Thursday, November 28, 2013

An OCC Thanksgiving Story

Last Monday evening our Operation Christmas Child area team met at Chick-fil-A to celebrate the end of National Collection Week.  Little did we know, but God had more boxes to add to that collection.  Before I even got a chance to order my chicken sandwich my phone rang.  It was Cindy, our relay center coordinator in Conneaut Lake, calling to tell me they'd received another load of boxes.  We agreed it was a good problem to have.

After conferring with Seph, our Erie collection center coordinator, it was decided that Cindy and her husband, John, would drive the boxes to Erie and we'd meet her at the collection center at 8:00 PM.

Cindy and John arrived right on time and opened the back of their vehicle.  It was full of stacked GO boxes.  As we started to unload, they told us the story behind them.

That evening they were only scheduled to collect boxes from 5-6 PM, and since they'd already delivered their main load of boxes to the collection center, they were actually hoping for no more than a few stragglers.

Imagine their surprise when a woman arrived with her two daughters and a vehicle full of boxes.  Cindy and John asked her what church the boxes were coming from and the woman explained that these were personal boxes from their family.

She went on to say that they don't have an actual house to live in right now.  They are living in the "milking house" attached to the goat barn.  They had two goats and God blessed them and multiplied their 'herd' (is that what you call a group of goats?) to a total of 53.  Because they'd experienced God's blessing they wanted to give back by packing all 188 of these boxes themselves to bless children around the world.

I'm not farm savvy, but John explained to me that a milking house doesn't have heat and that this family obviously has many needs of their own.   John was so touched and amazed by their gift and said, "This makes it all worthwhile."

I'd say that family knows how to be thankful, wouldn't you?  And their gratitude is being passed along to change the lives of children around the world.

Those children will then be filled with gratitude.  And the gift of thanksgiving goes on....

Monday, November 25, 2013

And the Number Was? Is?...

What a crazy day of Operation Christmas Child blessings.  I haven't really been keeping a running tally of our shoe box numbers and though I knew our numbers were up at our collection centers I wasn't sure how close we were to the goal of 45,000 boxes we've been praying for all year.

I got a text late this morning with an update from our Erie Collection Center with good numbers but still hadn't heard from the Warren Collection Center.

Then I got distracted with a couple of live lice I found in someone's head and kind of forgot about shoe boxes for an hour or so.

But near the end of my work day the call came from Warren and I did a little rejoicing there in my school nurse's office as I knew God had answered our prayers.

I went home and was ready to make posters to announce the total at our Chick-fil-A celebration when I got a call that more boxes were on the way to the collection center.  Another call confirmed that 298 boxes were added to the total so I made the posters, went to Chick-fil-A, ate a great meal (including the free yummy cookies CFA blessed us with) and then, according to our tradition, opened the folders showing the last digit first (9), then the fourth digit (6), then the third (2)----and then after the count of three--revealed the first and second digits (4) and (7)

But that's not all---

A call came in while were were at Chick-fil-A that one of our relay centers just received another load of boxes.  They were nearly an hour away and had already dropped off all their boxes and cartons. But they graciously drove the boxes to Erie.

Our Erie collection coordinator, Seph, and my husband and I left CFA and headed back to the collection center.  When Cindy and John Catlin came with the load of boxes they were nice enough to stay to help us cartonize them and get them on the truck--all 226 of them.

So the revised total now stands at--

47, 495

And the truck hasn't left yet.

WOW!  We stand amazed!

Saturday, November 23, 2013


OTRA--On the road again--this morning.  I should have left my house earlier, but there were a few morning chores to accomplish.

First I had to hit the grocery store and do some coupon shopping to net me enough gas points for 30 gallons of free gas.  Then I put gas in the car, lugged the 3 extra 5-gallon cans of gas home and to the garage, and headed out to visit Operation Christmas Child relay centers (after putting all the extra GO boxes I had in my car.)

On the way I stopped at Staples to use a coupon to get a deal on toilet paper (you might think that wasn't necessary, but, yes, it was) and then at our storage container where I loaded left over shoe box items into my minivan.  My plan was to take those items to the relay centers so they could pack extra boxes.

I was surprised, though, to find that the relay centers had all their boxes done and in cartons and one had them all loaded into their truck already.  No one needed GO boxes or leftover items.

So after my little 60 mile jaunt I headed to our collection center in Erie to help unload a truck coming in from our relay center in Meadville.  Well, I didn't actually help unload--I just wrote numbers on cartons in the truck while I watched the snow fall.

At 1:30 I headed home with a plan to have a private LOPP (Left Over Packing Party) because I didn't want to haul all that extra stuff back to the storage container.

My faithful OCC team member, Pam Niedhammer, called to give a report on the relay centers she visited and offered to come join the impromptu packing party.  She even brought her own extra items.

So we started packing with no real plan except to make as many boxes as we could.  We kept folding boxes and circling them on my table and filling and labeling and stacking...and before we knew it several hours had passed and we had 60 boxes finished.

When Pam left I kept packing--determined to make every box I possibly could. I took a break to carve the turkey I roasted and throw a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven.

The count right now stands at 121 for this LOPP but I think I might be able to make more in the morning before the day cranks into full gear and I get OTRA.

It's scary when I realize there are so few hours left in National Collection Week.

Because the time is short...and so many children are waiting. of 2:00 am on 11/24--final count at 139 boxes with every possible box made...every stuffed animal and clothing item used.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cry Out to the Lord and Raise the War Cry

We're all neck deep in boxes and cartons during this National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child.  But you know what?  This is WAR!

As we get these boxes on trucks to the processing centers and as they are inspected and shipped out to receiving countries to fulfill their destiny as "gospel opportunities"--we are in a battle for the souls of children and families around the world.

I read in 2 Chronicles 13 this morning about King Abijah and godly Judah in their war against King Jeroboam and Israel that had forsaken God.
Abijah said:

12 Now behold, God is with us at our head and His priests with the signal trumpets to sound the alarm against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the Lord God of your fathers, for you will not succeed.”
13 But Jeroboam had set an ambush to come from the rear, so that Israel was in front of Judah and the ambush was behind them. 14 When Judah turned around, behold, [a]they were attacked both front and rear; so they cried to the Lord, and the priests blew the trumpets. 15 Then the men of Judah raised a war cry, and when the men of Judah raised the war cry, then it was that God[b]routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. 16 When the sons of Israel fled before Judah, God gave them into their hand. 17 Abijah and his people defeated them with a great slaughter, so that 500,000 chosen men of Israel fell slain. 18 Thus the sons of Israel were subdued at that time, and the sons of Judah [c]conquered because they trusted in the Lord, the God of their fathers.

It's time for us to CRY OUT to the Lord!

It's time for us to RAISE THE WAR CRY!

It's time to pray like never before that God will open a door for the gospel and go before these boxes to prepare the way.

Because it's about more than trucks and tabulating totals.

This is WAR!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ted E. Bear

In the midst of National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child we are all busy tallying numbers and comparing them to the big goals we've been praying for during the entire year.

We measure our progress by cartons packed and trucks sent.

But it's good to step back and remember the meaning of ONE BOX.

Pictured above is one of the 100 boxes I packed at home this week, and its anchor toy is a cute stuffed bear that has special significance.

Back in June our local newspaper published an article about our hunt for new stuffed animals for shoe boxes.  It resulted in a flurry of calls that sent us running all over town collecting donations.  It was exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time.

Many of the calls came from older folks who had just a few precious animals they'd collected.  It was tough to make long drives to pick up one or two at a time, but these folks were excited to donate.

The bear in the box above came to us as the result of one of those phone calls.  The donor called and asked us to pick up her donation at the golf course where her husband works.  One of our team members made the trip there, persisted in finding the employee, and drove the long drive to a maintenance office where this lone bear sat in a bag with a tag on it that read, "Ted E. Bear -- to be picked up"

So he was picked up.

And he sat on the microwave stand in my kitchen for 5 months.  He missed the big packing party in September and somehow was still sitting there this week, patiently waiting his turn.

And this week was it.

He was packed into a box with a radio and some fun fillers, school supplies, and hygiene items.  And tonight that box was packed into a carton at the collection center--ready for the next leg of its journey to a 10-14 year old somewhere in the world.

I'm praying Ted E. Bear will be a special emissary of God's love.  Because for that one child it was worth the drive to pick him up.  It was worth the time to finally pack him in a box.  It was worth it to make a $7.00 shipping donation online and it was worth the trouble to drive the box to a collection center.

It's all worth it for ONE MORE CHILD.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Passing It On

It's interesting how God works when we can't see it.  Last March I was so excited to get a deal on 2800 of these radios to use as fillers in our Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.  They worked fine.  They were only .14 each and I thought they'd make the perfect gift.

The strange thing is that somehow in the chaos of our large packing party we ended up not using very many of them at all.  I was saving them to use when the stuffed animals ran out, but then they never did.

We only used about 500 of the radios and didn't want to let them sit in our cold storage container over the winter.

So today I was able to pass them on to my friend Jim Urban who needs them for packing thousands of boxes this week in the North Pittsburgh area.

As we were filling his minivan to the roof with 2300 of these, I laughingly wondered why I ever bought these when we didn't end up using them.  I quickly corrected myself, though, and said that God must have known Jim would need them.

Jim asked how he could pay me for them, and I told him I'm only trying to "pay it forward" in gratitude for the 22,400 mini frisbees that my friend Jeff donated to me for our packing party.

That's the mystery of how God works.  What He gives to me might really be meant for you.  And what He gives to you might really be meant for me.  When you think about it, it's a whole lot more fun that way.  We each get the blessing of both receiving from God and giving.  It makes sense that our omniscient God would have that figured out, eh?

And speaking of filling minivans,  as soon as I passed the radios to Jim I was able to fill up my own minivan with boxes from the storage container to take to the Operation Christmas Child collection center tomorrow.

This baby has more than 350 shoe boxes in it right now.  Too bad I'll have to drive it to work like this tomorrow since the collection center isn't open yet.

And here's the view from the inside.

Visibility is overrated--both for driving and for seeing God's plan for our lives.

"For we walk (and drive) by faith, not by sight."

Friday, November 15, 2013

Not My Plan

This 2013 Operation Christmas Child season has not gone according to plan.  Things seemed to be cruising along pretty well until August and then it started to unravel.

When I returned to school in August I quickly realized this would be the hardest year of my career as a school nurse so far.  Getting through each day has been extremely challenging, leaving me no time during my day to spend a moment even thinking about shoeboxes.

Add to that my daughter's wedding on October 13th, just two weeks after our major packing party, and you can see things have been hectic.

Then came this week--my plans for the Chick-fil-A collection on Tuesday night and a great packing party with a newly-participating church on Wednesday night were interrupted.

My niece (one I was not terribly close to) died suddenly and the viewing and funeral were set for Tuesday afternoon and evening.

Then last Friday my husband was scheduled for an unexpected heart catheterization on Wednesday.

Even though these surprises interrupted MY plans, they were no surprise to God.

For the past few weeks I've been reciting Psalm 23 over throughout my day and reminding myself of God's goodness, and I saw His goodness again this week.

My Operation Christmas Child team stepped up to take care of the Chick-fil-A collection and we collected 179 boxes--immeasurably more.

Meanwhile, the funeral turned out to be a true blessing.  At the viewing I spoke to my nephew's wife who told me she helped my niece pray to receive Christ last May.  What joy!

I'd been praying that the funeral would bring glory to God.  The pastor who conducted the service verified that he was sure my niece is in heaven and that she told him how sorry she was for alienating family members.  He went on to speak about God's forgiveness and the need for reconciliation in families.  Truly a God-glorifying evening.

My husband's heart catheterization on Wednesday had good results but kept us at the hospital until after 5:30 PM.  There was no way I could be at the packing party.

But the folks at Erie Christian Fellowship went to the storage container to pick up the items and set everything up for their packing party.

As you can see, they did a great job.  I especially love the game table full of stuffed animals.

And because of their work, more than 150 more gospel opportunities were packed without me being there.

Not my plan for the week.  Or for the season.  But that's okay.

The Lord is my shepherd.  I shall lack nothing.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Packin' Plenty

I was fighting the blues last weekend by packing some personal shoe boxes with  items I'd been saving for my own Operation Christmas Child boxes.  What a blast!

First there were the five plastic tool boxes I've been slowly buying tools to fill.  Made a few trips to the nearby Harbor Freight to fill them up.

And then there were the 10 soccer balls.  I'd been waiting for two years to find cheap pumps to go with them and finally bought some at for about $2.00 each.

Then there were 10 boxes with full-size basketballs (and pumps) along with all the basic items and stuffed animals and fillers.

Two boxes held hand-knit blankets and another dozen had special dolls or new back packs.

I got the chance to arrange and rearrange items and pray over each box.

Don't get me wrong--it's a real rush to be at a large packing party and watch a 52 foot truck fill up with cartons.  But this one-by-one box packing is so very satisfying--with time to pray and imagine each child who will receive each special box.

I completed 58 boxes and just need to put the follow-your-box labels on them.

Meanwhile...there's still lots of praying and box packing to do.  I'm hoping to be at another packing party tomorrow night with the youth group at a church that's never participated in Operation Christmas Child before.

Stay tuned....

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Checkin' the Chikin

Last night my Operation Christmas Child media coordinator, Pam Niedhammer, and I were at Chick-fil-A distributing GO boxes (preassembled printed shoe boxes) for folks to fill and return next week.  The donor of each box will receive a coupon for a free chicken sandwich.

We're so grateful for this partnership with Chick-fil-A.  We handed out about 100 boxes yesterday and are praying to get 150 returned by next Tuesday.  I had the most fun explaining the project to first-time shoe box packers who have never heard of Operation Christmas Child.  How wonderful!

Our Chick-fil-A store with owner Casey Hartley and marketing director Tina Kociolek always go way beyond our expectations.  Actually, they spoil us with their amazing hospitality and their excitement about the project.  What joy!

And this partnership was being repeated last night all around our five state MId-Atlantic region as 200 volunteers distributed about 29,000 boxes at Chick-fil-A stores yesterday.

Will you pray with us that each of these boxes (and even more--since you don't have to have one of the official boxes to participate) will be returned filled by next Tuesday?

Just think of 29,000+ children who will have the joy of opening a special treasure and hearing of God's love--all because of our friends at Chick-fil-A.

On our way to 9.8 million boxes....

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Let's Party!

What a joyous Operation Christmas Child weekend I've had.  I got to go to two great parties.  These are the kind of parties I like best--not Cinderella's ball where you have to dress up in an uncomfortable dress--but shoe box packing parties where you get to fill precious boxes with simple items that are unimaginable treasures for children around the world.

Friday evening I got to spend time with the lovely ladies pictured above at Leigh Fisher's packing party near her hometown.  Her goal was to pack 800 boxes and we finished the evening with 895!  I spent the evening folding GO boxes with Teresa and Ali Morrison (on the right in the picture) and we had such blessed conversations about the Lord's goodness and how He works in OCC.

Because I'm so directionally challenged I got lost on the trip home (with no cell phone, GPS, or map) but that forced me to depend on prayer.  It was a blessing to get home safely and another reminder of God's protection and goodness.

Several friends were having packing parties in various areas of the country on Saturday and though I couldn't attend them I spent time praying for them on Saturday while my husband and I drove to our daughter's home two hours away.

Last night and today the reports of those have been coming in.  What an awesome God we serve!  I love hearing of how He continually does immeasurably more.

In Indiana, my friend Sarah Latello and her church went past their goal of 500 boxes to pack 726.

In Maryland, Jeff Mauler and his team packed over 7,000 boxes on their way to a goal of 25,000 within the next two weeks.

And closer to home the folks at Cambridge Springs Alliance Church, under the leadership of Cheryl French, packed 340 boxes that line their church.

And friends at Albion Church of the Nazarene held their first-ever packing party with a total of 165 boxes.

Today I was on the road again to Bethel Presbyterian Church in Cranesville--the church that actually started OCC in our area in 1994.  Last year they packed 289 boxes and wanted to pack 300 this year.  I absolutely loved packing boxes with them today.

It's amazing at these parties to see the array of items that have been gathered one by one (or 100 by 100) all year long--each one a provision from God's hand with a purpose to show His love.  

And after just a few hours today God had done immeasurably more again with a total of 445 boxes.  The neat thing is that this church is firmly committed to making sure each of the boxes have their $7.00 shipping covered.  They have enough for 400 boxes and are trusting God for the rest.

Every one of these boxes is ONE MORE on the way to the goal of 7.2 million boxes in the US and 9.8 million boxes worldwide.

For this weekend, the party's over...but stay tuned for more reports to come.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Legacy of Giant Slaying

This morning I was reading in 1 Chronicles 20:4-8 where God's people ended up slaying a slew of giants.  Who were these people doing the giant slaying?

They were David's followers and family--the people who had watched him or heard of him slaying giants since boyhood.

What a legacy.

This makes me think of the legacy that each of us is leaving to the people in his or her own sphere of influence.

Someone is watching me (and you).  Someone is listening to family stories about me (and you).  Someone is and will be carrying out my legacy (and yours).

It's a scary thought for this day-after-Halloween.

By God's grace, though, the story of my life (and yours) is not over yet.  God has given me a new chance to let Him make today's story one worth repeating.

Okay, so bring on those giants.