Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Straggler Shipping

I was left with 35 leftover stragglers--Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes that didn't make it onto the truck. That included 29 that were left at Grace Church and 6 at Chick-fil-A. Next year I'm determined to do a better job of letting people know the deadlines and also stressing to them that Chick-fil-A and Grace Church are NOT collection centers and that boxes should be taken to the actual collection center or a relay center.

Having people from different groups dropping boxes off at individual churches instead of relay or collection centers means that we don't get those groups signed in and never are able to affirm them or encourage their further participation. For example, 9 of these boxes that were left at Grace Church came from a local business office but they'll never be officially recognized through Operation Christmas Child channels because they weren't signed in on a collection site drop-off log.

(This is where I climb down from my soapbox and get on to the shoeboxes)

So not knowing anyone from Erie going to the Processing Center this year, I began to make arrangements to mail the boxes. I'd heard from a friend that my OCC regional office might have a special deal with UPS to mail them more cheaply so I contacted them and found that wasn't the case. They were willing to ship them for me via UPS but if I left them in the 4 large boxes I had them packed in, UPS would charge a surcharge for large boxes and the bill would come to $400.00! Even if I put them in smaller boxes it would cost at least $150 to send them UPS.

It was cheaper and easier to leave them in the large cartons and take them to the local post office. It's gratifying to mail large packages and feel like you're getting a deal. My husband helped me haul the 4 boxes (total weight of 126.5 pounds) over to the post office where the clerk got her work-out and I got them all on their way for just $80.00--and that included delivery confirmation of .80 for each carton.

I'm praying for their safe arrival because I think there may have been checks in some of those boxes. Of course, these had to be some of the largest and heaviest boxes of the season but an average of $2.61 for mailing heavy shoeboxes isn't bad. It's a lot less painful than mailing a little package of chocolate sponge candy to Denver and paying $13.00.

The stragglers are shipped and I'm praying the 35 children who receive them will be blessed.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Just When I Thought

It's sure been an exciting Operation Christmas Child week. It's hard to believe that just a week ago we were still working hard to load boxes onto that truck.

Then on Monday we learned that God had blown us away again by giving us 34,941 shoeboxes--way over our prayed-for goal of 32,011.

So why am I here on this post-National Collection Week Sunday feeling so irrationally irritated? I keep thinking of Elijah who reacted to the great victory God gave him with depression and suicidal thoughts.

Not that I'm feeling THAT bad, but I do feel emotionally strung out and somewhat adrift when I should still be deliriously grateful.

I'm irritated that we spent money this week I didn't plan on spending--the new iPhone is nice, but charges and the insurance and all the extras sure added up. And, of course, we face the holiday gift-buying season now and I'm not so well prepared for that.

I had been going back and forth on whether to buy pens for next year's boxes now while the wholesaler is offering 20% off but then decided maybe I'd better not be storing them in the cold container over the winter. So as we handed over the credit card at the Verizon store all I could think of was that I could have bought all the pens I needed for next year's boxes with what we were forking over for phones. So irritating.

Then today I went to church and saw the pile of leftover Operation Christmas Child boxes that didn't make it onto the truck. There's a picture of some of them above. 29 and counting. I hear there are more at Chick-fil-A and another church.

I don't know anyone nearby going to an OCC Processing Center so they'll all have to be sent via US Mail. And, of course, they're all big and heavy.

Maybe if I could really see the kids who will get them I wouldn't resent mailing them so much. And someone at church took pity on me and handed me some money to help with the cost of postage.

I need an attitude adjustment. God has done so many GREAT things this week. I should be nothing but grateful.

Really, I should.

Monday, November 21, 2011

On the Eighth Day

(singing) On the eighth day of National Collection Week my good team gave to me...Eight empty relay centers; seven perfect totals; six singing spirits; FIVE ANSWERED PRAYERS; four wide rolls of tape; three carton pallets; two trucks of boxes; and an OCC Collection VICTORY!

And what a victory it's been. After a crazy day of doing hearing tests on 300 first, second, and third graders at school punctuated by phone calls and waiting to get correct totals, I finally got that long-awaited number--the one we've been praying toward for nearly a whole year. After praying for all these months for our goal of 32,011 gospel opportunities.....Grand Total of Shoebox
Our grand total of Operation Christmas Child Gospel Opportunities for 2011 is


I am still just in awe of all God's answers to prayer. This is definitely once again exceedingly abundantly beyond all we could ask or think. This is a 27.3% increase over last year and 7,497 more boxes than last year--the greatest increase ever--bigger even than the year we first added Warren to our totals. Each of you had a part in this.
Since our team began in 2007 we have had 5 collection seasons and the total of those seasons is 111,743 shoeboxes. We could fill Penn State's Beaver Stadium with the children who've received those boxes and still have a few thousand on the field. We can't even imagine the impact of what God is doing through these simple boxes. Please keep praying for our Mid-Atlantic regional goal of 700,000, our national goal of 5.8 million and our international goal of 8.5 million boxes. To God be the glory!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

On the Seventh Day

(singing) On the seventh day of National Collection Week my good team gave to perfect totals; six singing spirits; FIVE ANSWERED PRAYERS; four wide rolls of tape; three carton pallets; two trucks of boxes; and an OCC collection victory.

Yeah, this is an old picture. We're not using those stickers on the Operation Christmas Child cartons this year, but you get the idea. It was another day of watching the truck fill up--what could be sweeter?

Most of our relay centers brought their cartons to our Erie collection center this afternoon and it was so much fun to talk to everyone and watch the totals climb. I've been using my calculator all day and trying to 'crunch' the numbers but I still don't have totals from the Warren collection center so the mystery continues.

This is definitely worse than waiting on Christmas Eve.

Still, there are some great stories of increases. My favorite came in Corry. Last year was Becky Foster's first year as a relay center coordinator and they took in a great total of 462 boxes, but THIS year their total was an astonishing 1,002--a 217% increase!

My favorite story of the day came when I took a plastic container out of a car that I assumed was a shoebox gift. When I looked more closely I realized it was kitty litter! Whew--that was a close one. Can you imagine the stir that would have caused at the processing center?

On this perfect seventh day I'm still waiting (im)patiently.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On the Sixth Day

(singing) On the sixth day of National Collection Week my good team gave to me...six spirits singing, FIVE ANSWERED PRAYERS, four wide rolls of tape, three carton pallets, two trucks of boxes, and an OCC collection victory.

I left my house at 8:30 am this morning and didn't get home until 5:15 pm. I traveled 150 miles to visit four relay/collection centers for our Operation Christmas Child collection week. What a blessing it was to see so many volunteers united to bring in these simple shoeboxes.

When I got to Waterford, relay center coordinator Kim Kinnear and her team had run out of stuffed animals and fillers for the boxes they were packing. Well, I had several bags of those in the car and left them there. They quickly got back to packing.

I drove on to Corry where Becky Foster is the relay center coordinator. They had a packing party last night but stopped packing with 335 packed because they ran out of soap and toothpaste. Their original goal had only been 250 for their packing party but they had TONS of great stuff still left! I told them it's okay to pack a box without toothpaste and soap as long as you have a good variety of items and can fill the boxes. They were low on boxes but I had some of them in the car, too. So we set to work and packed another 49 boxes. Last year they did 462 boxes and this year they have 894 already! Needless to say, they are out of cartons--isn't that great!

I drove on to Warren, where one truck is 3/4 full and Patti Seth is doing a great job and then to North East relay where coordinator Bryon Switala was working and his wife, Joy, had everything under control It was great to talk with her and pray over the cartons there.

We're trying to juggle cartons from one place to another and don't know where we stand BUT we know our sovereign God has great plans for ALL of us. We are so, so blessed.

There are more than SIX singing spirits in the Northwestern PA OCC world.

PS--I was determined to take real updated pictures today but I forgot my camera (sigh)

Friday, November 18, 2011

On The Fifth Day

(singing) On the fifth day of National Collection Week my good team gave to me--Five answered prayers; four wide rolls of tape, three carton pallets, two trucks of boxes and an OCC collection victory.

For the past several years this is the night in Operation Christmas Child's National Collection Week when I wish I were more organized. I'm not very good at keeping records and even worse at knowing where I put the records I do keep.

So I start wondering---how many boxes did this relay center bring in last year? And what were our numbers at the collection center on this day in 2010?

The truth is, I don't know. I know what our area team goal is and I know how many boxes God gave us last year and the year before that. But I don't know the markers along the way, and, anyway, when you think about it every year is different. We add new relay centers and it changes the dynamics of collection week.

I do have records of what individual churches and groups brought in last year and most have been up in their shoebox numbers. That's an encouraging sign.

Tomorrow I'm going to drive around and visit a few more relay centers. I'm praying for God's direction to keep me from getting lost. Maybe tomorrow's tour will give me more of an idea of where we stand compared to last year.

I do know that the first truck left from Erie today with 4,474 boxes on it. Do I know how many were on the first truck last year? Sadly, no.

But we're trusting God that we'll have all those numbers figured out by Monday.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On the Fourth Day

(singing) On the fourth day of National Collection Week my good team gave to me four rolls of wide tape, three carton pallets, two trucks of boxes and an OCC collection victory.

This has been such a short and a long week all at the same time. I was thinking today of all the distractions and unusual events that have made this week challenging in addition to Operation Christmas Child. For example, one of my schools was one of two in the whole county to be randomly selected to have the Health Department audit my immunization records--and of course it was this week. There have been several unusual accidents at school and a heavy load of health screenings to conquer.

In the midst of it, though, God has made every challenge work out so well. I can almost sense the answered prayer all around me.

After work today I rushed up to the storage container to load as many shoeboxes as I could into my minivan to get them to the collection center to fill the truck before it's pulled tomorrow. It was snowing and windy and I was fighting to load my car when our Chick-fil-A owner drove up and asked if he could help. What a difference it made to get those boxes loaded so quickly.

Came home to do a radio interview and had it delayed by half an hour which gave me time to do some laundry and make dinner. Then my husband offered to go to the collection center with me to drop off the 300 or so boxes in my car.

We ended up helping with the cartonizing and loading the truck. AND we RAN OUT OF CARTONS already tonight! It's a great problem but still another challenge as we put out an SOS to relay centers for extras to return and started packing shoeboxes into egg cartons so we could get that truck filled.

Ahh, what a great fourth day!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On The Third Day

(singing) On the third day of National Collection Week my good team gave to me three carton pallets, two trucks of boxes, and an OCC collection victory.

On this third day of Operation Christmas Child's collection week I was going to visit our collection center in East Springfield but the coordinator, Pat Carter, told me they wouldn't have many boxes to cartonize until tomorrow (why does my spell check not recognize the word 'cartonize'?)

So I went and hung out with three volunteers at the Erie Collection Center for an hour or so and then came home and made some calls.

I heard some tragic news from Dianne Oschman, relay center coordinator at Heckathorn UM Church in Seneca, PA. Their pastor's wife died unexpectedly yesterday which has, of course, thrown things into confusion. They could understandably have asked us to move the relay center held in their church, but instead they will keep the center open--even during the funeral. A neighboring church has offered to allow their social hall to be used for the funeral dinner so the relay center can remain open. Please pray for this faithful church during this difficult time.

The Corry relay center had a packing party with kids from their children's ministry and packed 50 boxes. They're at nearly 400 boxes now.

Rose Dobson, a team member from Edinboro, brought in 87 cartons filled with 1737 shoeboxes--most of which she packed by herself. What an amazing ministry. Pat Carter also packed over 1,000 boxes by herself this year.

At the Erie collection center 348 boxes were brought in by Fellowship Baptist Church--they've been participating in Operation Christmas Child since 1994, and though their church attendance is fewer than 20 people they packed more boxes than ever this year.

On this third day we're seeing so many examples of individuals and small churches being empowered by God to rise up and pack unbelievable numbers of boxes.

Rising up--a fitting theme for this third day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On The Second Day

(singing here) On the second day of National Collection Week my good team gave to me...two trucks of boxes and an OCC collection victory.

Well, there aren't 12 days of National Collection Week but we already have two trucks filling up with boxes--one in Erie and one in Warren--and it's definitely already an OCC collection victory.

Every relay and collection center is manifesting God's glory in great ways. Here are some highlights from the first two days.

In Erie-- yesterday two girls from Mercyhurst College brought in 35 filled boxes. Our team has wanted to get the project onto this campus but had no connections. These students said they started a "Christmas Club" to get students involved in Christmas-oriented service projects. They'd heard about OCC in their home churches in Ohio and brought the project to their campus this year. This is a total God thing that we didn't have any hand in trying to orchestrate.

In Corry--they collected 307 boxes on Monday alone. Last year they collected just under 500 for the whole week.

In Bradford--the relay already collected 487 boxes by Tuesday--more than half of what they did all week last year. a friend who's church got involved in OCC for the first time this year wrote to me on facebook, "

  • One gal said she had all her box items on the counter at Dollar Tree and the cashier said, "Well, do you have enough to finish off your OCC shoebox?" Nancy was stunned. "How did you know?" The cashier said, "There are so many people packing boxes in Bradford that after awhile you just 'know'".

    The Bradford Collection Center Church packed 200 of their own, 117 from another church, our church had 50,more expected from churches around the area and it was only Monday! Our gal who transported the boxes said when you walked in the door they greeted you with such joy and enthusiasm that it was pure pleasure to deliver them.

    God is blessing our collection sites with His grace and favor.

    Definitely (singing) an OCC collection victory!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The First Day

All over the country on this first day of National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child trucks are beginning to fill up with cartons of shoeboxes.

Yesterday I was able to speak about Operation Christmas Child for the sermon time at two churches and then loaded about 200 boxes from the storage container into my minivan. I also packed my last 60 shoeboxes to bring the grand total for the year to 17,777 (such a perfect number).

Today I did hearing tests at school and fielded a few phone calls. After school I was excited to drop boxes off at the Erie Collection Center--my first official glimpse of Collection Week 2011--then headed off to Meadville and Conneaut Lake to visit relay centers there.

Cindy Woolstrum has served for years as the relay center coordinator in Meadville and it was great to see the cartons already lining the halls there and to lay hands on them and pray for them again. Ideally, every box should be prayed over at least several times before it makes it to its destination country.

Cindy Catlin relay center coordinator at our new relay site in Conneaut Lake and they'd already taken in 400 boxes in their FIRST HOUR of operation. Again, we prayed over those gospel opportunities.

The rain started when I left Conneaut Lake and came in driving sheets that made it nearly impossible to see, even with the wipers on their highest speed. I hunched over the wheel and drove through the darkness but I had a strange peace--the result of the prayers of my prayer team, I'm sure.

The rain kept up for the entire hour drive home but fifteen minutes into it I drove up on a truck and blessedly followed those taillights. And as I drove I thought about the results of passing through a storm. God seemed very near.

The storms of the past year in Operation Christmas Child leadership have given me a greater appreciation of not only God's nearness but of the imminent victories of National Collection Week.

Bring on those boxes!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Leadership In The Box

All day I've been following the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Blitz in New York City and praying that God will use this creative media effort to "start spreadin' the word" about Operation Christmas Child and get more people involved in packing the 8.5 million boxes we're praying for.

Pictured above are Randy Riddle, OCC Domestic Director, and Jim Harrelson, OCC VP--two of the greatest and most humble servant leaders I've ever known.

Not every ministry leader would appear on the streets of NYC like this just to try to get ONE MORE BOX to a waiting child. This is one of the reasons why I love Operation Christmas Child so much.

This media effort is so important because in order to get more boxes packed we need to "start spreadin' the news". I calculated the other day that if every one of Operation Christmas Child's Facebook page followers (over 1/4 million strong) would pack a box and get 35 of their Facebook friends to pack a box--we'd have more than 9 MILLION boxes. And it doesn't even sound hard.

Click here to see a video of a great leader. If he can do this, then can't you get 35 friends to pack a box?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bevy of Blitzin' Boxes

Here we go--only 5 more days until the start of National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child. When you look at these boxes you need to remember that each of them represents a child somewhere you will have hope and love because of receiving a simple gift.

Tomorrow a crowd of Operation Christmas Child volunteers and staffers will don shoebox costumes and take to the streets of New York City to promote the project. You can tell they're seriously committed or they wouldn't be going to such lengths to get the word out.

Click here to read more about it and follow this bevy of blitzin' boxes. Sure to be worth it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Specially Stacked

Look--our Operation Christmas Child boxes are one step closer to getting to those sweet children around the world. Operation Christmas Child staffer Becky Herdklotz took this picture of the stacked cartons of some of our boxes waiting to be processed at the processing center in Charlotte.

I just love thinking of all the children represented by these boxes--all those stuffed animals and toothbrushes and flip-flops and crayons just waiting to bless the waiting children.

Such special stacks indeed.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Go Home

Today I drove 75 miles to a church in Seneca PA to talk about Operation Christmas Child. It was a beautiful day for a drive, I didn't get lost, and the congregation had a great spirit and listened intently to everything I had to say.

Their goal for this year was 75 shoeboxes, but after I talked I ended up giving out every GO box I had in the car--more than 130 of them. I think God has great things in store for their collection this year.

The pastor was nice enough to invite me out to lunch and we had a great time sharing about ministry. But I'd left my house at 8:00 this morning so by the time 2:30 came and I climbed into the car I was really happy to turn on the GPS and hit the button that says "Go Home".

And as I hit that button I thought that is what Operation Christmas Child is about--showing children and adults around the world the way to "Go Home" to Jesus.

And I thought about family and friends who, as far as I know, are not home with Him. To me, there's nothing worse than being lost and there's nothing better than being home.

So as I looked at my GPS today I thought that my prayer for my children and my family and for the children and families around the world is for each of them to run to Jesus and just go home.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ark Update

I thought it was time for an update on "The Ark". Many of you have been faithfully praying for months for stuffed animals for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. Back in April when I figured out we needed to get at least 600 every week it seemed like such a monumental task.

But week by week you prayed and week by week God brought those animals in--not two by two but two hundred by two hundred and even two thousand by two thousand.

We've filled 17,582 boxes so far this year and each of them, as far as I know, contains a stuffed animal. And still they are coming.

Two days ago I sent a huge box of stuffed animals to a friend who is having an Operation Christmas Child packing party. She's been praying for stuffed animals and I thought God would want her to have them so they could go in boxes this year and we could trust Him for more.

Well, guess what happened last night? Look at the picture above and you'll see the pile of 268 brand new stuffed animals that were just donated. Like the widow whose oil never ran out, God keeps filling the ark.

This year just about 11,500 animals were donated and I purchased about 6,000 more at the low average price of 17.8 cents each. So many, many answers to your prayers.

God's got us stuffed with blessings again.

The Power of Six

Last evening I sat at a table at Chick-fil-A here in Erie to distribute Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. We have a great partnership with Chick-fil-A and for everyone who brings back a filled shoebox next Tuesday they'll provide a coupon for a free chicken sandwich.

Elizabeth Randolph and I were there from 5-7 pm and during that time we only gave out six boxes.

At first I was disappointed about that, but then I started thinking of the power of those six boxes. If they're filled and returned that will mean SIX children who will have the joy of receiving a gift--possibly for the first time in their lives.

And what if even one of those children comes to trust in Jesus because of that box they receive?

And a friend reminded me that it's possible that those SIX boxes could mean SIX new churches will be planed somewhere in the world.

You know, it's not that hard to pack six shoeboxes. Even a child can do it. I'll bet you could do it.

There's a lot of potential in SIX simple gift-filled shoeboxes.