I’ve been meaning to write about my experience with Operation Christmas Child since before it happened but now is the first chance I have to put it all down.
First off, if you ever have even just an inkling of doing work with Operation Christmas Child or Samaritan’s Purse, go for it! It was such a blessing to be able to be a part of something so big. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, take a moment to visit their website.
I’ve been coordinating OCC at my church for a few years now. There is just this great feeling I get in planning it all out, buying goodies for the boxes, giving suggestions to my church family; knowing that the end result of it all is that kids all around the world will not only be blessed with a box full of gifts, but more importantly, the Good News of Jesus. This past year I had a few different encounters with people who have done more with OCC than just pack boxes. One was a women who not only helped out at a processing center, but also went on to actually distribute boxes to kids in Africa. These were such inspiring stories that touched something in me that I never felt before. I knew I had to do more.
I found out in October or November that OCC had a new processing center opening in Maryland this year. As I’m in New Jersey, that’s much closer that trying to get to North Carolina. While planning our packing party at church I spoke to a few friends about organizing a group trip for next year and they seemed on board with the whole idea. What a great way to serve as a church family! Our packing party came and went. We packed and dropped off 53 shoeboxes during National Collection Week (which filled the trunk of my car and then some).
The more I thought about organizing a group trip next year, the more excited I got. The more excited I got, the less I wanted to wait for next year. I talked to friends about the possibility of going this year. And, of course, I did not want to go by myself. I asked if their 13-year-old daughter would want/be allowed to come with me if I was able to get a reservation. They said yes and so with the added bonus of a traveling companion I thought even more about it. I went to make a reservation, but the day I wanted was full. A couple weeks before, the Monday after Thanksgiving, was free for a 4 hour slot. I booked a hotel so we could leave the day before and it was settled. I was so excited I couldn’t stop smiling for a good couple hours or so. It was even better when I got to tell Alli where we were going – she was just as excited as I was.
We got to the processing center that morning to find so many people already there. The atmosphere was so joyous and welcoming. We went through a short training and then were taken to our line. There were 16 lines in the warehouse. As we were some of the first volunteers that morning, they were not all full yet. 8 people work on each line and Alli and I started out with the very important jobs of taping boxes, sorting them by age and gender, and packing them into bigger boxes.
We were on the girl side of the line and found out that, indeed, the middle girl age is the one a lot of people choose to pack boxes for. In our time there we packed at least 20 cartons with girl boxes; with at least 10 of them being for girls ages 5-8. I’ve already begun thinking of ways to get more boy boxes and older girl boxes done for next year. At one point we were reminded that we would be the last people to touch the boxes before they went into the hands of the children who would receive them. We prayed over them and I could not think of a better way to spend that day. We also chatted with other volunteers and found out there were people from at least 6 or 7 different states at the center that day. Towards the end of our shift we got to change up jobs and inspected the boxes. It was fun just to see what ideas other people had for packing their boxes. From baby dolls and soccer balls (with pumps), to an actual pair of shoes and a photo Christmas card.
Before we left, we stopped in the prayer room. Alli and I prayed for the other volunteers and for the children who would receive the boxes and I was overcome with the enormity of not what just we were doing, but what God was doing through all of the people there. Through those who took the time to pack a shoebox. Those who collected them at churches around the country. Those who drove them to processing centers around the country. Those who volunteered at the processing centers. Those who would distribute them to children around the world. All of those people. Working together to show children (and their families) the love of Christ through a simple Christmas gift.
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Mark 16:15
After all of this, I cannot deny that I have pondered becoming a year-round volunteer with Operation Christmas Child. I’m waiting just a little bit to see what the not-too-distant future might hold (more on that later). I cannot get out of my head the idea of actually getting to hand out these shoeboxes, though. To be that connection between a child and the love of Christ. I cannot think of anything more amazing or worthwhile.
In this season that gets so busy with trying to get Christmas “done right” have you taken the time to remember the reason for the season? I know I got more caught up in it than I wanted to. In the end, though, we need to remember it’s all about a baby in a manger. The Son of God come to save us all. Born to die, so we don’t have to. I hope amongst the trees, wrappings, presents, cookies, parties and whatnot, you’ve have time to think about that. The love of God, in giving His Son, the first and greatest Christmas gift of all.
Love & Blessings,