I was cooking dinner one evening in May when my husband Lee came into the kitchen with his phone open to an email he’d just read. I had barely registered he’d placed the screen in front of me when I saw a precious little face smiling back at me. I didn’t recognize him, but I did recognize what he was holding in the photo – a card I’d made and placed in my Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts. I realized in that moment he was the recipient of one of our boxes. There’s no other way to phrase this: I lost it. I dropped the spatula I’d been using, grabbed the phone, and started sobbing and laughing at the same time. I was completely bubbled over with joy.
When I was finally able to focus, I realized the email was from the child’s mother, and she’d attached 3 photos of her son with our box and note, along with very kind words in broken English. She told me her son’s name was Jeremy, and they lived in the Philippines. As his mother, she was very grateful for the gifts Jesus had provided to him through us. After reading the email, I started sobbing all over again. The Hamburger Helper was starting to stick to the pan; the peas were boiling over, and something in the microwave was incessantly beeping. Fortunately, my husband took over to try to salvage dinner while I sat at the kitchen table hugging the phone as if I were hugging Jeremy instead.
It’s really real.
Operation Christmas Child became a little more real to me that day. I’d included our mailing address before, but it was the first year I’d thought to include an email address. About a month later, a woman named Ava reached out to me through Facebook with pictures of her daughter, also holding the card with my family’s photos, a box of crayons and her shoebox gift. Again, I lost it. Even now, as I am writing this, I tear up at the thought of their faces. They are real children with real needs, and in both cases, their mothers thanked us for helping them. But more importantly, in their own way, and the best they could in English, they both spoke of their gratitude to Jesus for the gifts. That meant so much to me; I don’t even have the words to describe it.
It’s not me.
Because here’s the thing…those gifts were from Jesus. He provided for my family to be able to buy and pack those gifts. Without His provision, without His guidance, we could never have been able to send anything. I prayed often to be able to find quality items at bargain prices. God was incredibly generous in allowing me to find lots of things to send 10 boxes last year, not to mention providing the funds to cover the shipping. My husband and I are nothing special. We aren’t well off and have to stick to a budget for every little thing we do. And there is no way on paper we should have been able to send that many boxes last year, but again, God provided.
We have the opportunity to join Him at work.
In the book Experiencing God, the authors point out God is always at work around us, and through our relationship with Him, He invites us to join Him in His work. This year we again have the privilege of participating in Operation Christmas Child as a church and joining God in the marvelous work He is doing with this ministry around the world. As Christians, we often say we’re the hands of Jesus. Well, with Operation Christmas Child, that is certainly the case. We get to be His hands as we pack these boxes. These are His gifts to these children, and we are honored to be a part of it.
Healing hurts and meeting needs
At Calvary, we say we seek to carry out the Great Commission through healing hurts and meeting needs. These boxes do just that. They meet needs for school supplies and hygiene items. They heal hurts by letting children know—possibly for the first time—not only does someone across the world care about them enough to send this gift, but more importantly, Jesus loves them and is the Greatest Gift they could ever receive.
Making disciples: it’s our heartbeat.
If you can’t already tell, I adore Operation Christmas Child. It’s my very favorite thing to do each year. The reason I love it so much is for the Gospel sharing and disciple-making that goes along with each box. At Calvary, we are passionate about making disciples. Every single child that gets an OCC shoebox hears the Gospel and is given a printed copy in their own language that they can reread and share with their friends and family. After receiving a box, children can also enroll in a 12-lesson discipleship program that teaches them to go deeper in their faith and share that faith with others. That means your shoebox gift keeps going and going.
Are you in?
Maybe you’re a seasoned veteran of OCC, or maybe you’re hearing about it for the first time. Either way, let me encourage you to prayerfully consider participating. We have a HUGE God-sized goal of 1,001 boxes this year. Click here for details on how you can help us get there. In short, we need filled boxes, items for our Packing Party and monetary donations. If you’re looking for ideas on what to put in your box, just scroll down to see boxes for each age group and gender. It is such fun to participate in Operation Christmas Child. It helps children and families by meeting real needs for school supplies and hygiene items. It brings joy, laughter, and comfort to children through toys and other fun items. It shares the good news of the Gospel and makes disciples. It’s a win all around. Are you in?