Wednesday, January 25, 2012

:: One Month After Christmas | Operation Christmas Child ::

Courtesy of Operation Christmas Child
The tree is down, lights are put away, and new toys have quickly found their place in the familiar shuffle of others.  A full month after Christmas and we're fast-approaching the end of the first month in 2012!

I'd like to take a few short moments of your time to share a project that has been part of my life since I was a little girl.

The work of Operation Christmas Child has blessed over 86 million children since it first began in 1993.  More than likely, you are familiar with their mission and perhaps your family participates in the annual packing of one of these precious shoeboxes.  For as long as I can remember, my parents and I have filled at least one box each year...carefully selecting the "right" items to pack, coloring pictures, writing letters, and praying for the kids who receive those blessings.  To us, these boxes don't contain much, but to these kids - many of whom have never received a gift in their life - hope and joy pours from that little box and spills into their hearts.  OCC has left its mark on my life over the years and it is my hope to instill that passion and joy in my own little boy as he grows.
Courtesy of Operation Christmas Child

The more I think about it, the more I'm wondering if my family is obsessed with OCC!  Beyond the packing of the boxes each year, in 6th grade I produced a video for my local Christian school that documented the journey of a box from the packing and wrapping stage to the closing of the semi truck that took it to the nearest Processing Center.  Then, in my freshman year of college, my Mom and one of her BFFs traveled to Georgia to volunteer at one of those Processing Centers.  They came back with incredible stories and I hope to make that same trip sometime in the future!  During my last semester of college, just a few months before marrying Nate, I was blessed to serve on an incredible staff at the Great Lakes Regional Office for OCC as an intern.  Those few months of working with volunteers, helping with the administrative side of getting those boxes to where they were supposed to go, and hearing the stories of blessing and Salvation were some of the best memories I hold in my heart!  I currently work part-time for that same local Christian school I attended for middle school and for the past two years, my Mom and I have led the annual "Operation Christmas Child" chapel program for the Kindergarten through 8th Grade students.  Those students gather hundreds of boxes and I'm proud to see the legacy lives on in this small part of the Mid-West.  And yes, that's me inside the shoebox costume at The Relevant Conference this past October...I was ridiculously excited to see that they were one of the sponsors!

I love sharing the message of OCC and when families cultivate an attitude of thankfulness and create the tradition of a simple gift through OCC, I know our Father's heart is full.  Traditionally, people start working on these boxes in October or November with the peak of "drop-off season" being in mid-November.  What you may not know is that those boxes can be sent any time during the year - if you feel God tugging on your heart to pack a box in it!  You can send it to their headquarters in Boone, NC!  Wouldn't it be fun to host a "Christmas in July" packing party and have two "seasons" of giving!

I think one of the best ways to incorporate this life-changing program into the hearts of your family is to make a it a year-long theme!  Familiarize yourself with the sales for different item groups and make your purchases throughout the year!  For example, at the Back-To-School sales, grab an extra notebook, pack of pencils, and box of crayons.  When you get a coupon for toothpaste or another toiletry item, pick up a double for "the box."  When your kids get a small toy from the $1 spot at Target, encourage them to choose a second one to include for their shoebox child!  You can also set-up a tradition in your family for a specific item that you always include in your boxes- perhaps a special stuffed lovey that means something to the kiddos in your house!  And don't forget to save those shoeboxes when someone gets a new pair of sneakers this year!  If you're short on time or even the funds to put together a box, consider OCC's "Adopt a Box" program where you can donate the $7 for shipping to help get that gift into the hands of a needy child.

Courtesy of Operation Christmas Child
The most important thing is to pray. Pray about the items you're supposed to include in your box, pray about the words you write on your letter (I've even received answers back!), and pray for the heart of the child that God is going to impact through your simple gift.  God knows each child who receives these boxes and he knows each person on the other end who took the time to pray and bless. 

If you want to learn more, please visit the Samaritan's Purse website for more information and to read some incredible stories of how God is using these simple gifts to enlarge His Kingdom!

Do you participate in OCC?  I'd love to hear your experiences with the program and what you like to include in your box!

1 comment:

  1. Sweet girl - this is lovely! I have done OCC as long as I can remember, but I didn't know that boxes could get sent all year long! Whoa - that is AWESOME!! Thanks for that bit of news - I have a few boxes to shop for :)