Sunday, May 28, 2017

Filling Spaces

It's been another wonderful Operation Christmas Child week. On Thursday we had a work day to prepare for our September packing party.  We woke to lots of rain.  I'd been praying all week for good weather and on the way to the church I modified my prayer and just asked God to give us a break in the rain so we could move the items we needed out of the storage container without them being soaked.

God blessed and allowed us to do that.  We had 19 people come to help us fill MORE Easter eggs with stickers, fold and rubber band tote bags, and construct jump ropes (we probably only have 17,000 of those to go!)

The egg story is nuts.  At first I didn't think we'd find any eggs at all for the 8,000 fillers I'd purchased.   Then God provided 11,748 eggs--too many for the fillers.  THEN we got a huge donation of stickers and needed more eggs to fill...and God provided another 5,000.  On Thursday we finished filling eggs with all the donated stickers and still have almost 2,000 eggs left. we wait for God to provide more fillers, and I know He will because He never wastes anything so stay tuned. Crazy!

To make it even better, one of our local TV stations unexpectedly sent a crew to film at our work day and we got three more media hits with more exposure for OCC.  We're so blessed by Pam, our faithful media coordinator, who works to get every opportunity for more people in our community to hear about shoeboxes.

More stuffed animal donations came in on Thursday and yesterday, Saturday, found me out on the safari for animals again.  I was praying for 300 and only found 147 but I know there were some other 'hunters' on our team who found more so we don't have a final weekend count yet.

Meanwhile, I'm running out of space in my house again.  On Thursday I noticed there was some space at the top of the stack of boxes in the container and thought it would be enough to place some thin bags of stuffed animals.

So this morning I loaded the car with 16 bags and headed into the storage container after the morning service was over.  I have always had a problem with spatial relationships and today was no exception. I got up on the ladder with a bag in my hands, looked at the space (see picture above) and realized it was only about six inches high--not nearly enough to fit the bags I had.

I figured if I could untie the tight knots in the bags and spread the animals out over a larger surface I'd have a chance to shove some in.

I could only find one pen in the whole storage container and used that to push and loosen the knot.  Unfortunately, it soon broke and had to be rigged together in order to work.

After five minutes I got the first bag's knot untied, crawled up the ladder, and used a broom my smart husband had put into the car to help push the animals back.

After a half hour I managed to cram five more bags into the space. Then Jim came out and told me I was crazy to work so hard to save a few feet of storage.  Well, yeah, I knew that...but desperate times call for desperate measures and when God keeps sending you blessings you need to preserve every inch.

Thank You, God, for filling our spaces with good things.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Power and PowerPoint

Today we had our first Project Leader Event of the three we have planned for the season.  Yeah, the batteries died on the "O" and "C" of our display sign...and Amanda (our Church Relations Coordinator) had her car battery die also.

Despite the losses of power, I was praising God the PowerPoint ran fine.  I didn't set it up myself, mind you...maybe one of these days.

Anywhoooo...I'm glad to get the event behind us. I mean, I enjoy it when I finally get there. How could you NOT enjoy spending time with other shoebox enthusiasts.  It's the anticipation and the planning (or not enough planning) and assembling all the things you need to take and loading the car. Other than that...

I feel like we did everything we could. We had invitations sent from the regional office. We sent emails to all our churches.  And this week Amanda called all the churches who brought their boxes to the drop-off site where the event was held.

And we had a perfect number of seven guests come.  On the positive side, that's a 40% increase over the five who came to last summer's event.  And when you add in our three team members and four kiddos--it makes a nice fourteen.

The people who came are already passionate shoebox project leaders.  I hope they learned a few new things.  Other than the PowerPoint that OCC developed for the occasion I was able to re-enact the role play I saw at the Connect Conference using the Presentation Brochure to more fully explain Operation Christmas Child to pastors or leaders.  Maybe it will be useful for those who came.

Many of my OCC friends are in Rwanda right now distributing those precious shoeboxes. Those great distributions could not take place without people packing boxes.  And maybe today's event, small as it seemed,  means more children will get a box next year.

We got three new prayer partners today (woohoo!) and maybe these sweet kids will become project leaders themselves in a few decades.

After all, we serve a powerful God.  And you just never know...

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

More Egg-Citement

It's been an egg-citing couple of weeks in our Operation Christmas Child world here in Erie.  God provided nearly 12,000 eggs and next it was time to get them filled with rings and mardi gras bead necklaces.

A work day was planned on the evening of April 25th and we were blessed when 46 people gathered to help get those eggs filled.  It was great to see people of all ages coming together to make light work of thousands of eggs.  Unlike other years, we decided to put pieces of tape on the sides of the eggs to keep them together and keep the contents from spilling out. By the end of the night we'd finished all but a few hundred of the eggs.

I was especially glad for those pieces of tape the next day when I was trying to reorganize the bins stored in the back of my van to make more room and had a bin of filled eggs slide out of the car.

I thought we'd have a few thousand eggs left over with nothing to fill them, but God had other plans. One of our team members, Angie, messaged me and said she had a large donation of rolls of stickers--more than her church could use for their packing party.  When she brought them over I was amazed to see roll upon roll of cute heart stickers.  Now we could use MORE eggs and would need more hands to fill them.

The next evening a local church's youth group spent an hour filling more eggs and last week a local Christian school made egg-filling one of their service projects and completed filling all the eggs we had.

The story doesn't end there, though.

Last week the Dollar General stores had their winter clearance items for .25 or .50 each and I was able to get 277 nice clothing items for only $79.00.  Then...on Thursday and Friday they cut the clearance prices in half again.  The Easter clearance ended up being 95% off so a bag of a dozen plastic eggs sold for just 5 cents.  The egg hunt was on again!

Not only did I bag more winter clothing items for only .12 each but trips by several team members and myself to 15 Dollar Generals yielded another 5,000 eggs that are waiting to be filled.

In the midst of all this egg-citement, we got another donation-a load of 37 cases of paper.  This is such a blessing and filled some of the few remaining spaces in the storage container.  (Did I mention we got a delivery of 28 cases containing 4,001 baseball hats week before last?)

Last night we had 11 team members meeting to strategize about how God can use us to collect 54,321 shoeboxes in northwestern Pennsylvania this year.  We talked a little bit about our upcoming packing party on September 23rd.  In preparation for the meeting I added up our stuffed animal totals and...God has already blessed us with just over 10,000 already!  And we have 33,000 clothing/anchor items for our boxes.  Now we're praying for 17,000 more stuffed animals and/or anchor items--asking God to let every one of those 27,000 boxes to be filled with items that will bless the children who receive them.

You just can't beat this egg-citement.