Ever since the weather has turned cooler the kids’ thoughts have turned to Christmas, “Oooh! I can’t wait to get Holly and Hal from the basement! Remember Daddy’s Snoopy ornament? I can’t wait! I can’t wait!” But the most often talked about Christmas activity? Operation Christmas Child.
They have been wanting to pack boxes for weeks. Finally, yesterday pulled up our big rubbermaid boxes–the ones we’ve been collecting toys and gifts in all year, dug out our shoeboxes and started packing. Lydia jumped around the house saying, “This is my favorite thing to do!” They talked and chattered about what to put in the boxes.
That afternoon, as everyone took their Sunday nap, I laid on the couch and read Franklin Graham’s new book about the story of Operation Christmas Child–how one church collected a couple thousand boxes and now millions of children receive boxes every year. As I read, the thing that kept popping out to me was the power of prayer.
As families prayed over their boxes–their little shoeboxes filled with dollar store items and toothpaste–God did miracles. A blind boy getting a walkman in his shoebox, a child without a coat receiving a leather jacket, a little girl with holes in her shoes finding a brand new pair of shoes in her box, a little girl reading a letter from the childless family who packed her box–and would one day become her adoptive parents. These are true stories that happened because someone like me–like you packed a shoebox full of toys, school supplies and hygiene items!
After naps, the kids and I hopped in the truck, ran to Walmart to pick up toothpaste, toothbrushes and a few more toys for our boxes. We stopped in the parking lot and prayed. We asked God to lead us to the gifts that would change lives. We asked Him to use our gifts to lead kids to Jesus.
Lydia brought all her money–only $4 (she spent all her money on the RV and at Disney!) and found a Lalaloopsy pillow for her box. She prayed a little girl in an orphanage would get it–a little girl with no pillow who would love to go to sleep on a bright pink pillow all her own.
Asa brought $10 of his birthday money. He found two Batman pencils, two matchbox cars and a soccer outfit for $1. The outfit was just his size and together we imagined a little boy in another country wearing it–a little boy that would be his friend.
Why do my kids think their gifts make a difference? Because that’s what God does. I read them the stories from the Simple Gift. I show them the videos on Samartian’s Purse (not all of them–just the appropriate ones!). We pray that God will use us. They believe it will happen. And so do I!
Last year, I had the amazing privilege of traveling to the Dominican Republic with Operation Christmas CHild to see the other side of the shoeboxes. To see the kids open their boxes and pick up the gifts a family like ours had packed weeks or months before.
One of the distributions was far away from the big city of Santo Domingo. It seemed like we drove high into the mountains–the vegetation was lush and green. Houses were farther apart and made from metal and cinderblocks. We saw chickens, dogs and men riding horses. There were half naked kids and clotheslines in the yards.
We drove up to a little church, not more than 15 feet wide. Inside were plastic chairs, a little drum set, windows with no screens or glass and dozens of children.
A puppet team from Santo Domingo did a puppet show about the real meaning of Christmas and then I got to speak to the kids. If you’ve ever spoken through a translator, you’ll know how incredibly weird and uncomfortable I felt. You talk into blank faces for a minute or two and then when the translator speaks, faces light up and laugh minutes after you.
I asked the kids in that church if they had a very best friend they like to play with. They all said yes. Then I asked, “Do you ever go to your friend’s house and knock and the door and ask them to play?” Yes, of course! “Well, does your friend leave you outside and say, No way! I don’t want to play?” No! “Just like you stand at the door of your friend’s house, Jesus stands at the door of your house and wants to come inside to be your very best friend. But he will never have to leave to go home. Jesus will be with you forever! That is why we brought these gifts to you! To remind you of Jesus, your very best friend!”
It was a simple message. I have no idea if any of the kids were listening to a crazy spikey-haired white American mama. But it was exactly what I felt and saw in those distributions–a simple message, a simple gift. Jesus came to earth. He wants to be with us forever. That’s it. That’s what the gift of Jesus is. That’s what these little shoeboxes show.
So, with every box we pack–I see it as more than a present. It’s a message. A message of God’s great love.
Will you join with me this month in delivering God’s message? You might not get to stand in a little handmade hut and tell children about Jesus. But you don’t need to. You can pack a shoebox and deliver the same message.