Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Decade of Partnership


This evening I had the blessing of being at First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant to present them with a plaque honoring them for more than a decade of service to Operation Christmas Child as a relay center and then a collection center.

I figure that over the past decade this church has been the hub for collecting and sending out more than 100,000 gift-filled shoe boxes to bless children around the world.

I don't think we could have grown the ministry in our area at the same rate without their joyous participation--without them opening their facility and using their heat and light to bless our donors--without the volunteers from their church who worked tirelessly to pack boxes into cartons, pray over them, and load them onto trucks.

We are so grateful to our friends at FPCC and to all those churches and facilities around the country who serve as relay and collection centers.

May God bless you abundantly for your faithful partnership in the gospel.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Something Better

These little girls in the Dominican Republic were waiting to receive their Operation Christmas Child shoe box gifts.

Like them, I too am waiting.

I think of all the prayers I have prayed asking God to give our NWPA Operation Christmas child team a Community Relations Coordinator and a Network Coordinator.  All the prayers prayed for items for our packing party this year.  All the prayers prayed for salvation for loved ones.

This morning I read these verses in John chapter 11--

John 11:5,6--"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he (Lazarus) was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was." 

 Because Jesus loved them He stayed where He was instead of coming to heal Lazarus. Because He loved them, He didn't answer their prayers for healing right away. Jesus had something better. 


I look at all the seemingly unanswered prayers I've been praying and take courage. 


Jesus has something better.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Christmas In April and Resurrection Rolls

Ho, Ho, Ho...the air temperature was in the 'teens' here in Erie, PA today and the ground is covered with a blanket of white snow.

I feel like it's Christmas in April--and not just because of the snow.

I got a great donation of nearly 200 handmade stuffed animals from our team member--Pam Suter.  Each one took hours to make and so much love was stitched into them.  I can just picture the joy they will bring.

Pam also donated a couple of bags of filler items, some colorful handmade scarves, and even three perfect little blankets.


I also received two more bags of toys from a generous little girl and boy to add to the collection.

Best of all, I had a great visit yesterday from Leigh Fisher, my Operation Christmas Child Regional Director, who took the time to drive across the state to listen to me and cry with me and pray with me.

Last evening the three coordinators from our area team sat around a table with Leigh and me and we talked about some of the problems and 'roadblocks' that keep our team from functioning optimally.

Have you seen the recipe for Resurrection Rolls?  To make them you need a tube of 8 crescent rolls and 8 regular size marshmallows.  We dipped each marshmallow in melted butter and then rolled it in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar (I used equal parts of brown and white sugar.)  Then we placed each marshmallow (representing the body of Jesus--or, in our case last night, those seemingly giant challenges) inside one of the crescents of dough and made sure it was totally encased with all the edges sealed.


Then we baked them in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes and...those giant marshmallow 'problems' disappeared leaving us with yummy 'empty tombs' that symbolized God's power that raised Christ from the dead and still is available to us today.

As we discussed the pros and cons of hosting our 6th large Operation Christmas Child packing party this fall it became clear to all of us that we need to move forward in faith.

We don't know where all the items will come from or how they will be financed.   What we do know is that though there have been challenges this year we have not seen God firmly close a door on this packing party venture.

So, as a team, we move ahead.  Again.  






Saturday, April 12, 2014

No News Is...No News

My Operation Christmas Child blog posts this year have been more infrequent than those of the past two years.  I think that's because, frankly, no news is...no news.

You can only post so much about the empty storage container and the lack of items.

I'm still praying about whether God wants us to host a large packing party this year.   A few months ago I was certain that He did and now... not completely.  When things are slow going it's hard to know if God is asking us to wait on Him and push through or if He is closing doors.

Through the intervention of another Operation Christmas Child volunteer I was able to purchase 18,158 washcloths at a pretty good price.  But now I have to figure out how to get them here from the other end of the state.

We have paper.  We have washcloths.  We have some leftover pencils.  We have 1350 stuffed animals.

We have little else.

We do have 11,000 coloring books, but I found out they are not acceptable for the special boxes we pack at our large packing party.  We'll be giving them to folks who are having regular OCC packing parties in our area or sending them to the processing center as fillers.  So I keep telling myself that all the hauling of them is worth it.  They will still make some children happy.  But they won't be filling the corners of empty boxes at a large packing party.

No news...it's not necessarily good news.




Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Life Changed 55 Years Ago Today


This little brown New Testament is falling apart.  The spine is gone and the pages are loose.  But it's still my most prized possession.

On April 6, 1959 I attended an after-school children's evangelistic service in the basement of my church led by a team of men from Word of Life Camp.

I had been in Sunday school since nursery age, but this was the first time I ever heard the entire gospel, including the story of the crucifixion.  Though I was only 6 years old, God gave me a clear picture of my sin and the weight of it.  I began to sob inconsolably--so hard I couldn't tell the men who were leading the program what was wrong.  They were at a loss.

I couldn't tell them that what I needed to know was how I could ask Jesus to forgive me.

My father, a non-believer, drove up to the side door of the church to get me.  I jumped in the car and asked him, "Daddy, do you know how I can ask Jesus to forgive me?"  He didn't have an answer.

When we got home my fifteen-year-old brother was the only one there.  When my father was out of earshot I asked my brother my question.  Fearing my father, he cupped his hand around my ear and whispered the truth--all I had to do was ask Jesus and He would forgive me and make me new.

So I went into my bedroom and knelt by my bed and made the best decision of my entire life.  I didn't see any angels but I had peace.  I knew my life was changed.

My brother brought me this little brown Gideon Bible New Testament and wrote in the back a confirmation of my decision and left a blank for me to sign my name, and I happily printed it.


The problem was that my father realized what had happened and became angry. After the yelling was over, he gently put me on his lap and explained that he knew more than those people at that church.  He told me I didn't need to have any sins forgiven and that the stories I heard at church were just that--stories.

So I took a pen and scratched out those words in the back of that New Testament--thinking I would take it all back.

The next day, though, my brother was alone with me as he made my lunch.  He gave me assurance of the reality of God and my decision was reaffirmed.

I printed my own confirmation in the back of that New Testament.

Now, 55 years later, I am still amazed by God's grace and forgiveness.  I still have that New Testament...and I still have peace.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hope In Narnia


It's March 30th and several more inches of snow fell here last night in Erie, PA. I'm starting to think we live in Narnia--that land written about by C.S. Lewis where it is "always winter and never Christmas".

I'm pretty sure we've had more than three snows on the crocuses and they haven't even had a chance to bloom yet as we approach April.

Will spring come?  Is there hope?

When we look outside it seems doubtful...but of course we know spring will come.  How do we know?   Because our faithful God brings it every year.

Yesterday I went to two large indoor community yard sales.  Two.  And I got not one stuffed animal.  Nada.

And no sales have materialized for any other items to purchase for our Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes either.

So, we wait.  And while we wait, several of our faithful workers are busy counting and stapling 39 cases of paper into small packets.  Hope.

If I were to follow the "Facing The Giants" metaphor I'd say we're "preparing for rain," but I'd rather say we're preparing for spring.

Hope--even in Narnia.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

It'll Come


Empty seems to be my story lately.  My mind bounces from one thing to another--retirement, family decisions, leadership thoughts, Operation Christmas Child concerns.  In each case there are choices to make, things to decide...and I come up empty.

Today's message at church was a brief overview about the role of the Old Testament prophets and also a discussion about the role we have to speak God's words to others in our lives today.

After church I headed out the back door and struggled to get our nearly-empty Operation Christmas Child storage container open.  In 2011, 2012, and 2013 it was at least 1/3 or more full by this time.  Not this year, though.

I heaved open the door and stared into the emptiness.

Just then, a woman I've never met and don't know came out of that back church door and stood behind me looking over my shoulder.  She said two words...

"It'll come."

Maybe she is a prophet.