The love of Jesus wrapped up in a shoebox

Lauren and Jackson sit under our Thankful Tree with the shoeboxes they packed for Operation Christmas Child.

What if we could send Jesus’ love directly to a child on the other side of the world who desperately needs to know God is real and He deeply cares for them? What if through one simple gift, we could be a part in introducing a young person to the life-changing Gospel?

Missions is personal, just like God’s grace. When God gave us the Great Commission, He didn’t intend for us to just give money and let other people do the work. God wants us to get our hands dirty, to be directly involved in sharing His message of hope with people all over the globe who Jesus died on the cross to save.

That’s why my family has wholeheartedly taken on the ministry of Operation Christmas Child.

OCC_logoThe world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, Operation Christmas Child, uses gift-filled shoeboxes to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 124 million children affected by war, poverty, natural disasters, and other crises in more than 150 countries and territories. They then partner with local churches to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who receive shoebox gifts and help them understand what it means to follow the Lord and share their faith with others. This nondenominational ministry is part of Samaritan’s Purse, led by Franklin Graham. For more on this amazing mission endeavor, visit www.samaritanspurse.com/occ.

I remember packing shoeboxes when I was a kid with my family, but as an adult, I didn’t continue my participation in the ministry. I had been praying this fall about how my husband and I could do missions with our kids, when God arranged for me to reconnect with an amazing woman of God who really mentored me in ministry when Matt and I were first married. She is a regional coordinator for Operation Christmas Child (OCC), and invited me to revisit OCC’s vision. My heart beats for evangelism and international missions, and God swung the door open wide for me to join in and be a part of impacting children around the world. God brought together an amazing team from my church to serve alongside, and our church has refreshed our involvement in OCC and is a drop-off location for shoeboxes in our community, the first here in our town!

When I was reviewing promotional videos for OCC at home trying to decide which ones to show at church, my son Jackson began to watch with me. At one point, I turned around to see if he was still interested, and he was crying. God had touched his heart with the thought that our shoebox gifts could introduce these children to Jesus, and how the gifts could make a difference in their lives. He bought into the vision.

Lauren loved shopping for the gifts to fill our shoeboxes. She went with me several times to pick up items, and thought about what they would mean to the child who would receive them. In fact, over the course of the last few months as I have been involved in the organizational planning for OCC locally, she shared her excitement with her teacher at school, and her Kindergarten class is packing two special boxes.

I love this ministry because our family can be hands-on with missions. We can know our boxes will impact lives. That children somewhere else in the world, perhaps hurting, hungry, alone and in difficult situations, will know that there is a family out there who loves them and wanted to share a shoebox full of gifts with them. And if someone loved them enough to do that, maybe, just maybe, there is a God out there who loves them, too.

Operation Christmas Child is praying for 11 million boxes to send to children in need around the world in 2015. This morning, my church family came together and brought our boxes forward to dedicate them and pray over them. I just wanted to cry out in praise to see people of all ages, from young to old, bring their gifts to the altar asking God to use these boxes and to use them personally to bring God glory. Each box represents a life that we pray will be impacted for eternity.

National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes is Nov. 16-23. It’s not too late to pack a box and drop it off at collection centers around the country (find one closest to you)!! You can also go online and build a shoebox – an easy way to be a part of this ministry.

We can bring good news and great joy to children around the world. As we join in the ministry of Operation Christmas Child, we are sending the love of Jesus wrapped up in a shoebox to a child who needs to experience Him.

One of the few or the many?

As we focused on Matthew 9:35-38 in church this morning, one question consumed my thoughts:

Am I one of the few working in the harvest or one of the many who just don’t care enough to truly get involved?

This is one of those uncomfortable questions that most will gloss over. In fact, it is quite clear that not many dwell on this passage, even with it being a reasonably popular sermon text, particularly around mission-focused times of the year (like Easter and Christmas). The reality is, most of us are more often one of the many than one of the few.

Why is that? So many, even those of us who are “committed Christians”, fail to labor in the harvest. We hold back, and hesitate to get involved and share Christ with those around us, and in efforts around the globe to see the name of Jesus lifted high. We love our families, faithfully attend church, live a “good” life, and go to the grave with the answer to abundant life, without ever really living it or sharing it.

Be honest with yourself. Is Jesus your one and only passion? Are you actively working in His harvest to share the Gospel and obey Him completely? Where are you holding out on God?

The time for excuses is past. Jesus Christ Himself said: The harvest is so great, but the workers are few. There is a harvest all around us, people who need the Savior. We MUST care enough to reach out and love them enough to share with them how they can have forgiveness and freedom through Christ.

So, how can we do that, even this week?

Let’s do what Jesus did:

  1. He was out and about. Matthew 9:35 says that Jesus traveled around to all the cities and villages of the area. We must be mindful of Him wherever we go. In fact, maybe we need to write out a reminder and put it on our dashboards so when we go, we are looking for the Lord to act and we will be willing to let Him use us.
  2. He announced the Good News. We need to talk about Jesus all the time. We need to look for every opportunity to share His love verbally with other people. The more we do this, the more it will become a natural, instinctive part of our lives. If nothing else, one good place to start is with the question most of us will be asked on a weekly basis from peers….the proverbial “How was your weekend?” question. Why not share how God spoke to you at church? I could line up a whole army of excuses for that one, but the reality is that God placed us where we are for the chief purpose of being His ambassador and reaping a harvest. If we are doing nothing about that, we are one of the many and sinning against God!
  3. He had compassion. Matthew 9:36 tells us that Jesus felt great pity for the people around Him. He was moved with compassion and reached out and healed them. God wants us to spend our time loving people, helping them through their difficult situations and living life to point them to Christ. He want us to give what we have and provide for others, first with the Gospel, but also with their needs, whether physical or emotional. This can get messy, but God never intended His people to serve Him only wearing their “Sunday best”.
  4. He commanded us to pray. In Matthew 9:37, Jesus specifically tells us to pray to God, who is in charge of the harvest, to send out more workers in the fields. When was the last time we prayed for God to send more workers to gather the harvest for a specific person, our community, our nation and our world? My pastor this morning remarked maybe we don’t do this because we’re afraid God will send us.

I’ll admit, I have too often been one of the many. And, I have needed to ask forgiveness from my Lord for my indifference and my apathy. Maybe you are there, too. You love God and you want to serve Him, but…

Let’s start this week with fresh eyes for the harvest, and genuinely cry out for Christ to not only send out workers into the fields, but to send us.

Pray that:

  • God will keep us mindful of His plan and purpose wherever we are this week, whether at home, at work, at school, at the grocery store, literally wherever.
  • The Holy Spirit will burn so powerfully in our hearts that we will not be able to keep silent when He gives us opportunities to share the Good News.
  • Jesus will help us see those around us the way He does, and that we will be broken with compassion and love for those He gave His live for, and that we would meet their needs.
  • God would help us consistently pray for workers to enter the harvest.