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.