Saturday, November 26, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

This is a picture of my family while we were at church packing our two shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  It was a powerful day for me.  We spent time as a family going to different stations where we focused on a separate theme.  At the first station we learned how a child receiving a shoebox might live.  Our boys got to go inside a grass hut that the youth had made.  Our youth director encouraged them to find a place to lay down inside the small dwelling, along with the ten other children inside.  They got to see how vastly different living conditions are from our own.  We also learned how these simple boxes filled with small gifts for a boy or girl can have a big impact.  The stories our youth pastor told showed how God connected the right box with the right child.  Of course God would know which box held what.  Of course God would know which child would desperately need the contents of a particular box for reasons that are singular and unique only to him or her.  Like the boy who loved to garden and received a box with gardening gloves inside.  Or the girl who had to walk several miles to school barefoot, who received a box with shoes, the exact size that she needed. 

At the second station we actually got to pack our boxes.  The boys loved doing this.  While our little one ran around the room, the other two carefully placed our items in the boxes provided. All I could think of as we put those boxes together was, "Oh God, please let our boxes be the miracle some child needs."  I wanted to be able to do so much more.  But it touched me to know that the little we are able to do could be such a big deal to a child I've never met.

At the third station we made an Advent wreath.  After attaching and fluffing the greenery, all our little wreath needed were the candles.  My favorite part of Christmas is the lighting of the Advent wreath.  That night when we went to bed I told the boys about celebrating Advent when I was a campus minister.  Since the semester would end before Advent had even really started, we would do all the readings, all the songs, all the candle lightings in one night.  It was my favorite service of the whole school year.  I'm looking forward to sharing this special tradition with my sons, creating anticipation as Christmas grows nearer, deepening our understanding of what it means to wait for the Savior to come.

When we packed our shoe boxes, we got to include a coloring sheet that shared information about us with the child who will receive the box.  Noah worked diligently to complete each page front and back.  Later my husband asked if I had seen what he wrote about Jesus.  I said no.  He told me that Noah wrote "Jesus helps us through hard times."  I got choked up.  Yes, Jesus does help us through hard times.  And this season has had its challenges.  I just so thankful that my son is learning what a difference God's Son makes in our lives. 

On Friday we spent time as a family making a list of what we are thankful for.  The boys did so good naming things that are significant to them. What was particularly poignant to me was how well Noah remembered what we learned about children who live in grass huts.  When we finished the list as a family, he took the paper and pen and went through our house by himself, writing down the things he was thankful for, noticing the blessings we have as Americans like running water, electricity, and beds to sleep on.

We learned at church yesterday that 93 shoe boxes were filled and sent out.  It seems that Operation Christmas Child was a success.  That's 93 more children in the world who will receive a tangible sign of God's love, 93 more children who will hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, 93 more children who will get a chance to learn that Jesus helps us through hard times.  And I am grateful for the small way that my family got to participate in this ministry.  Yet I am also aware that there is another divinely inspired operation happening right under my nose.  In the ordinary course of our lives, the daily stuff that doesn't seem important or noteworthy, we have the opportunity to teach our boys what it means to be a Christmas child each day.  My prayer is that Tim and I will have the wisdom, the guts, and the insight to be able to do that.  I'm thankful God is already working on that too.

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