Friday, January 23

Christmas Shoeboxes

Pastor Ricardo, Karen, Cheryl (from Oregon) and I drove to a neighboring city to pick up the Operation Christmas Child boxes. I just stood in awe of the sheer number of boxes there! What was so awe-inspiring, was not the boxes really, but rather the thought that each shoebox represented a Mexican boy or girl and an American family who was reaching out to that boy or girl in a very special, personal way.

Never in my life did I think I would be able to visit a distribution point for OCC. This was an absolutely wonderful experience! We saw pastors from every church in our area and from as far as 200 miles from the distribution point. WOW! The men and women who manned the storage building did their "job" with such joy! I didn't see any of the "frazzledness" that might accompany such a crazy project!!! God's Spirit was evident in the peace that permeated the warehouse and the parking lot, too!

So, we brought 300 boxes home to Boca and unloaded them "bucket brigade style" to the upper room of the church...

Then we waited until the appointed day! When the children arrived, the excitement level was high!!! Really high! In a town the size of Boca, nothing remains a secret for long. Even though we tried to bring the boxes in quietly, several of the youth saw us unloading (and a couple actually hopped in the line and helped!) so all the kids knew that this party was very special!

Each child held his gift aloft and followed Pastor Ricardo in a prayer of thanksgiving to Jesus for this special gift and for His great love for us -- that Jesus has given us the most precious gift...Himself!!!

You can read more about the party at Sarah's blog.

To me, though, the most precious time of the whole day came after the big party. We realized during the festivities that none of the children from La Pitaya had come. Why? The family in the village with a car was visiting family in Guasave, so no one came. OK. Now what? If the kids don't come to the party, let's take the party to the kids!!!

Doug ran over to La Pitaya, quickly wrote down all the kids' names and ages (there are only 20 or so) and then ran back to pick out boxes for each child. Then we loaded up with Pastor Ricardo, Cristina and a few others to head for the village.

La Pitaya is a tiny village. All the inhabitants are related in some way. All the men of the village are fishermen and all of them live in what most Americans would call abject poverty. No running water, no electricity, no grocery store, no school, no church, no prospects, no hope. Just a river and dirt. Small tar-paper huts with dirt floors. Outdoor firepits serve as kitchen and dining room.

Pastor Ricardo shared the gospel message, and while he spoke at first to the children about the meaning of the gifts and the gift of Jesus, soon he was speaking to the moms about the hope that Jesus can bring to our lives. Several of the women wiped away tears as Ricardo finished sharing.

Please pray for this village! We believe that God wants to do a mighty work in the hearts of the men and women of La Pitaya. Pray that hearts will be softened and that they would be open to hearing about Jesus' love and plan for their lives!

Here are photos from our time in La Pitaya...

The moms took the gifts for the two 14 year old boys who were out working with their fathers. Much like life in the States in the 1800s, young men of 13 or 14 are expected to pitch in to support the family. In a farming community, that means herding cows. In a fishing community, it means tending nets.

We stayed for a while to see the kids open their gifts. Talk about appreciation!!! This little boy said, "Wow! Gloves! They'll fit all year and next year, too!" The other little boy (red shirt above) had 4 or 5 Hotwheels cars in his box. He was so happy, he was almost crying. His mom was crying.

So we left and headed home -- singing worship songs and praising God. Spirits were high indeed!!!

Then suddenly...we got our van stuck really well in about 18 inches of silt. We prayed and some folks drove by who helped pull us out.

Why did God "allow" us to get stuck in the mud? Who knows!!! We don't believe in luck -- good or bad -- so we tend to believe that everything happens with a purpose. We may never know that purpose here on earth, but if we believe that God is truly working all things together for His glory, then we can rest in the fact that He really does know what He's doing! Maybe we were spared an accident or perhaps the car who stopped was spared. Maybe they needed to hear about the small village that we had visited or maybe they just needed to see that Christians get stuck in the mud, too. Whatever the reason, we were stuck firm and wouldn't have gotten free without help. These guys helped us out, heard a little about Jesus and then were on their way. Maybe we'll see them again someday?

Thanks again to everyone who participated in Samaritan's Purse -- Operation Christmas Child this year: the thousands who sent boxes, the thousands who shipped boxes, the thousands who distributed boxes and transported boxes and prayed for boxes. I don't know how many shoeboxes were shipped to Mexico, but these 300 found good homes...and Jesus came with them!!!

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