Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ringing Out and Ringing In

Can you believe there are only about 28 hours left in 2012?  This Operation Christmas Child year has passed unbelievably quickly.  Yesterday I put new pages in my OCC notebook for 2013.

Now, you'd think that collecting items all year long to pack 21,521 gift-filled boxes would necessitate having well-organized computer spreadsheets to keep track of all the items.  Well, I'm here to tell you it doesn't.  Low-tech works just fine for me.

I keep a column or page for every item and add them up as I go.  I like having a book I can page through and see all God's blessings from past years.

That's what I was doing yesterday--paging through this notebook and reminiscing about God's provision from year to year.

I was so excited in 2000 when He provided miraculously for us to pack a "perfect 300" boxes.  I'll have to tell that story here sometime.

Another year we prayed for pumps to go with the soccer balls we'd purchased and, again, God provided them for free through a miraculous connection on eBay.

Sometimes He provides through great sales, through steady and even unexpected income, through coupons, through the generous donations of other believers, and sometimes through strangers--but however He does it--it is ALWAYS God who provides.

These carefully kept written pages are a journal of God's goodness in this Operation Christmas Child journey that has taken me from packing 3 boxes in 1995 to packing 21,521 this year.

Every year I marvel at what God does and I never want to lose that sense of awe that the God of the universe inclines His ear to my prayers and pours out His blessing.  This year, for example, I spent only $405.28 more than I did in 2011 (yeah, I try to keep track of every penny).  BUT we packed 3,744 more boxes.

Before you try to send me a message asking me for hints, I have to confess--I don't know how this happened.  I don't have a magic formula for this.  But this I DO know--God answers prayer.

I look at my blank pages for 2013 and my nearly empty storage container and I know that God will fill them up in the next 9 months.  Not because our team is so great and efficient and high-impact, nor because we are well-resourced financially (though I have been blessed with a good job)--

But because our God is faithful and He keeps His promises, because our God hears the prayers of His people around the world, and because--

As each year rings out and a new one rings in--our omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal God NEVER CHANGES.

That I know.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Throwing In More Towels

This morning I went to Target and discovered that the Dollar Spot items with a yellow circle on the tag are 70% off.  The sign still read 50% off but when I took an item and scanned it I found it rang up at 30 cents.

The only items our Target had that were Operation Christmas Child shoebox-worthy were these hand towels. I got 92 of them.  I guess towels must be the OCC "item of the week" for me.

Seeing all these towels gets me thinking about the Bible account of Jesus washing the disciples' feet.  I think of all the disciples who never really considered the idea of taking on the role of a servant and washing feet.  I think if Jesus had flat out told them to do it, they might have obeyed.  But they didn't think of it on their own.  How many service opportunities do I miss every day because I just don't notice them?  God, give me Your eyes to see.

Then there was Peter who was too proud to be served by Jesus.  He wanted to be self-sufficient.  Oh, and that's me, too.  Lord, help me to see my need and accept the help, because no matter what I think, I need it desperately...

or I'll be throwing in that towel.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Throwing In The Towel

Shopping for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes is an ongoing affair.  I'm always looking for bargains but am sometimes disappointed when the stores in my area don't have the items that other OCC volunteers report finding.

After my husband got the 8 inches of snow shoveled off the driveway yesterday I headed out to a few more Dollar Tree stores to buy more pencils on sale.  But I couldn't find any.

Then I went to Walmart in search of the washcloths in holiday colors that other OCC volunteers had reported finding on sale for only $2.00 for a pack of 18.  Unfortunately, I didn't find those, either.

I remember hearing of a former shoebox recipient who told of being so excited when he got a washcloth in his box.  He said that he had to share a towel with a number of other children in his orphanage and when he got a washcloth it was like having his own little towel.

As I said, I didn't find any washcloths yesterday, but while combing the bath section of Walmart I did find 6 of these full-size heavy white towels for only $1.00 each.   Maybe someone out there is just waiting for a towel of his own.

I think the key is to always be on the lookout for good deals, buy anything you find (as long as it's not on the 'inappropriate items list') and then pray for God to get it to the child who needs it.

Today I didn't leave my house.  Yet God still blessed me with shoe box items as my OCC team member, Cindy Kerchoff, just showed up at my door with 5 bags of stuffed animals.

The next time I'm tempted to throw in the towel I just need to remember God's goodness.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


On our lazy Christmas day I made an online order to buy some visors for our 2013 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and today I made some more purchases of pencils.  I love buying these things and knowing they will go to children who need them.

I was troubled, though, by an early-Christmas Eve conversation with someone close to me.  I was complaining a bit about a local charity that successfully  raises large sums of money to grant expensive wishes for children with life-changing health conditions.

The person quickly reminded me that I had no right to be negative about another organization, reasoning, "After all, you send a bunch of unethically manufactured stuff that's non-sustainable to poor children."  Ouch.  Maybe I deserved that.

Of course, this had me thinking all day, even as I combed the stores looking for good prices on "unethically manufactured stuff."

It's unexplainable to those who don't understand the truth that these boxes are more than simple gifts--they are opportunities for children to receive the message of the gospel.  The pencils and clothing and crayons and toothbrushes and toothpaste will be used up or wear out or be lost.

But the gospel message IS sustainable.  The hope that comes from the gift IS sustainable.

I do support Samaritan's Purse and other organizations who drill wells and build schools and provide other sustainable resources for the desperately needy people around the world.

I admit, though, that my main calling for some years now has been Operation Christmas Child.  While others have been called to pour their lives into providing clean water or medical care or education or food for those in need, God has clearly led me to this simple but complex ministry of packing gift-filled shoeboxes.

If some of the items I send in shoeboxes are not ethically manufactured, I am sorry for that.  I have a strong sense of God's desire for justice in all economic areas but I don't always know how to work that out in practical ways.  I will trust God to bring to my mind injustices that I need to participate in righting.

Meanwhile, I will unapologetically keep doing what God has called me to do.  The Bible talks often about how God loves to give good gifts to His children.  I think the same Lord who turned water into wine at a party--meeting not a sustainable physical need but a need for social pleasure--must be pleased to see precious children receive cuddly toys and new clothes in His name.

Bringing a sustainable gospel message with sustainable hope.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Fear Not

Wow--I didn't realize it's been over two weeks since I posted here.  In addition to writing a bunch of thank you notes to Operation Christmas Child participating churches, I've been busy getting ready for our family Christmas which has now come and gone.  My three daughters were home together for about 26 hours and during that time we celebrated with a big gathering of extended family and then had our own family Christmas yesterday morning.

I'm praising God for so many answers to prayer over the past days as He blessed us again and again with guidance in making preparations and with safe travels and a great time with our family.

This morning when I returned from dropping my oldest daughter at the airport at 6:00 am, I spent some time praying as I looked at the lit Christmas tree in our darkened living room.  How wonderful to have this day to ponder, as Mary did, what it means to be blessed with Emmanuel--God with us.

I remember today the first announcement of Jesus' birth made to shepherds by a host of angels.  Our pastor last week reminded us that angels in the Bible are not cute cherubs.  They are awesome and terrifying beings and that is why the first thing an angel usually has to say when making a visitation is "Fear not."

I think of those poor socially-ostracized shepherds who had a crummy job with no status.  No one really ever paid any attention to them.  No wonder they were petrified to see that angel-filled sky.  But the swift assurance came to them, "Fear not."

I just came from what feels like a meeting with angels.  On this Christmas Eve day, Lorelei and Chuck Millet made the 20-some mile drive from their home to bring a truck filled with paper to our storage container--56 boxes containing 280 reams of new paper to bless children in their Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in 2013.

Somehow God is seeing the needs of children around the world and meeting them through the willing service of Lorelei and Chuck.  Angels, I tell you.

I start this 2013 Operation Christmas Child journey with a nearly-empty storage container and the firm expectation of God's provision once again.  Will He do it?  Will He fill this container with good things to bring gospel opportunities to children around the world?

As my husband and Lorelei and Chuck and I joined arms and prayed together this morning before they left in their truck, I heard in my soul an angel's whisper--

 "Fear not."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

6.5 Million and Taxing

I've been watching with excitement to see the rising unofficial total of Operation Christmas Child boxes processed at the seven processing centers in the US.

We are well beyond last year's total but still nearly a quarter million boxes away from the 6.5 million goal we've been praying for.

I also realize that as our OCC project begins to wind down for a few weeks, the project is escalating for our international partners who work to train volunteers to distribute these precious boxes and  facilitate The Greatest Journey discipleship program.

I often pray for the National Leadership Teams in these countries, and one of the things I pray about is that they will be granted tax exoneration for the shipping containers of boxes.

The need for those prayers came home to me this weekend in a new way.

We support a missionary who works in Haiti and has been trying to help a fledgling orphanage with 17 needy children.  My missionary friend asked for Christmas gifts for the children, and it was fun to put together a box.  I had some shoebox leftovers and made one small shopping trip to round out the box--not really investing a lot monetarily.

The shipping to Florida wasn't very expensive, either, but then the charges to have the box flown from Florida to Haiti via Missionary Flights International cost almost twice what it cost to ship it from Erie to Florida.

The kicker is that I was chagrined this weekend to learn that the missionary who received the package was charged $100 by Haitian tax collectors.  This seems crazy to me.

My missionary friend explained to me, though, the difference in value of the items between the US and Haiti.  She said she priced a cheap knock-off Barbie doll in Haiti and it would cost $30.00.  Here in the US I could buy a nice brand name fashion doll on sale for about $6.00.  No wonder that box looked so valuable by Haitian standards.

Seeing this play out made me realize again the struggles many of our National Leadership Teams go through as they try to get tax exoneration for shipping containers of shoeboxes.  

Even as I keep praying God will grant our prayers for 6.5 million boxes in the US and 9.1 million worldwide, I'll also be praying that He will move on behalf of our National Leadership Teams to get these boxes through customs and released to be delivered.

What a taxing job!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

And So It Begins....

Today I began working on writing thank you notes to all the churches in Northwestern PA who packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child in 2012.

I'm sad because I couldn't make the trip to an OCC Processing Center this year so I've been keep track of the progress on the Connect Extranet and on Facebook pictures.  Just think...millions of boxes and each of them starting their journey to bless a child in Jesus' name.

Today the 100 millionth shoebox was delivered to a little girl named Brenda in the Dominican Republic.  Just think....100 million children and families touched with a gospel opportunity.  It boggles the mind and buoys the spirit.

Each of those gifts is only the beginning for helping that child to know God's love.

AND I just got a donation of 400 stuffed animals--the first load for 2013 (see picture above) so my living room looks like a scene from "Elf".  Now we only need 20,600 more before September 28, 2013.

And so, it begins....

Monday, November 26, 2012

Last Day Off

This was my last day off of Thanksgiving vacation.  I always have a hard time knowing how to use these days when I'm off work--whether they should be productive or restful.

Now that the Operation Christmas Child boxes are gone, I had fun today packing a different kind of box.  This one was full of Christmas gifts for 16 children in an orphanage in Haiti.  It was fun to pack this box knowing that the missionaries we support will be able to give them to the children directly.

The first box I packed was too small to hold everything.  So I had to get a bigger box.  The second one was too big but that problem was easily remedied by filling it with more stuff.

I found a home for the 8 deflated soccer balls that I couldn't find ball pumps for.  Last night's shopping trip took me to four different stores to find the perfect 8 African-American Barbie dolls and God provided.  It was so much fun to stuff that carton with 33 pounds of stuffed animals and jewelry and cups and toothbrushes and coloring books and cars.

In the afternoon I sent out seven press releases to newspapers about the Operation Christmas Child local totals and I already got a response from an editor in Warren.  That's a real blessing.

But the best blessing of all came as I looked up and read the promises in Psalm 41:1-3.  Here's what God has to say:

"Blessed is the one who considers the poor!  In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.  The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health."

I claim this promise for my friends Sarah and Shawn who are traveling today to meet the special little girl they are adopting from Eastern Europe (the 3rd girl with special needs to be adopted into their family from that area.)

And I claim this promise for my friend Mary Damron who has been responsible for motivating millions of OCC shoeboxes to be packed and is now valiantly battling cancer.

I claim this promise for my tired OCC team member, another adoptive mother, who needs the strength to lead a two-hour rehearsal for a children's musical tonight (yikes!)

And I claim this promise for myself.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Giving Thanks

Our local newspaper asked readers to write about what they were thanking God for at this Thanksgiving season and my response was published on Saturday.  Here is what I wrote:

"I am most grateful that God invites us to join Him in His work in the world.  In my role as volunteer area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child I am privileged every November to see churches and community groups all around northwestern Pennsylvania come together to bless needy children around the world by packing simple, gift-filled shoe boxes.

It's amazing to me that our sovereign God who lacks nothing would allow us to participate with Him in changing lives through this project and others that bring hope and healing to so many.

Of all my many blessings, I cherish most this opportunity to join God in making a difference for those who have so little."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Aftermath

The past weeks have been so busy with packing parties and speaking engagements and relay center visits that I've been just piling all the Operation Christmas Child paraphernalia in the spare room.

Today I spent some hours trying to sort and pare down all the papers and items. I took apart old church kits (all but last year's) and saved a pile of OCC posters, bumper stickers, etc.  I saved the outer folders to offer to churches that might want to use the pictures for bulletin boards or displays.

I filed media articles and meeting agendas and I separated supplies--balloons and pens and special report magazines and brochures and videos.

Then I followed some rabbit trails down memory lane as I perused old files from nearly a decade ago.  I wasn't a year-round Operation Christmas Child volunteer then, but I still spent a fair amount of time accumulating items to pack a few hundred boxes every year as a church project leader.  I actually thought I was busy with OCC then--ha!

All around the world there are Operation Christmas Child volunteers who have invested millions of hours in this project his year.  Even today thousands of volunteers were working at 7 processing centers around the country, inspecting boxes and preparing them for shipping.

And as my duties here in the US begin to slow for a few weeks, the National Leadership Teams and volunteers in the receiving countries are gearing up for the height of their busy season as they prepare to train volunteers and distribute shoeboxes.

Today I ordered 3600 filler items for next year's boxes even as I sorted through last year's chaos.

 I guess we're never really in the aftermath.

Monday, November 19, 2012

On the Eighth Day--Blessing My Socks Off

(singing)  On the eighth day of National Collection Week the good Lord gave to me eight bitten nails, seven volunteers, six relay centers, FIVE ANSWERED PRAYERS, four carton pallets, three wide rolls of tape, more than two full trucks, and another great collection victory.

This is by far my favorite day of the year--the final day of Operation Christmas Child's National Collection Week.  Hundreds of times--even thousands of times-- I prayed this year the same prayer, "God, please give us 40,000 boxes from Northwestern PA."  

Our team prayed.  We recruited.  We prayed.  We met.  We prayed. We worked.  We prayed.  We went on safaris for stuffed animals.  We prayed.  We spoke at churches.  We prayed.  We gave out brochures.  And.......we prayed.

And after all those days and weeks and months, today it came together in boxes full of cartons filled with precious gift-filled shoeboxes, aka Gospel Opportunities.

I spent the day doing heights and weights and vision testing on 40 kindergarten students.  I don't know who was more antsy--me or the kids.  None of us could contain ourselves.  Believe me, it's not easy to keep five-year-old kids focused on identifying tiny squares and circles and apples and houses when all you want to do is call your relay centers and FIND OUT WHAT THE NUMBERS ARE.  

Finally, at 3:30 I got the totals. 

And my socks flew off.

It was hard to contain myself as I headed to the local Chick-fil-A in Erie where Casey, the owner, and Tina, the marketing director, had graciously arranged to feed our team dinner for the "big reveal".  

After our terrific meal it was time to share the big news.  So I handed out five folders--each containing one digit of our team total.  Starting at the end of the number, we revealed the 5th digit (6), then the 4th digit (7), then the 3rd digit (3) and then---

We had the persons holding the folders with the 1st and 2nd digits reveal them simultaneously and the result was---

Praise God!  I just keep playing Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons/Bless the Lord Oh My Soul" over and over.  

Only in my version it's 40,376 reasons.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

On the Seventh Day

(singing) On the seventh day of National Collection Week the good Lord gave to me--seven volunteers, six relay centers, FIVE ANSWERED PRAYERS, four carton pallets, three rolls of wide tape, two almost full trucks, and another great collection victory.

It's hard to believe that another Operation Christmas Child total will be in the books by tomorrow.

I had some great conversations today with folks who came to bring in boxes.  Got a lead on a possible new relay center for next year, talked to the pastor of a small Spanish church who was so excited to do OCC for the first time, and took pictures for a dear family who learned about OCC when they read a blog about activities to do with your children for advent.  They brought 5 boxes--each packed by a family member--and I'm still laughing at the faces their little boy made when we tried to take the family's picture.

I've been working my calculator hard all day and adding and re-adding relay center numbers.  I don't have totals for four of my relay centers so the final outcome is still a mystery.

And there's still an hour or so of collection at some of my centers in the morning, so who knows?

I've been checking lists of last year's participating churches and looking to see who has not brought in their boxes yet.  I really hope everyone gets their boxes in on time because I don't want to be mailing in boxes again this year.

I feel like we're closing in on the goal but the victory isn't secured yet.  It kills me to know that there's enough stuff left in the storage container to pack more boxes but I just couldn't figure out a way to get more done.

If we miss this goal by less than 100, I may be forced to buy a battery-powered spotlight and pack boxes in that dark storage container tomorrow.

I'm not good at waiting.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

On the Sixth Day

(singing)  On the sixth day of National Collection Week the good Lord gave to me--six relay centers, FIVE ANSWERED PRAYERS, four carton pallets, three wide rolls of tape, two fuller trucks, and another great collection victory.

Today = 9 hours.  150 miles.  4 relay centers and a packing party

What a great day for Operation Christmas Child fun.

Started the day at the relay center in Waterford where Kim Kinnear and her crew have about 800 boxes in cartons already.
While I was there two women came in bringing 28 boxes from a new participating church.  I had so much fun talking with them and hearing how excited they are already to do more boxes next year.  They have plans for collecting items year-round so they can pack more.  What an amazing start that was to the day.  Oh, I also loaded 20 of their extra cartons into my van to take back to Erie.

Next it was on to Corry.  They had a wonderful packing party last night but had run out of boxes.  So I pulled a couple of cartons of "GO boxes" out of my van and started folding.  I also pulled out boxes of extra fillers and toothbrushes and coloring books I'd brought along.  We packed another 100 boxes while I was there and then loaded some of their cartons into my van since I was heading to their collection center.  They've already collected over 1200 boxes (a 20% increase over last year.)

On to Warren I went.  where Collection Center Coordinator Patti Seth and her crew have collected about 1000 boxes.  God blessed them with a great front-page newspaper article today.  That article was probably the most accurate and comprehensive article about Operation Christmas Child I've read in any newspaper.  Everything you need to know to pack a box was included.  I'm praying many people in Warren will be at WalMart today buying items for shoeboxes to bring to Patti's collection center tomorrow.

In Warren they showed me a carton containing one huge box (size of a file box) that took up 1/4th of the carton space.
The donor had included a note on the top of the box "Teenager Girl.  Size Large (but narrow in the body) White vest.  $12.00 for shipping."  We had a good laugh over that one.  If only we could get people to understand the benefits of packing regular size boxes that allow us to utilize maximum carton space.

Leaving Warren I headed to North East where I found that Bryon Switala, our relay center coordinator there, had to travel out of town for work this week leaving his wife to man the relay center.  I think he owes her!  She's done a great job and collected about 650 boxes already this week.

Next I headed back to Erie and arrived as the last few participants were cleaning up from a packing party hosted in the home of my brother and sister-in-law for 16 members of their former church.  This church, Fellowship Baptist, has participated in Operation Christmas Child since 1994--longer than any other church in Erie County.

This year this group of 18 precious folks packed 320 boxes for OCC.  This will be the last year for Fellowship Baptist to be listed on the OCC Shoebox Drop-Off Logs.  They recently donated their church and land to become a satellite of another church in the area.  I can honestly say I've never seen another church group with more giving hearts.  Though only a few were left when I took this picture, you can see the joy on their faces.  What a way to end my OCC day today.

Well done, Fellowship Baptist.  Well done!

Friday, November 16, 2012

On the Fifth Day

(singing) On the fifth day of National Collection Week the good Lord gave to me--FIVE ANSWERED PRAYERS, four carton pallets, three wide rolls of tape, 2 still half-full trucks, and another great collection victory.

Blessed this morning to find a front-page newspaper article in the Erie Times-News about Operation Christmas Child with a color picture.  I'm so grateful for at least some mention of Operation Christmas Child in the newspaper on each of the last three days.

I stopped at the collection center after my school day and made it there 5 minutes before it closed--just in time to drop off the last 21 boxes I packed last evening.  They didn't take in many boxes this afternoon but a second truck was dropped today so it's ready and waiting for the harvest from the relay centers.

The only box I have yet to complete is the one pictured above.  A few months ago I found a brand new pair of Red Wing leather work boots at a local discount store for only $2.00.  Couldn't pass them up, so I filled them with some tools to make a tool-themed box for a 10-14 year old boy.  (yeah, I know the box is big, but I'm believing God has someone special to receive these size 9B boots)

On the way home from the collection center I stopped to drop off extra shoebox items at my brother and sister-in-law's home.  They're hosting a packing party tomorrow.

Heading out tomorrow to visit relay centers.  Can you believe National Collection Week will be over in just three days?


Thursday, November 15, 2012

On the Fourth Day

(singing) On the fourth day of National Collection Week the good Lord gave to me four carton pallets, three rolls of wide tape, two half-filled trucks, and another great collection victory.

It's hard to believe that National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child is already half over.  Tonight when I got to the collection center the wall was lined with about 800 boxes so the three of us got to work putting them into cartons.

Only one donor came this evening and brought 18 boxes.  That gave us a chance to get those boxes into cartons.  We worked hard to pack 50 cartons and at the end of the night there was one box left over.

Here it is--sitting by the wall.  

And as I looked at that one small box tonight I remembered why we do Operation Christmas Child.  I saw a little boy excited over the Spiderman pictures on the box.  I watched the joy on his face as he opened a box with treasures just for him.  I heard his giggles and I felt his excitement.  

The box sitting on the floor all alone is really a little boy.

And that is why we do Operation Christmas Child.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

On the Third Day

(singing)  On the third day of National Collection Week the good Lord gave to me three rolls of wide tape, two filling trucks, and another great collection victory.

I can't believe three days of our collection for Operation Christmas Child are over already.  I don't have a lot of new updates but I found out that Pat Carter's relay center in East Springfield took in 800 boxes in the first two days.  That was great news.

Things started off slowly at the Erie collection center.  Soon after I arrived to volunteer tonight, though, Rose Dobson came with a caravan of five vehicles filled with more than 1000 shoeboxes.  And Rose still has more loads to deliver!  She's pictured above with some of her shoeboxes.

Rose buys items and packs year-round in her garage.  Last year she packed 1,737 boxes and this year she packed 1,500.  And she doesn't use "GO" boxes.  Most of her boxes were salvaged from our local Target.  She's developed a good relationship with the employees there and they let her choose the empty boxes she wants from the shelves.  Many of them are a beautiful deep red and are the perfect size.

Rose struggles with chronic medical problems but she still works tirelessly to bless children around the world.  She told me, "When you keep working you don't hurt so much."  

She trusts God to provide for her boxes and has amazing stories of how He's given her all she needs.

On the third day we had Rose.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On the Second Day

(singing)  "On the second day of National Collection Week the good Lord gave to me two empty trucks and another great collection victory."

Well, actually I don't have any victories to report yet except that all the relay centers are open as far as I know.  I wish I got reports from each relay center every day and could keep track of how many boxes have come in but maybe it's better that I don't know until the end of the week.  

In the meantime, I've enjoyed brief phone calls with a few of our relay and collection center coordinators.  I especially enjoyed talking with both Ron and Carol Johnson--the relay center coordinators in Bradford.  Each time I talk with them I can sense God's love flowing through them.

Back in 2010 Ron had open heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic and Carol left him there to come home and run the relay center.  It's what they both wanted because of their dedication to Operations Christmas Child.

Tonight Carol told me that when she recruits volunteers to serve at her relay center she tells them there are three qualifications--

1)  You have to smile
2)  You have to be encouraging
3)  You have to pray with each shoe box donor before they leave the relay center

How great is that?  I wish every collection volunteer (including myself) would just keep those three rules.  We'd sure be blessing a lot more people on this side of the box.

Monday, November 12, 2012

On The First Day

(singing) On the first day of National Collection Week the good Lord gave to me another great collection victory.

Here's a picture of my minivan last night packed with 350 boxes ready to drop off at the collection center today.  All over the country similar minivans loaded with boxes have been pulling up to relay centers and collection centers with their precious cargo--each box destined to bless a child in the name of Jesus.

After a busy day at school I headed out to drive to Meadville and Conneaut Lake to visit the relay centers there.  And for the third year in a row I made that drive through heavy rain.  Showers of blessings might have been okay but the downpour I could do without.  (This is, however, better than 2008 when we had 2 feet of snow on the Monday of National Collection Week.)

Meadville collected over 900 boxes already today and there were several hundred at Conneaut Lake.  I could almost picture those hundreds of children a few months from now getting their special boxes after hearing a gospel presentation.

I have no idea how Erie or Warren collection centers or the other relay centers did today, but I'm trusting God for great things.

The victory is already secure.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pint-Sized Packers

Yesterday I traveled about 80 miles south to Jim Urban's church for a packing party.  What a joy it was to see those boxes filling up and be there when they passed their goal and filled the truck with 7,264 boxes for Operation Christmas Child.

This evening brought another packing party--this time for the Kidz Praisz children's musical group at Grace Church.   I planned to arrive at the church at 5:30 but when I saw the light fading already at 4:45 I got nervous and left early.

We have no light in our storage container and even though I'd moved most of the items we'd need to the front of the container this morning I was still concerned about unloading in the dark.

God sent just the right number of volunteers and the six of us were a great team as we folded boxes and arranged the cartons of items on the gym floor.

At about 7:00 the children burst into the gym, fresh from their rehearsal and ready for action.  I didn't even get an exact count of our packing contingent, but I think there were about 35 or 40 of them (or maybe it just seemed like that many.)

It made me smile to see them so excited about choosing items for their boxes, and I was glad we'd decided to leave the cartons on the floor.  The kids loved crawling around and pawing through all the choices.

We had a hard time keeping up with labeling all their boxes and had to do some rearranging to get some of the lids to close, but in less than 45 minutes they'd packed 200 boxes to bless children in the name of Jesus.

We prayed before we packed their boxes, and I encouraged them to keep praying for the children who will open these boxes some months from now.

There will be nothing pint-sized about the love these boxes hold.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Packing Party Eve Revisited

Today is Packing Party Eve--again.  But they're not my Operation Christmas Child packing parties.  I'm not responsible or in charge.  Tonight my only job is to pray and I'm taking that seriously.

This is my favorite time of my Operation Christmas Child year.  It's too late to be feeling guilty about not making phone calls or doing more to promote the project.  It's just time to pray and watch God bring in the harvest.

But for a lot of my Operation Christmas Child friends around the country this is a big weekend for packing parties.

I'm excited to travel a couple hours south to volunteer as my friend Jim Urban and his team pack 12,000 boxes.  I can't wait to share their excitement as God shows up again in amazing ways.

A few more hours south of that will be another 12,000 box packing party at Shannon Krater's church and over in Maryland Jeff Mauler will be working with a team for the second weekend in a row to add another 7,000 to last weekend's 7,000+ packed shoeboxes.

Down in Florida my Facebook OCC friend, Sindia Perez, is trusting God to do something I can't even imagine.  Sindia was given a great donation by a church TWO DAYS AGO with instructions to buy items to pack as many shoeboxes as possible at a packing party tomorrow.

I would be so overwhelmed by that challenge, but Sindia stepped right up and made her 48-hour plan and now she's watching our awesome God meet her every need.  She's planning for 850 shoeboxes but I'm praying for 1200 and waiting to see what God will do.

In my own area, Meadville Alliance Church starts their first-time packing party at 10:00 am tomorrow with the goal of packing 400 boxes.

Won't you pray with me for these (and other) packing parties that are happening around our country.  Each of those boxes represents one more precious child who will know God's love.

This is the kind of Packing Party Eve that I live (and pray) for.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Hurricane Sandy has come and gone with no effect on my immediate area except enough rain to keep me from running all week.  So many in our Mid-Atlantic region, though, have not fared so well and we continue to pray for them as they trust God to meet all their needs.

For me, today was a day for looking back; a day for returning to the elemental reason I got involved with Operation Christmas Child in 1995; a day to remember the joy of packing a box and knowing it will go into the hands of a child half a world away and bring him or her joy.

My OCC Church Relations Coordinator, Heather Rogers, was the first person to join our area team when it formed in 2007.  Even before that we had been packing shoeboxes together for years.  

Today we teamed up again to pack boxes in the Wesley Church basement the way we used to do before we started having large packing parties.  One by one we chose the right items to fit each box--carefully matching the size of the stuffed animal or clothing item so that each box was well-filled but not overly full.  

And while we worked we talked.  She encouraged me and gave me perspective on some of the problems that have plagued me recently.  The routine work was both mundane and marvelous.  

Better yet, we had a private concert by the Wesley Praise Band who were rehearsing in the sanctuary above us.  "10,000 Reasons/Bless the Lord" and several of my other favorite songs blessed me in new ways.

I was overwhelmed with emotion as I remembered the encouragement of our former pastor, David Streets, who always got excited about Operation Christmas Child and once asked, "I wonder how many shoeboxes it would take to fill the whole church?"  As tears came to my eyes, I told Heather, "I don't think we would have had this team or kept packing thousands more boxes if it hadn't been for David Streets."  

I remember 2008--the last year we packed all our boxes at Wesley Church--when we had 7,272 boxes stacked all over the church.  They were in pretty much every spare space we could find on two floors of the building and you know what?--no one complained about it.  Instead, people were excited.

Carrying the boxes up and down the stairs (what we've always called a shoebox workout) made us hungry enough to go to Wendy's for lunch--another thing we used to do back in those days when we packed 100 boxes or more nearly every week all year long.

This day was a joy and a balm to my soul.  Something to remember.

On the other hand, if all we did was pack boxes like this we wouldn't be able to bless as many children as we can bless by involving the community in a large packing party.  That's something to remember, too.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Boxing It Up

It's a dreary rainy Saturday so I decided to clean my house in an unorthodox but effective way.  I gathered all the stray shoebox items around my house and actually packed them into 10 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.

These are the first I packed this season.  Four weeks ago we had our huge packing party, and even though 21,106 were packed that weekend--not one of them was packed by me.

So today I went back to the basics and lovingly put the bags of candy, the soap and crayons and toothbrushes into those boxes.  I hugged and prayed over those special dolls with the sweet faces I'd been saving and excitedly packed the baseball glove with the Disney baseball.

Sometimes I can almost forget what drew me to this ministry in the first place.  I'm getting ready to speak at a church tomorrow and folding boxes and praying over the upcoming National Collection Week and the Chick-fil-A promotion.  And in the midst of all the busyness I forget that it all started with those three shoeboxes I packed in 1995.

I forget sometimes that it's not about making the goal of 40,000 boxes for Northwestern PA or 800,000 for the Mid-Atlantic region or 6.5 million in the US or 9.1 million worldwide.

It's crazy, but I can forget sometimes that ONE box goes to ONE child with ONE soul.  I really needed to pack those ten boxes today and remind myself again.

On the other hand, when you get all those boxes together they bless millions of souls one at a time and we need to pray that God will bring in those millions--one by one.

Hurricane Sandy is predicted to hit our Mid-Atlantic area soon--an area that is poised to collect 800,000 or more shoeboxes just two weeks from now by God's grace.  We know that God is sovereign but we also know that He commands us to pray.

Those boxes are getting boxed up and they need to be collected and sent on their way.  Will you pray with us that nothing, including a 'storm of the century', will interfere with this important ministry?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bigger Than Life

Today the UPS truck dropped off a huge package from Operation Christmas Child.  I opened it to find a new (read large--4 foot by 4 foot) display board with bigger-than-life pictures of children right there in my living room.

Lots of things in my life seem bigger these days--my job, ministry challenges, and choices to make.   I often think how I could make my life a whole lot easier by giving up on some things.

But then I think about how these seemingly simple gift-filled shoeboxes mean so much more to the children who receive them.  It's a small thing for me to put together a few more boxes but a large thing for needy kids.

I look at the six-inch grin on this boy's face and think of it multiplied by 9.1 million.

And, once again, I get the big picture.

Friday, October 19, 2012

On The Other Hand

We're still 31 days away from the end of National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child but the thing that's keeping me awake lately is pondering 2013 and whether our team should host another large packing party.

This wondering started sometime around mid-summer and is hitting its peak now.  If we're not going to do a party next year then we should give up the storage container and get rid of all the leftover items.

What my regional director and friend, Leigh Fisher, has told me is true--I and my team need to get a clear vision of what God's will is in this.   I want it to be an assurance that will allow us to overcome all the obstacles and the negative comments--an assurance that will keep us going through all the year-round work that it takes to get ready to pack thousands of boxes in one weekend.

I'm concerned that we spend too much time focusing on the packing party and not enough promoting Operation Christmas Child in more traditional ways to our area.  I'm concerned that we don't get enough shipping donations to cover $7.00 for each box we pack.  I'm concerned that the church where we hold the packing party was upset about some damage that occurred to the church because of the packing party.  

If having another packing party in 2013 is God's will, then I know He'll provide the items.  I don't worry about that.

But I do worry about being out of His will and causing problems for other people.  I do worry about leading my team in a wrong direction.

On the other hand, I also worry about missing another opportunity to watch God do something amazing that will bless thousands of children around the world.

I have a lot in common with Tevye in "Fiddler On The Roof"--seeing both sides of the issue.

I'm not sure how to know God's will in this.  On the other hand....

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Last Leg Revisited

In this Operation Christmas Child race we're in the last leg.  There are only 35 days until the end of National Collection Week.  You'd think it would be easy to stay motivated as we near the end, but I find myself in these days prone to feeling tired and unmotivated.

Our large packing party is over and I want to coast but it's not time for that yet. It made me think of something I wrote and sent to my fellow Mid-Atlantic area coordinators a couple of years ago, so I'm revisiting that piece here:

The Last Leg

I just wanted to write some thoughts about Leigh's comment that we're in the last leg of this year's Amazing Race.  As a veteran of 5 marathons (years ago!) I realize that many runners divide the marathon into two halves.  The first half is the first 20 miles and the second half is the last 6.2 miles.  Now it would seem that after you've run the first 20 miles the last 6.2 would be easier.  Not so.  

There's a physiological reaction when your glycogen stores are depleted that runners call "hitting the wall" and it often happens at about 20 miles into the race.  Your energy is gone, your body protests, and you can't imagine making it for another 6.2 miles.  If you're like me in this Shoebox Race, you might feel like you're "hitting the wall".  

What do you do when you come to that point in the race?  One thing that always helped me was to take the rest of the race step by step.  When I couldn't imagine running even one more mile, let alone 6.2 miles, I would concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.  I would refuse to let myself walk.  I would take one step at a time, and hold on to the next tenth of a mile.  Then I'd do it again for the next tenth.  

The other thing that helped enormously is the encouragement of others.  When someone comes up beside you and runs with you it makes a huge difference.  When the crowd lining the course is cheering for you, there's a burst of energy that bubbles up and gives you renewed strength.  We can cheer for each other and run alongside one another and, together, we'll get to the finish line.

I love what Leigh has started with sharing praises.  Maybe we could share our requests this way, too, and rejoice in all the answers.  Sharing this race together is the most important way to make sure no one gets left behind and that we bring in every box God has planned for us. 

Let's keep sharing and praying and holding each other up until we cross the line on November 19th.  Let's wait on the Lord so we can "run and not be weary and walk and not faint."

Saturday, October 6, 2012

44 Days and Counting

It's hard to believe that a week ago right now we were cleaning up from our major Operation Christmas Child Community-Wide Packing Party here in Northwestern PA.  The last truck was pulled on Tuesday and those 21,106 'gospel opportunities' are on their way to the next leg of their journey.

This past week at school was very challenging and joined  by a root canal, a cold, and the death of an extended family member--well, it hasn't been very restful.

So I'm trying to gear down this weekend and take some time to think about why we do what we do.

At last week's packing party I didn't pack a single shoebox.  It makes me sad to realize that.

Because packing shoeboxes is what I love to do more than anything.  As I tried to put away stray items and organize my home a little today, I lovingly looked at the things I've been saving for the special personal shoeboxes I have yet to pack.

There's a pair of brand new work boots (yeah, I know they'll need an oversized box but I believe God has a special young man ready to receive them)--two dolls with the prettiest faces, and a baseball mitt and Disney baseball.

We're praying for 9.1 million shoeboxes to be packed worldwide and I'm praying that each of those will be matched to a child who will be blessed by its contents.

That was my special prayer during last week's large packing party--that every box would have at least one item that the child who receives it will treasure--an item that will let each one of them know that he or she is special and God loves him or her very much.

The work's far from over.  We have 44 days until the end of National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child.  That's just a little over 6 weeks to pray and promote and plead with people to pack boxes.

Today, by God's grace, I got a call from a non-participating church that is picking up materials to present the project tomorrow.  On Monday I'll speak at another church's women's group.

I'm praying for more of those opportunities and I'm asking you to pray for them too.  9.1 million boxes is a big goal but we have a big God.

This is the God who created the entire universe in only 6 days.  Think what He can do in 44 days!

We're counting on it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Again, Of Course

God did it again.  There's no question that these Operation Christmas Child packing parties have stretched my faith in ways like no other, but year by year I'm learning to trust Him more and more.  I don't want to ever take these miracles for granted but I want to expect them more and more.

Last night we had our first youth packing party and 70 teens joined by about 30 adults finished packing 3,483 boxes in about 2 and 1/2 hours.  It was a time of blessing and a good chance to get ready for the larger crowd this morning.

Here is George, the truck driver who came to deliver our second truck this morning.  He was scheduled to arrive around noon but instead he came at 10:30 and decided to wait until the first truck was more full before he pulled it.

When I talked to him at 11:30 there were 379 cartons on the truck with over 8500 boxes.  George told me there was no way we would need a second truck.  He said we'd never get enough boxes completed to fill the truck by 4:00.  I respectfully told him he was wrong.

And he was.  By 1:20 the truck was filled with 675 cartons containing 15,525 boxes.  I told you so, George.  And we were on to the second truck.

We had several visitors who drove quite a distance to our packing party and I was totally (and pleasantly) shocked when Will and Amy Shaw, my fellow Mid-Atlantic OCC Area Coordinators, drove in from Philadelphia!  They left at 3:30 am and were leaving after the packing party to drive back home.
I am amazed by their sacrifice and only wish I could have spent more quality time with them.  I was also blessed by a visit from Dennis Henry, OCC Prayer Coordinator, who drove from Columbus, OH to be here and spent some time praying with our team's Prayer Coordinator, Linda Bennett.

Amy Gibson drove in from Cleveland and even brought over 100 great balls to use as filler items.  This was a great blessing, because I spent much of the day trying to ration the filler items and wondering if we would run out of them before we got to 20,000 boxes.

All day I sensed the prayers of the many that I knew were supporting us from around our region and even from around the country.

God sent us more volunteers than ever before--about 650 without counting team members and volunteers who didn't sign in at registration.   The line moved steadily all day at an even pace and I actually enjoyed myself as I floated around from box folding to stocking tables to opening boxes.

Ironically, the only thing I didn't do all day was pack a shoe box.

I thought I had ordered 22,000 boxes, but I'm ashamed to admit that when the pallets arrived I never actually counted the cases to see if I received them all. I just assumed I had them.

When I was informed that we only had 14 cases of boxes left I told the volunteers to stop folding them because I assumed that meant we had 20,600 boxes folded and I didn't want to have folded boxes remaining when we ran out of items.

Imagine my surprise 15 minutes later when they told me the lines had stopped because there were no more folded boxes.  How could that be when we'd only packed 18,500 boxes.  I was totally confused but told them to quickly start folding boxes again.

It was only 3:00 and we had only packed fewer than 19,950 boxes when we ran out of white boxes.  Now what?

I got the attention of all the volunteers and asked them if they wanted to stop or try to use our red and green GO boxes and they began chanting, "Red and green.  Red and green."

So we grabbed some cartons of GO boxes and started wildly folding again.  Meanwhile we scoured around for every plain shoebox we could find and pack.  It was the crazy chaos I'd been hoping to avoid by ordering extra boxes in the first place.

Still, the volunteers hung in there and the crazy thing was that now we had tons of filler items that never seemed to diminish.  The boxes were better filled than ever.

We'd scheduled the packing party to end at 4:00 pm and when that time came we still had boxes full of T-shirts, plenty of all the basic items (except soap) and many, many fillers.  We did run out of stuffed animals but had enough teeny Beanie Babies to keep going.

But we made the decision to stop at God's amazing total of 21,106.  I did feel bad about putting all those items back into the container when there were still boxes to fold and room on the truck but...

We stopped and held out our hands toward the truck to pray together over those boxes.

There were some "if onlys"--if only I'd counted the boxes when we received them was the biggest one of those.  If I had, then maybe we would have had at least a few hundred more boxes on that truck.

Still, it was the greatest packing party of all.  And still the wonder of God's goodness was just as fresh and marvelous.

Because He did it again, of course.

Friday, September 28, 2012

'Twas The Night Before The Packing Party

The Night Before The Packing Party

It’s the night before the packing party and all through the church
Our team scurries onward in desperate search
Of folks to fold boxes and set up the line,
To get items ready and make things look fine
So we will be ready for each volunteer
Who comes to pack boxes and spread lots of cheer.
Elizabeth’s working to organize all,
With lists that she’s checking for needs big and small.
While Kristin’s strategic in getting the youth
Excited in serving and spreading God’s truth.
There’s Terri who’s working to make things look good
And pushing herself more than anyone should.
While Heather shares years of experience here
And digs in to ‘bring it’ for still one more year.
And Kathy feels like she’s relaxing in bed
While visions of shoeboxes dance in her head.
Like a well-oiled machine, the team moves in synch,
And then comes the pause when we all stop to think
Of what God has done for us all through the year
That’s brought us to this point as we all stand here
And ponder His goodness and pray for His will
And wait now, expecting,  for miracles still.
Surrounded by prayer we are ready to move,
To pack all those boxes and once again prove
That He is enough to supply every need,
To fill every box and to grow every seed.
And now we’re prepared to just trust in His might,
We’ll see you tomorrow.  For now, it’s  goodnight.

ps--and if you're coming to join us tomorrow, won't you consider bringing a donation to help pay for shipping our boxes?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ready to Move

By God's grace I think we're ready for tomorrow night's Operation Christmas Child youth packing party.  We have 6600 boxes assembled and lining the halls of Grace Church.

The gym is lined with tables filled with the basic items for the boxes and the adjoining Commons area holds the clothing, stuffed animals and filler items.

I've received wonderful Facebook messages and e-mails, a great e-card, and an over-the-phone prayer time with my precious friend Lynnette.  And for the first time in packing party history, I've been sleeping well every night in this pre-packing-party week.

Over 800 more stuffed animals have come in over the past few days and I think we have just over 20,000 now.

My concern is that we won't have enough filler items to adequately fill the boxes.  Loaves and fishes, please, God--loaves and fishes.

Bring on the volunteers, cause we're ready to move.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Preparing for Rain

I may have mentioned before that "Facing The Giants" is my favorite inspirational movie.  I watch it often to give me a boost on this Operation Christmas Child journey.

In the movie, the wise elder Mr. Bridges advises the young coach to "prepare for rain"--the rain of God's blessing.  And so I, too, have been preparing for rain.  I know people are praying because I have peace and a supernatural excitement to see what God will do this week as we prepare for our giant packing party.

On the subject of rain, though....

This morning I sat in the 9:15 church service and listened to the rain beating down.  We were set to unload the contents of the storage container next to the church in 20 minutes using volunteers recruited after the church service.

For a brief minute I tried to think of an alternative way to move those items if the torrential downpour continued, but I honestly couldn't think of one.  So I prayed, "God, You've got this one," and fully expected it to stop.

And stop it did.

We had a crowd of volunteers show up to help and the job was accomplished in about an hour.

This afternoon Donna, my local Facebook friend, photographed this rainbow in a neighboring community.  I didn't see it, but it made me smile to know it was there.

I'm trusting the promises represented by that rainbow and I'm preparing for rain.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Making A Mountain

Just a week from tomorrow night we'll be starting the box packing for our Operation Christmas Child packing party.

We were blessed to get our boxes this week and I was hoping to have more folded by now  Tonight was our third night of box folding.

We assembled 300 the first night at youth group, 600 the second night with just 5 incredibly hard-working volunteers, and 800 tonight for a grand total of 1700 boxes.

The happy/sad thing is that at last year' packing party we were packing 1000 boxes in 20 minutes when we got rolling.  Those 1700 boxes won't last long.

We have just 17,300 left to assemble and I think this will take more than the 8 volunteers we had tonight.

It takes a team to make a mountain.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It Takes A Team To Move A Mountain

This is my packing party team.  These four women stepped forward just two months before the 2011 Operation Christmas Child Community-Wide Packing Party to help plan the event and the brave souls have continued to spearhead the planning this year.

Last night we met once more to discuss details and at the end of our meeting we moved 220 boxes of cartons (32 pounds each) from their location in the gym to an adjacent room.

5 women and 7040 pounds of boxes.  That's over 1400 pounds each.  But we did it.  These women are experienced mountain movers.

Here's the "after" shot:

Without this team there would likely be no 2012 packing party.  Elizabeth (pictured on the right here) has led the group and worked to recruit volunteers for the actual event.

Just as we worked together to move boxes last night, we'll work together to lead volunteers to assemble and fill and pack into cartons more than 20,000 boxes to bless children in Jesus' name through Operation Christmas Child.

Right now we're still not sure how that will happen.  The list of volunteers looks very lean--especially the list of those willing to be in supervisory positions.

In the next 10 days there are 22,000 boxes to fold and a container to be unloaded and thousands of items to be arranged and readied.

I KNOW God will make this happen for His glory.  He always does.  But in this, as always, "We walk by faith, not by sight."

Many members of our Northwestern PA area prayer team are facing personal and family struggles and we could sure use your prayer support.  This is my greatest concern.  Prayer is the foundation of all we do and if our prayer support is weak...well, we are beyond hope.

In Matthew 17:20 Jesus said, "if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible to you."

Can you imagine what He can do if we all put our mustard-seed-sized faith together?  Will you pray with us?

Because it takes a team to move a mountain.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hitting The Target

I've been praying for more fillers for our Operation Christmas Child packing party boxes and asking God to provide enough items to make them adequately full to bless children in His name.

Yesterday I went to Target to scope out the clearance prices on back-to-school items.  They were at 70% off which isn't bad, but I was hoping for cheaper prices.

Last year I got 2900 composition books at the end of the season for only 4 cents each.  But this year the original prices were higher (50 cents instead of 40 cents for those with firm covers and 75 cents for the nicer ones with vinyl covers) so I didn't expect prices as good as last year's.

As I scanned the sale prices (15 cents for the hard cover and 22 cents for the vinyl cover) I thought I'd be really happy if I could get them for 10 cents each.

I never like to talk to managers and ask for price deals but I'm getting better at praying and asking.  So they called the manager for me yesterday and he checked the computer and told me they had nearly 400 notebooks.  I knew they had more than that but he insisted the computer was right.

He told me the sale price for the total was $72.00 but if I came back today to pick them all up he'd knock it down to $50.00.  That wasn't the reduction I'd hoped for, but I went for the deal anyway.

Today when I got to Target after work two cashiers were feverishly sorting and ringing up the notebooks.  And there were more than 400.  They had to sort them by color and type and ring them all up individually.

They were ringing up at the regular sale price and I reminded the cashier that the manager said he'd give me a deal on them.  She told me she'd do the reduction later.  I asked her what the price reduction would be, but she said she didn't know.

I went back to the school supply section and found LOTS more of the same notebooks and loaded another cart.  And then half of another.

I was getting nervous as I helped them sort and count the notebooks.  What if the manager only gave me a 10% discount or something?  I couldn't very well tell them I didn't want them when they were all rung up.  I was praying fervently while I wished I'd been more assertive about sealing the price down before we rang all these up.

Just then the manager showed up and said, "I told them to give you 50% off the sale price.  Is that okay?"  I smiled wide and breathed a prayer of thanks as I did the mental math and figured that would make them 85% off.  I told him that was great.

It took over an hour to ring up all the notebooks and then I started worrying about whether they'd all fit in my minivan.  But they did.  And the back end of the car wasn't even near the ground (flashback to the time I loaded 3/4 ton of crayons in my poor vehicle.)

I dreaded the thought of unloading them into the container at Grace Church but then I thought to call Nikki--one of my team members who lives across the street from the church.

Not only was she home and happy to help me, but she's a superb organizer who helped me make room when I was worried there wouldn't be enough.   Together we got them loaded just fine.

"Do you know how many you bought," Nikki asked.  I scanned the receipt and added the various number and guessed at 1700.

When I got home and did a final tally it turned out to be 1686 notebooks for just over $170.00--just a smidge over 10 cents each.

Thank you, God, for once again hitting the Target.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Packed and Paid

Today I went to yard sales in the rain and came home with only 48 animals for our Operation Christmas Child boxes.  Three weeks from right now the packing party will be over and, by God's grace, we'll have 20,000 boxes packed into a truck (trucks?)

My head is full of thoughts of details--Need to get the press releases out and need to make contact with my media team member about that; got a new team application today and I need to call that prospect;  need to see if we can get some volunteers to help my husband move the 8 pallets of boxes and cartons that are coming on September 17th (not to mention getting enough volunteers to assemble 20,000 boxes) and have to figure out the trucking.

BUT beyond those small details I'm praying about two major requests:

1) God, give us enough items to adequately fill these boxes so they will bless children in your name.

2) God, move people to donate for the shipping costs on these boxes.

At $7.00 each, the shipping donation for 20,000 boxes will total $140,000--now there's a God-sized goal.   I'm praying God will bring it in, whether I actually see it or not.

Besides rainy-day yard sales I went to Dollar General today and used my coupon for $5 off on a $25 purchase to buy 224 plastic bowls and cups for less than 10 cents each.

These are great fillers because they're useful and colorful items that also will fill space in the boxes if needed.

Now if I could just get 10,000 more of them.  Oh, and another 2400 stuffed animals.  And $140,000

That's all.