Thursday, May 31, 2012

Clogs in God's Plan

A week ago I got a tip from that a medical supply company,, had nursing clogs on clearance for $1.00 a pair (original price $33 per pair.)  Knowing how important good shoes can be for children who have none, I got onto the site as fast as I could and ordered 71 pairs for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

That night I started praying about whether I should order more.  The price was right, but I already have enough clothing items and I'm running out of storage.  The next morning I prayed about this again while I was running and I couldn't shake the idea that I should order more shoes.

I came home and got online and ordered another 159 pairs and by having a $159 order I got $20 off and with the minimal shipping charge the cost per pair was only 98 cents.

After placing the order I started to have second thoughts and wondered where I would store all these shoes.  But I knew they'd be such a blessing so I asked God to work this all out.

The next day I got an e-mail from the company that my first order was canceled because all the items were out of stock.  I chalked it up to another case of "too good to be true" and thanked God that He had it all under control.

I figured my second order would be canceled as well, so I was truly surprised to get an e-mail informing me they were shipping 32 pairs of the 159 pairs I ordered on my second order.   And the best part was that they still allowed me the $20 discount even though I only ended up with a $32 order.  So in the end I paid less than 70 cents for each pair of $33 nursing clogs.

Today they arrived in a nice huge carton--each pair in its own separate shoe box--how great is that!  For a mere $22.99,  32 girls will each get a pair of quality shoes.

I love how God put these clogs in His plan.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


At dinner time the UPS truck pulled up in front of the house.  I was confused because I thought the soap I ordered for our Operation Christmas Child boxes was being shipped to our church.  But I was wrong.  Now we have to haul 500 pounds of soap to our storage container one of these days soon.

In addition to the 10 cartons of soap our friendly UPS guy brought one case of small tubes of toothpaste which brings me to another decision.  Will these small tubes be adequate for our gift-filled shoeboxes?

I have over 3000 regular-sized tubes of toothpaste that God has provided already but that leaves about 17,000 more to buy outright.  Of course I can get them in all different sizes from the wholesale company.  It just depends on how much I want to spend.  The sample pictured here is about the size of the tube you get at the dentist's office.

It's the story of my life--how to fill as many boxes as possible and still have them be adequately filled to bless the children who receive them.   I'll pray about this before I order more, of course.

I've been reviewing some verses I memorized a few years ago while packing shoeboxes and have quoted to myself numerous times since.   I love to cling to this promise that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth--

2 Corinthians 9:10,11 "Now He who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God."

God, I want these boxes to be generously filled so each one will result in thanksgiving to You.  Please show me how to steward the resources you lavish on me and help me to make the right decisions.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day--an important day to remember those who gave their lives so we can enjoy freedom.  But today I want to expand that idea of remembering and spend some time remembering how God has blessed our Operation Christmas Child project through the years.

In the Old Testament the Israelites were often commanded to "remember."  They even set up piles of memorial stones so they could explain to their children how they were to help them remember the goodness of God.

Back in 1993 God brought the Operation Christmas Child project to the US when, in just a few weeks, 28,000 boxes were collected.  This year--2012--will be the 20th collection season for OCC and we're praying for a goal of 9.1 million boxes this year.  Now that's a LOT of growth.

Personally, I first heard about the project in 1995 and packed 3 boxes that year. The next year I packed 5 (a pretty incredible 66% increase--lol) and then in 1997 decided to collect items all year with a goal of packing 40 boxes.  God provided enough for 80 boxes instead.

Since then I've watched God grow this project year by year.  If you'd told me back then that in 15 years I'd be working with a team to plan to pack 20,000 boxes in one weekend I would have been terrified.

But God is gracious and He's led us step by step from tens to hundreds to thousands of boxes.  And all along the way I remember the trail of miracles.

In 2000 we'd packed 240 boxes and thought we were finished.  Then, through an amazing series of events, God provided enough items for 60 more boxes within one week to give us a perfect 300.

A few years later I got a great deal on a couple hundred soccer balls for our boxes but couldn't find inexpensive balls pumps to pack with them.  I had everyone I knew praying for ball pumps and God ended up connecting me with an online seller who donated all of them just when we needed them.

And in recent years the miracles have only accelerated.  In 2009 I was attending a new church and casually offered the idea of a community-wide packing party to the pastor in a Facebook message.  Within two months God worked out all the details for 5,577 to be packed in the first packing party.  You can read about it here.

I didn't think anything could top that packing party and when we planned one in 2010 I worried that I wouldn't have the same excitement at seeing God do what only He can do.  Of course, I should have known God would once again go beyond what we could imagine as He took us beyond the goal of 10,000 and let us pack 12,670 (click here to read the whole story)

And then came last September where God opened the heavens again and gave us 16,145 boxes in under 8 hours (click here for details).

So now as we pray for a goal of 20,000 boxes and as I wait on God for 15,000 more stuffed animals, 37,000 pencils, 285 reams of paper, 13,000 pens, 6366 (24/pack) crayons, 20,000 soap bars, 17,000 toothpaste, 7,000 toothbrushes, and tons of filler items--

I'm taking some time to look back on all God has done.  On this Memorial Day weekend I'm sitting in front of those memorial stones and gazing in awe at just those tiny glimpses of a God who is greater than I can begin to understand and who can do anything, and....

I'm remembering.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Biggest Loser

One of the biggest struggles I face is trying to decide when and what to buy for our Operation Christmas Child boxes.  This week I knew it was time to start stocking up on soap and toothpaste for our boxes.  If I order 10 cases (5000 bars) of soap every month from now until September I'll have enough.  Last year I waited for some great deal that never came and when I tried to order 30 cases in September I almost couldn't get enough.

So on Tuesday I placed an order for the 10 cases of soap and a case of small tubes of toothpaste to see what they look like.  I'd love to put a large tube in each box and I have 3000 larger tubes already, but I have my doubts that I'll get 20,000 of them by September.

I'm never sure how the finances will work out when I make these orders but today God provided in a neat way.  I found out I won the Biggest Loser contest my coworkers and I have had for the past 16 weeks.   We each contributed $30 at the start of the contest and by losing the highest percentage of weight, I won.

When the winnings were added to a generous contribution from a woman who loves to support our packing party, it's nearly enough to pay for this first load of soap.

That got me thinking about how in God's economy winning is often about losing.  Today in Matthew 16:25 I read, "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."

God willing, I want to learn to become a really BIG LOSER.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Praying for Uganda

These children from Uganda are working through The Greatest Journey--a discipleship training course made available to many children after they receive their gift-filled shoe boxes from Operation Christmas Child.

This photo was shared by Leigh Fisher, my OCC Regional Director.  Leigh and a team of about 70 other OCC friends--staff and volunteers--are in Uganda right now taking part in distributing boxes to the children, learning more about the work of Operation Christmas Child in Uganda, and encouraging pastors and the National Leadership Team there in the area near Kampala.

Here is a picture of Leigh with some of the sweet children of Uganda.
I'm also in the midst of reading the book "Kisses From Katie"--the amazing story of Katie Davis, a young girl from Tennessee who left to volunteer for a year right out of high school in a Ugandan Children's Home.  She expected to teach 12 children and, instead, found herself teaching 138!  Over the course of the next months she established a NGO to raise funds for children in Uganda to attend school and even began adopting Ugandan children herself when she was only 19 years old.  Uganda quickly became her home.

These children are so blessed by the simple gifts in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox.  Katie Davis writes this about school supplies in Uganda, "In Uganda, a tablet is expensive.  A new pen or pencil is a treasure.  Many children don't get excited about going to school because even if they have the money for school fees they may not be able to buy their supplies."

I once heard the head of the OCC National Leadership Team say that a box of crayons can cost a week's wages in Uganda.  Imagine what a box of crayons will mean when a child finds one in her shoe box!

Won't you be praying this week for our Operation Christmas Child volunteers and staff in Uganda.  Pray that those who are there from the US this week will have eyes to see what God wants them to see and be given words to share with the rest of us.

And pray that the team who lives in Uganda will have great wisdom in distributing these shoe box gifts and training a new generation of children to love and follow the Lord.

God hears and He answers.  So just pray!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jesus' Ministry Handbook

I've been with people a lot this weekend and it's left me so tired.  And when I'm tired it's easy to feel overwhelmed by questions about my Operation Christmas Child life--Just when will God answer my prayers for key coordinators on my team?  When will He provide the thousands of items we need for our boxes?  Where will we get 16,000 more stuffed animals?

But I'm remembering what God showed me this week in Matthew 10.  This 10th chapter of Matthew is really a ministry handbook that Jesus gave to His disciples when He sent them out.

It doesn't paint a very pretty picture of ministry either.  It talks about going out with no provisions and what to do when people reject you (as though that's a given.)  Jesus tells them they'll be persecuted and arrested and betrayed--even by their families because, after all, "a servant is not above his master" and all these things happened or will soon happen to Jesus.

But then He gives them this great hope in vs. 26-31
Matthew 10:26-31

New International Version (NIV)
26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[a] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Three times in these verses Jesus commands them NOT to be afraid--1) don't be afraid of the darkness and proclaim the truth boldly 2) don't be afraid of losing your physical life--be concerned for your soul  3) don't be afraid of being needy or alone because God cares and He will keep you in His will.

So no matter how tired I am and no matter how many unknowns there are, I'm going to keep reminding myself not to be afraid because my Father cares and He has it covered

And that's the best instruction for ministry of all.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Rest of the Story

Just a few hours ago I wrote a post about how bummed I was that I got 170 fewer stuffed animals than I thought I was getting for our Operation Christmas Child boxes.  You can read about it here.

The neat thing is that soon after I wrote that last post I got this message from my friend, Judy Faulhaber--

"So, I'm in Schwenksville (Philly) for my grandson's orchestra concert. Tomorrow is the 2/1 sale of stuffed animals at the store I told you about last year. However, Gary and I head back to Erie before they open tomorrow. Last time I was there, the animals were 2/$.25 anyway (the 2/1 price).
I took a chance and went with my daughter and grand-daughter today. We were there about an hour and a half after they opened. As I walked in I headed to the bin I usually start with, when I noticed 2 women loading up a bunch of animals.
I was kind of bummed, when my daughter said, "That one lady has an Operation Christmas Child shirt on." I went over and she turned around. Sure enough, she did. I asked her if she was getting things for that (obviously) and she asked if I was, too. I explained that I was viviting from Erie and always come there when I'm in town.
She said, "Oh, then you're getting these for Kathy!" I said, "Schriefer?" She said, "Yes!" She then said that she'd stop so I could have the rest! They had already loaded 10 bags of 100 and stopped at 50 in the last bag. By the time I finished, I had 290-much better than the ZERO it looked like I'd end up with!
Long story, yes. But I'm supposed to tell you that "Jane" said "Hi"

Amazing! I then sent a message to my Operation Christmas Child friend, Jane Landis, to ask if she was the one who graciously let Judy glean those animals for me and she responded

"Hi Kathy. Yes, it was me. When we started talking and Judy said she was from Erie I thought she has to know you. And having followed your Ark Quest on facebook I really felt you needed the animals. I am so glad they helped to make your day better. God will provide in His time. God blessed me over and over this week in so many unexpected ways...We serve an awesome God and I am learning I have to trust Him more. May you have a successful weekend in your quest for more animals. Love,

God's work is always more amazing than I can imagine. Hours before today's disappointment God was working hundreds of miles away, using two friends who'd never met before to bring good things for me. 

Thank you, Jane and Judy, for being obedient and thank you to our awesome God who always writes the best story. 

I Hate Failing

I don't think there's anything I fear and loathe more than failure.  Goodness knows I've had enough experience with it; you'd think I'd be desensitized by now.  Ironically, as I tried to begin typing this post I could not get the cursor in the right  spot.  After a solid seven minutes of failure somehow it worked.  In the meantime I was hating that 'it's not working right again' feeling.

I was so excited about finding a deal for 300 Beanie Babies on Craig's List yesterday for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  An Operation Christmas Child friend suggested I try there and I was praising God for the blessing.  

Today I went to pick up the animals and the young man loaded the three tubs into my car.  I had asked him previously if they had any odors and he assured me they didn't.  So he stuck the tubs in my van and I handed him the $75 cash.  I never looked inside the tubs.  I'm still trying to decide if this was trust, shyness, stupidity, or laziness.  They probably all play a part.

I'm sure, dear reader, you can see where this is headed.  When I got home and hauled the first tub out of the car I knew something was wrong.  It was too light to contain all Beanie Babies.  Sure enough--it had about 6 very large and filthy animals in it.

The other two containers did have Beanie Babies with the tags still on them--I counted 136 in all--but they all have an odor and will need to be washed.  I know they'll wash well and make some kids happy, but that brought the cost to more than 50 cents each.  

I was reading Matthew 10 this morning and verse 16 says "be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."  I think I had an epic fail on the shrewd part but maybe I at least got the innocent side down.

I'm telling myself maybe that young man needed the money more than I.  I'm telling myself this is a learning experience.  I'm telling myself it's no big deal.

But, did I mention, I really hate failing?

PS--ACK!  I just washed the first load of these and one of the animals had some sort of shiny material on it that disintegrated in the washer and left flakes on all the other animals which I now have to pick off.  Not fun!  And while I am working on picking off the flakes I'm thinking about all my other Operation Christmas Child failures--like why am I not making phone calls to recruit new team members and relay centers?  After working through a lesson on time management on the OCC Extranet last night I wonder--why am I spending my time picking flakes off stuffed animals?

Did I mention, I really hate failing?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bevy of Blessings

I like to put a stuffed animal in each of our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  Our goal for the packing party weekend on September 28th & 29th this year is 20,000 boxes so that means praying for a TON of stuffed animals.  We need an average of more than 800 every week between now and the end of September to reach the goal.

Last weekend I asked my Facebook friends to pray for 800 stuffed animals but I ended the week with just 286 of them.

Last night another 23 came in and today, in a late bevy of blessings, Cindy Kerchoff called and I was able to pick up another van full that she and her sister in Buffalo had collected.  They were on a bus trip to Ohio on Saturday and hiked an extra three blocks to an Amish thrift store to pick up another 31 to add to their collection.  That means their haul alone came from three separate states.

This brings the weekly total to 720!

We now have 3800 in bags and another 200 or more in the cleaning and sorting process.  Still need 16,000 over the next 20 weeks--800 on average every 7 days.

I was also blessed with a phone call from OCC team member Tracey Berger who said she was contacted by a young woman who wants to pursue stuffed animal drives at several schools as her senior project next fall.  What an answer to prayer this could be!

We're bagging up the blessings and asking you to pray for another 800 animals in the week to come.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day Eve

Here are the beautiful women who three decades and more ago made me a mother.  My daughters Jen, Julie, and Amy are pictured here several years ago at Julie's graduation from medical school.  Though none of them is a mother, they each work harder than I ever have in my life.

Jen works long hard hours every week doing construction with Hosanna Industries, a Christian non-profit that builds and repairs homes for needy clients at no charge.  Julie's in her 3rd year of residency in ob/gyn (enough said) and Amy works in production for National Public Radio and does a fair amount of traveling.

Thirty years ago when they were 4 years, 2 years, and 3 months old I was just trying to make it through the days.  As I jumped out of bed to grab crying Julie in the middle of the night before she woke her sisters and settled with her in the rocking chair I might have had some thoughts about where we'd be as a family in 30 years.  But if I did, I never imagined my daughters becoming so accomplished and busy and living so far away.

Those days when we all lived together honestly seem like another lifetime but they bring memories of marvels and messes and a million moments of mundane miracles (mmm-maybe I overdid the alliteration a bit.)

Now, these decades later, I think of mothers around the world who are making good memories for their children even in the midst of their struggles.  They are praying and sacrificing to make better lives for their children, too.

And sometimes God uses a simple Operation Christmas Child shoebox to answer their prayers and provide a special miracle of hope and joy.

So on this Mother's Day Eve--thank you for packing your shoeboxes and giving those mothers another chance to be blessed.

Oh, and here's the woman who almost six decades ago was responsible for giving me life--
she'll be 99 years old in July and is a remarkable mother and role model.  You can read her story by clicking here.

Happy Mother's Day Eve to all mothers everywhere.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mentioning Unmentionables

Today I stopped by Gabriel Bros.--a store that used to be a major supplier of my clothing purchases for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  Over the past few years their sales haven't been as good but today I was blessed to find these 7-packs of boy's Fruit of the Loom briefs for just $1.00 each.

I also had a 10% off coupon so I snagged 39 packs (273 pairs of briefs) for just $35.10--less than 13 cents each.

The thing is--I don't really need more clothing items right now.  I already had 22,339 as of my last count a few days ago.  I need soap and toothpaste and stuffed animals more.

But I just can't pass up a great deal because you never know when it will come around again.

Now, underwear might not seem like the gift you want to receive, but the box will have plenty of other more fun items.

And, now that you mention it, there might be some boys out there who are in need of them and may even be praying for these unmentionables.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Shoe Box Organization Extraordinaire

 I am always amazed at how well some people are able to organize their Operation Christmas Child shoebox items.  I tend to be organizationally challenged by nature and I can never seem to keep up with the sheer number of blessings God sends our way for our shoeboxes.   So I love to see people who have it all together.

Today I was blessed to be invited to speak about Operation Christmas Child at the Mother's Day Luncheon at Cambridge Springs CMA Church.  Cheryl French, their project leader for OCC, was kind enough to give me a tour of their small but well-organized Shoebox Room.  Plastic bins and boxes keep each type of item divided and ready for their packing party next fall
 They already have most of their boxes wrapped and ready for packing, too.  Last year they packed 175 boxes and are shooting for at least 200 this year  (although I'm secretly cheering for the brave woman who said they should pack 1,000 boxes.)
Church members keep busy all year making items like tote bags, pencil cases, hair scrunchies, purses, and small bags for marbles.  Nothing is wasted.
As I told the ladies today, I wish I could bring before them every child who has received one of the boxes they've packed so they could see how they are blessing so many around the world.

Since I couldn't do that, I hope they understood that the stories I told them today are really the stories of their shoebox recipients, too.

With their help, God is going to answer our prayers for Northwestern PA in 2012.  As the body of Christ in Erie, Crawford, and Warren counties prayerfully come together we can make sure there will be 40,000 fewer children who have to wait to get a shoebox gift.

That's extraordinary.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

This Greatest Journey Is Worth It

My Operation Christmas Child journey sometimes seems like a lot of work.  In the past few hours I've sorted stuffed animals, shopped online to buy 204 visors, sent out e-mail prayer requests and spent some time praying.

I also consumed an hour deleting old e-mails and realized just how many I'd sent and received over the past months just for OCC.  As I glanced through them I was reminded again of all those events, all those meetings, all those contacts.

But then, as I checked my Facebook account, I saw this new Operation Christmas Child video.  Wow!

Looking at the faces of these children reminds me that my little journey allows children around the world to participate in The Greatest Journey--a discipleship program that not only teaches them that Jesus loves them but also trains them in how to tell others about His love.

This Journey is definitely worth it--whatever it takes.