his life instead (good move, pastor).

It's amazing how God always pulls me up short when I start thinking I'm sacrificing for Him. Pictured above is Oxana Moore who flew all the way to Erie from South Carolina after a full work week to speak for 15 minutes at our Operation Christmas Child packing party last month. That's another reminder of true sacrifice.

God's Kingdom work is impossible to evaluate. The Bible says "Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart." God sees not the number of miles we drive nor the number of shoeboxes we generate--He sees the condition of our heart and what we do with the multiple moments during each day when we get to choose whether to focus on Him or to be distracted.

I looked at last year's numbers and realized the church I was speaking to today had done only 15 boxes last year. So I took along 22 boxes to give out and thought that would be plenty. As it turns out those boxes were snapped up within a few minutes and I could have given out many, many more. I need to be more prepared for what God will do.

This coming week is jam-packed full with OCC 'stuff' again. Tomorrow night I drive to Bradford to speak at a missions' conference, Wednesday we have our OCC area team meeting and start folding boxes for the packing party on Friday. Thursday is set-up for the party and Friday evening we're hosting the packing party again and hoping to pack 1000 more boxes.

In the midst of it all, I don't want to lose sight of what's really important. God isn't looking for miles traveled or boxes packed. What He wants is a living sacrifice and a sacrifice of praise.

God, teach me what it means to follow you in sacrifice.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Sometimes in the midst of all the details of my volunteer job with Operation Christmas Child I can lose perspective. As I pray for God to bless us with 32,011 shoebox gifts here in Northwestern PA, with 700,000 in the Mid-Atlantic region, with 5.8 million nationwide, and with 8.5 million worldwide the numbers all blur together in an overwhelming pile of boxes and cartons and trucks and sea containers.

The weeks become a tangle of packing party preparations and speaking engagements and phone calls to return and information to absorb and remember.

But as I sat on the floor today putting stacks of 8 crayons into individual bags I thought once more of this amazing truth: every crayon I touch will go into the hands of a child in another country who will be blessed by it.

This Operation Christmas Child project is vast but it's also vastly personal. Last year we prayed for a goal of 630,000 shoeboxes in the Mid-Atlantic region and God went way beyond our expectations and blessed us with 640,778.

It was neat this week when we heard that in Mexico last year 640,000 boxes were distributed and there were 334,000 recorded decisions made for Christ as a result of them. That's a huge number but each of those children is an individual who God knows and loves intimately. He knows the hopes and dreams and even the number of hairs on the head of each of those children.

I was reminded again today of an Operation Christmas Child motto--

ONE box=ONE child=ONE soul

One box makes a tremendous difference because it's one fewer child who's kept waiting to hear of God's love. So pack a box! If you're not sure how to do that, click here to learn how.

Pack with God's perspective.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Details

Once again I feel like I'm sitting on a mountain of details. For months I'd been holding out for the Operation Christmas Child packing party on September 24th. I envisioned that at the end of that day the storage container and my house would both be empty. Well, I guess one out of two isn't bad.

I looked at the storage container this morning and realized it still looks full. We're looking at another possible smaller packing party for October 21st and, once again, I hold out hope that after that date we can get the container cleaned out and the 15,000 bags of candy put into cartons to be trucked to the processing center.

But then I realized that even after that weekend the container will still hold the boxes that people at the church have filled that are waiting for National Collection Week from November 14-21. So....maybe by Thanksgiving the container will be cleared out? Hope springs eternal.

Still, I'm so grateful to God for these leftover items that will allow us to pack more boxes because, as I told the dear folks when I spoke for a few minutes in church this morning "ONE box=ONE child=ONE soul." Each box means one fewer child who will go without.

My home is starting to fill up again. Today I brought home crayons to be bagged and cartons of toothbrushes to sort and cartons of flat boxes to distribute to other churches.

More details. But I'll just get through them one by one because, by God's grace, more details means we're NOT DONE YET!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Abundant Blessings & Leftovers

I've been blessed so abundantly and here's a picture of another. After God showered us so richly with all the answered prayer for our Operation Christmas Child packing party last Saturday, my friend Judy Craynon blessed me on Sunday with the gift of this gorgeous lap quilt she made for me.

This might sound bizarre, but I have this thing about warmth being a sign of God's love to me. When I feel sunshine on my back or the coziness of the blankets on my bed or something like the warm comfort of this magnificent gift, I feel it as a sense of God's presence. So this special gift will be reminding me of God's love (and of Judy's friendship and giving heart) for years to come.

I went to our storage container on Wednesday and made an attempt to inventory our leftovers from last week's packing party. It was tough to be accurate but I was amazed to find that there's enough stuff there to probably do another 1000 boxes. Only God knows how that happened.

After my little inventory I went to Panera Bread to have a celebration and debriefing with my packing party committee. I had it on my heart to do another packing party and invite some folks from the community who are usually on the receiving end to help us pack the boxes. Considering all the work we'd completed only days before, I was afraid to broach the subject, but when I did the group was all for it. What a great foursome they are and a true gift from God.

It's hard to believe that only a few months ago I felt so alone in the planning for the packing party--adrift really. But God brought this group together and I'm just totally blessed by their competence and dedication.

Details are still up in the air for another mini-packing-party but I know God will bring it together in His time. Meanwhile, between church rummage sales and donations there were another 300 stuffed animals to sort and clean this weekend. I don't believe these animals are destined to sit in the container until next year. God has a plan for them to be on their way in those special shoeboxes--whether from Erie or from some surrounding area that needs them.

Because God's blessings, like His long ago provision of manna, are never leftovers.