This is one of my favorite pics from my week in Colombia with Operation Christmas Child:
These two served as our translators. Two of the most amazing people you’ll ever meet: Daniel and Tony. Knowing that what they did made a difference for a child’s eternity, these brothers took time off from their university studies to serve as our ears and mouths all week. They love Jesus and kids so much that they made time to help us communicate when our words were getting lost in translation. They even helped us strikes some good deals in the marketplace. Their passion for Jesus was infectious. You couldn’t be around them for too long without catching their excitement for working with OCC.
Daniel and Tony are just two of thousands all over the world who take off work or volunteer for OCC when their “regular” job is over for the day. For these volunteers, serving is a no brainer. They love Jesus and want the kids in their country to know Him as their Savior. This is tangible way they can share Jesus’ love with others.
Here in the US, Operation Christmas Child utilizes tens of thousands of volunteers to organize, inspect, and pack boxes headed for destinations all over the globe.
But that is NOTHING compared to the hundreds of thousands of volunteers needed across the world to help get those boxes into the hands of kids.
When I first learned this, I was stunned. But, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Operation Christmas Child distributes around 10 Million shoe boxes globally. Somehow, they need to get those boxes to kids. Rather than sending US Americans oversees to deliver all 10 million shoe boxes, OCC mobilizes the local churches in those areas to not only deliver a shoe box but more importantly to establish a lasting relationships with kids.
In Colombia alone….
There is a national leadership team—all volunteer—who oversees and assists with distributions all over the country.
There are 15 Regional Leadership Teams in Colombia each with six volunteers who handle logistics of getting the shoeboxes to churches and ultimately into kids’ hands.
For many—if not all— volunteers on the National and Regional Leadership Teams OCC is basically another full-time job with important responsibilities including but definitely not limited to the following:
1. They work through government agencies to secure approval for tax-free importation for boxes as well as warehousing briefly as may be necessary and transporting those boxes and OCC literature throughout the country to ministry partners
2. They train all ministry partners in the effective use of gifts. They make suggestions for children’s programming, making sure the Gospel is shared. They also help with how to reach out to the community to make sure that the boxes don’t just go to kids already in the church.
3. They are also responsible for training teachers who implement The Greatest Journey discipleship.
Throughout Colombia, teams have worked with approximately 1,000 ministry partners. Most of these partners are churches though some are schools or orphanages. Those ministry partners find thousands of volunteers mostly people who attend a church in that area. These volunteers take off from work and spend countless hours making sure that kids get those boxes.
Many of these volunteers are kids and students. I witnessed 12 year olds sharing their own Gospel story without fear. I watched children lead worship and perform dramas to help engage kids and capture their attention throughout the distributions. They empower their KIDS to do the work of the gospel, allowing kids to BE the church not just attend the church.
We have a lot to learn.
As I watched all of these people give and give of their time to their local churches and OCC, I couldn’t help but think about how we spend our free time. Many of us volunteer in the church or with our kids’ sports teams. We serve when it’s convenient and it fits into our schedule. We serve when we feel comfortable with our new church. Or say we’ll serve when our kids get older. We serve out of guilt or obligation because it’s the “right thing to do” and man, I want one of those t-shirts.
But what I witnessed through the volunteers at OCC was something different. They served out a genuine love for God and heart for kids that compelled them to give until it hurt. Volunteering cost many of them something big. But to them, the cost didn’t matter. Kids came to know Jesus.
May our hearts become more like theirs, willing to give our time even when it’s the last thing we may want to do. To love on our community because we actually love them and want to spend forever with them. To follow God wherever He may take us believing that He’ll do amazing things.