Sunday, January 29, 2017

Days Fly By

Nothing much is supposed to happen in our Operation Christmas Child world in January. We don't even have to complete a monthly report for our team until February is over.  So why have the past few weeks seemed so busy?

Here's a little montage of what's been going on this month. On January 9th we had our first team meeting.  We celebrated the shoebox total God blessed us with in 2016.  The 50,306 boxes were a bit under our prayed-for goal of 51,500 but it was a victory nonetheless. We enjoyed praising Him together and sharing vision for 2017.

Two days later I made a trip to an outlying thrift store to collect 120 stuffed animals and did some shopping off and on through the next week to score some great items for our 2017 shoeboxes, including these cute red shoes.

The next week brought a few meetings with amazing good news of answered prayer--more storage available at a local church and a new Church Relations Coordinator for our team.

Then there was another delivery at our storage container.  God gave me a clear day for the delivery

And everything was going great with my efforts to get things reorganized in the container and get the new delivery stored until...the 10 cartons of toothbrushes I'd stacked toppled over on my head.

No harm, though--just had to do some restacking in the criss-cross log style.

A few days later we had another fun opportunity with a mini shoebox packing party and jump rope assembly session with some middle school students from our Erie City's Mission's Urban University program.  Pam and I set up for them to pack 25 boxes and they completed 800 jump ropes for next fall's packing party.

They viewed the video of shoebox recipient, Alex, who got his shoebox in Rwanda.  Alex later came to live in the US but years later returned to Rwanda and was able to visit and forgive the man who killed his relatives.  The students were really impacted by Alex's story and the chance to help children who are needier than they.

And...two days later I was off to this weekend's Mid-Atlantic Area Coordinators' Planning Summit.  What a blessing it was to celebrate our Mid-Atlantic shoebox number.

Again, we didn't quite reach the prayed-for goal of 1,255,255 but we praised God for the victory and spent lots of time learning about exciting new OCC initiatives that we pray will bring more shoeboxes to children waiting around the world.

Saturday night was especially exciting as we had the opportunity to hear from Dania, a shoebox recipient who received her shoebox in the middle east.  You can never tire of hearing these stories of how God miraculously provides for children and families through simple boxes.  Dania and her family prayed for a radio and you can guess what she received in her box.  Here's Dania in the middle and Jaki, another shoebox recipient, on the left.  I wanted to get a picture with them so I could feel tall.

Our area team formed in May of 2007, and that's when I became an area coordinator.  Since I'm not quite to that ten-year mark I was surprised to be presented with a plaque for ten years as an AC and humbled to realize God's graciously allowed our team to received almost 349,000 boxes in this decade.

It was hard to leave all the area coordinator friends I see so seldom, but God answered more prayer by keeping the roads dry until I hit the snow an hour from home.  January travel in northwestern PA is always unpredictable so it was a real blessing to have an easy trip.

When I settled in to check my email I found another surprise--an email from a 12-year old girl in Ukraine who received one of the boxes I packed last fall.  Those winter boots I picked up on sale found a good home with her.

God is so faithful and this flying-by month has certainly become more exciting.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

January Again

It's January. Again.

For many reasons I often struggle to find joy in January. It's the beginning of a new year that should have bright hope on the horizon.  Instead, I see myself back at the bottom of the mountain deciding where to even start to make the ascent. The year's challenges loom large and make me want to curl up under warm covers and hibernate.

In my Operation Christmas Child world there is change--some beloved staff members and volunteers have left and a few new ones have come.  Change is inevitable and embraced by some but generally not by me.  I like my status quo and, admittedly, would probably have also been content to stay in Egypt--thank you very much.

I've been trying to prepare for our first Operation Christmas Child area team meeting on Monday--in just two days.  So I looked up the ministry plan template for 2017 and found it's significantly changed. Did I say how I feel about change?  How do I figure out what my total number of team members was for 2015 and for 2016 when they come and go throughout the year?  I need to work to see change as improvement instead of just--dreaded change...

God's blessed me with so much lately--lots of shoebox items provided, for example. And I just spent a couple days watching live stream of the Passion 2017 conference--inspiring (but daunting.)

Still I struggle--especially with my sinful attitude toward a fellow Christian. I try to repent but can't seem to let go of this sin and give grace to this person. I pray. Well, I try to pray. God help me.

It's time to set our team's shoebox goal for 2017. I've been praying about that, too. God, will you show us what Your goal is? I'm so tempted to prognosticate based on the number of boxes we can see packed in our own power instead of trusting You for Your provision.  How do we measure 'immeasurably more'?

And yesterday I heard of another fellow OCC volunteer who is leaving. Quitting always looks so very tempting in January.  Almost every January.

If you're reading this, will you stop and say a quick prayer for Operation Christmas Child volunteers and staff and shoebox packers all over this country?  Pray for us to persevere if God is calling us to persevere--to throw off the sin that so easily besets us and run with patience the race that is set before us.

Because.  It's January.