Ahhh...shoebox season. I have always loved the shoebox ministry that Samaritan's Purse so wonderfully focuses on during the Christmas season. And, I guess I am hooked on the whole ministry now. No simple box donation anymore! Now I not only donate a box or two every year, but I also save all my boxes throughout the year and prepare multiple boxes each time. Even still, that's not the end of my journey with the shoeboxes. This year, God pierced my heart with a hunger to see a bigger piece of what He is doing through these little boxes of treats.
Just like a bag of chips, one is just not enough. What starts with one box becomes multiple boxes. What starts with excitement about the local initiative of a worldwide ministry easily leads to wanting to be a part of the next bigger piece of the puzzle. When you get excited about something God is up to, and find the excitement in filling a box full of treasures for a child in a far off land, there's no stopping you! The cool thing is that this year, I was able to hitch a ride with our church group as they went to the processing warehouse in Atlanta. The next stop on the shoebox journey.
Four hours in a bus and three states later, we were in the warehouse. My heart jumped inside my chest as we walked in, signed up, and were shuffled into the training room. Video, rules, and encouragement complete, we were ushered single file through the doorway from our daily reality into God's workshop, where we came face to face with a bigger glimpse of what these boxes were all about.
In true factory form, and genius assembly line formation, boxes and people were everywhere. Boxes were piled six feet high on palettes, held together with plastic wrap spun around each gift wrapped tower with careful precision. We had been led into a huge room filled with thousands upon thousands of boxes. All needing a final look; a final sort. All about to find their designated cardboard box, where they would be lumped together with 13 other treasure-filled chests. All brimming to the top with toys and treats that would bring a smile to a child.
The moment we stepped over the threshold into the warehouse, the presence of God was overwhelming. I could simply feel God hugging us, the boxes, and the children who would receive the boxes. These gifts weren't only a present for a kid with no cash. Such a ministry is built on so much more than material things. But, oh, how God loves to make us smile and delight our hearts with the unexpected abundance and favor that comes from an unexpected gift. These boxes would truly be unexpected in the life of a child half way across the world. And this warehouse was only one out of eight such processing sites in the US. Amazing. Overwhelming. What an incredible ministry.
Would the children ever realize how much prayer filled these boxes? Would they be told how much joy the preparers received, the warehouse workers were filled with, and the ministry leaders were encouraged by? Could any of us ever imagine what the angels and other heavenly creatures must be thinking as they look upon mere humans who so openly and freely show their love and pray for strangers to find Jesus?
Four hours of working, sorting, and enduring the sting of snapping rubber bands, and we were back on the bus. Back to our own world, our own daily reality. And the boxes, where were they? On another palette. Eventually on a shipping truck, on a boat or plane, and then on whatever vehicle awaits them in a distant country. One day, they will be in the hands of the child we prayed for.
Oh, the love of God. Oh, the gift of a box. Oh, Lord, please touch each child with the love of Christ.
Much love in Christ,