"I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, 'God, why don’t You do something?'
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, 'God, why don’t You do something?'
He said, 'I did, I created you.'"
-"Do Something" by Matthew West
For as long as I can remember, middle November has always been one of my favorite times of the year. As the holiday season draws ever closer, so does the annual collection week for Operation Christmas Child. Created by the Samaritan's Purse ministry in 1993, Operation Christmas Child is a worldwide Christian relief and evangelism organization. People from the United States, Australia, Finland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Spain, and the U.K. pack shoeboxes- packages full of toys, hygienic items, and God's love- that are in turn sent around the globe to children everywhere. In fact, since its creation, Operation Christmas Child has sent an amazing 135 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 150 countries and territories (https://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/occ-newsroom/#fact-sheets). For many of these children, the gift-filled our shoebox is the first gift they have ever received...ever. While that may be difficult for some of us to wrap our heads around, there's one thing that stands salient in my mind:
Our shoeboxes are very probably the first message of God's love that millions of children ever hear.
How incredible is our God?
For as long as I can remember, I have been overwhelmed by the Operation Christmas Child community. While I have packed my fair share of shoeboxes, I have also been blessed with the opportunity to participate in the process in other ways. Recently, my church has become the local collection center for the surrounding Tifton area. Families and churches bring us their boxes, which we in turn package for transport to larger distribution centers like in Atlanta. It is mind blowing to watch. Every year, for one entire week, shoeboxes become our lives. We eat, sleep, and breathe shoeboxes. And I wouldn't have it any other way. We have the chance to meet the people face-to-face who are bringing in the boxes, and we get to talk to the families in person. One of the stories my nana most loves to share is of a woman and her children who once brought us boxes two years in a row. Having been the one to meet them the year previous, my nana remembered the children and commented to their mother about how much they had grown. Coincidentally, as it turned out, the young family was actually about to embark on a car trip to see her husband who was currently serving in the military. My nana and other members of my church had the opportunity to pray with this woman and her children before they left. There is so much glory that should be given to God in that statement!
Personally, another one of my favorite things about Operation Christmas Child is the night that my church comes together to pray over the shoeboxes. At the end of one of our Sunday night services, every member of my church comes to the altar and places their hands over the gifts. We pray for God's protection, blessings, and will on not only the presents, but also on the children that will eventually receive them. And let me be the first to say- if you've never felt the spirit of God more strongly in a place, shoebox dedication night is the place to start. I get chills just thinking about it!
This year, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect enough shoeboxes for 12 million children. I will be packing 3 of those myself. My church will be packing about 250 of those. At a time when it seems as though many people are divided, we can all stand united in the love of God. Just as the words to Matthew West's "Do Something" proclaim, when we become frustrated with the world around us, we have to put our trust in the fact that the Lord has a plan. Too often and far too easily, we make it a God-problem, not an us-problem. Turning to him, we shake our fists and wonder how anything will ever change. But it is precisely then that God turns to us and says, "I have done something about it. I created you." God creates us to make a change through him and all that he has provided. I have no greater joy than to say that.
*Note: If anyone would like more information on the Operation Christmas Child organization, I encourage you to check out https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child.