Saturday, January 26, 2013

Retro--A Perfect 300

(This is a picture taken at a distribution in Ecuador by an OCC staffer.  This little girl is opening a box I packed--how fun is that!)  I thought I'd share this piece I wrote about "the old days" when I didn't pack quite as many shoeboxes.  The miracles God used to allow us to pack a perfect 300 boxes in the year 2000 were just as great.

A Perfect 300--2000
            There.  Finished.  Putting the lid on the last of the 240 shoe boxes, I taped on the sticker to indicate the box of gifts was for a boy.  Through a project called Operation Christmas Child, two other women and I had spent two days in our church basement filling shoe boxes with gifts to be sent to needy children all around the world.  Each box was fitted with a notebook, crayons, pencils, pens, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, socks, a clothing item, and various small toys.  I stacked the last box and closed the door to the storage room with a sigh.
            During the church service the next morning I handed the usher a slip of paper with a request asking Art, our assistant pastor, to include in his morning prayer praise to God for helping us pack 240 boxes. Art’s one of those optimistic guys, so when he prayed “Thank you, God, for helping us to pack almost 300 shoe boxes,” I smiled.  How like him to exaggerate.  We packed only 240 boxes; nowhere near 300.  But all through the service I kept remembering we had some extra items.  Maybe we could pack more boxes after all. 
            I knew we didn’t have any notebooks left, but that afternoon I found a rain check for notebooks that had been on sale at Quality Markets.  I had made numerous trips to the store but never found them on the shelf.  That Sunday night, though, I made another trip to the store and this time there were three perfect stacks of them.  The rain check was for an unlimited quantity, so I grabbed a stack and began counting.  Then I counted the next stack and the next until I got to the last of them.  I ran my fingers over the last three and counted under my breath, “58, 59, 60.”  There were exactly 60 notebooks. 
            I didn’t have any crayons, either, but two days later I stopped at K-Mart on my way to work and trotted right to the school supply aisle.  There was an unadvertised special on 24-packs of Crayola crayons for 39 cents, so I bought all they had on the shelf.  Guess how many there were?  That’s right—60.  Perfect.
            By the next Saturday we had gathered enough items to pack all 60 extra boxes, except that 12 boxes for little boys had no socks.  When I got home that afternoon and opened my mailbox, I found a package with an unfamiliar return address.  When I opened it, it was full of little boys’ socks and underwear.  The note inside told me they were sent to me by Sharon, a Christian woman who lives half-way across the country and knew about this project from one e-mail contact we had. 
            I hurried to the computer and typed
Thank You! 
10/13/2000 2:00:49 PM Eastern Standard Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)
Dear Sharon,
            I couldn’t believe it when I opened the package you sent.  I just came from church where we were packing some extra boxes for the Shoe Box project, but we ran short on socks, and we didn’t have any for the last 12 boxes.  Then I came home and found your package in the mail box.  I was blown away when I saw all those socks and underwear in just the sizes we needed.  I shouldn’t be amazed that your package arrived at just the right time, but I am.  What made you decide to send it? 

Still amazed,

Within just a few minutes, my computer chirped in its cheery AOL voice “You’ve Got Mail!” and I

opened Sharon’s reply.

Re: Thank You! 
10/13/2000 2:10:37 PM Eastern Standard Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)
Hi, Kathy,
  I’m so glad that you’re able to make use of the items!  I knew that God wanted you to have them for your ministry.  As a rule, I don’t shop in the children’s section (and honestly, I don’t care for shopping at all), and if you were not a woman of faith, you would NEVER believe that I found the clothing sale bin in the car care section of the store!  I was on my way to pick up two cans of fix-a-flat to keep in my vehicles for emergencies, and I saw a three-tier bin of clothing marked down to 10 cents.  I thought of your shoe box ministry right away and grabbed whatever nice kids’ stuff they had.
  Of course, we know that God provides exceedingly, and that thought was further reinforced when I found the fix-a-flat on sale for $2.54 a can when I am accustomed to paying nearly $5.00.  It was like getting a bag of sox and undies for free!
  I pity the misinformed and clueless people who think that Christians never have any fun in their lives.  It is SO much fun to serve Him in this way.  It was wonderful to receive your note and be reminded that our God who cares for the sparrows certainly cares about little boys’ feet.

            Why did Art look at the number 240 on that prayer request slip and decide to thank God for “the almost 300 shoe boxes?”  And why did some clerk in a K-Mart in Wisconsin put a bin of reduced-priced children’s underwear in the middle of the automotive section?  Those seemingly inconsequential moments were links in a chain that sent shoeboxes full of gifts to 60 children who might otherwise not have received them.  They were part of God’s plan for a perfect 300.

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