Each morning and evening our teams met together to pray over the day and hear stories about what’s happening through Operation Christmas Child. Colombian pastors told us story after story about how what people had packed in boxes changed a child’s life.

I haven’t been able to forget one story in particular.

There was a woman who decided to host an OCC box opening party. She invited 20 kids to the party and made sure that 20 boxes showed up at her door. OCC asked her if she’d like a few extra just in case. But she said that she invited 20 boys and 20 boys were coming.

Well, you probably know where this is going. One of the boys brought a friend.

21 boys.

20 shoeboxes.

OCC has a policy for delivering shoe boxes. You don’t divide up a box. No matter if you’re one short—even if the one box is overflowing—you don’t take anything out of box. A person, a family packed that box with care, prayed over it, and sent it to a child. It’s the way they want it delivered.

So, this woman went to the boy and explained that he could enjoy his time with the kids, but unfortunately she didn’t have a box for him. She promised she would run to the store and pick up some items for him after the party was over.

When the time came hand out and open the boxes, one of the boys—unprompted—said that he didn’t need his box and gave it to the boy who didn’t get one.

That child, filled with gratitude, pulled a toy from the box and walked it over to the boy who gave up his box for him. Within moments, child after child took a toy or trinket out of their boxes and gave it to the boy who gave up his box.

That generous little guy ended up with more stuff than what was in the box he gave away.

And the woman was left speechless and very thankful in a God bigger than 20 shoe boxes.

And we were left in tears.

______

Every morning before we left the bus to head into the church to deliver some shoeboxes, our team leader gave us a plan “there’s a list of names and we should have enough boxes” and a caveat “or it could go completely different than that.”

050 - operation christmas child list

No shoebox drop is perfect. Local church leaders do their very best to make them as organized as possible, but when you get a few hundred kids in a room together, it gets pretty crazy, pretty fast.

Kids clamoring for boxes.

operation christmas child - handing out boxes

Not enough boxes for a given age group.

Computers not playing the right song.

Kids coming late and needing a box after they’ve been passed out.

operation christmas child - sweet girl

Getting ready for the 3-2-1 countdown when the church starts handing out hot dogs and juice boxes.

A bunch of American’s snapping photos of kids while the Gospel is presented.

It’s messy. But all the mess disappears when you see this happening.

The truth is that ministry is messy. When you have a bunch of broken people trying to make the best of it, messy is just going to happen. But on this trip we were reminded that messy is ok. May our ministries never be so slick and so organized that they don’t leave room for God. God moves and God shows up in the mess.

And what’s tHe doesn’t just show up… He shows off.

A child praying for shoes and underwear discovered 7 pairs of unders in her size as well as a pair of shoes in her favorite color.

The box somehow had exactly what he needed to get his mother life-saving medicine.

Winter gloves in Africa that saved a boy from further burning his hands on the kitchen pot he had to move several times a day when it was scalding hot.

The box with orthopedic shoes for the child who desperately needed to walk.

A box that had a letter from the giver turned out to be a long-lost uncle thought to be dead who was next of kin and rescued a girl out of poverty.

Story after story of shoeboxes changing lives. It’s not just a shoebox full of stuff. It’s an opportunity for God to make Himself known to child who desperately needs Him.

I just kept asking myself, where am I not leaving room for God to move in my life and ministry? We love our strictly programmed events with all the tiny details just perfect.  I pray that we never be so set in our own plan that we don’t leave room for God to show off.

____________

Pack a box! You can help Operation Christmas Child! Consider packing an OCC Shoebox this year. You can even build one online.

 

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