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Recently I was asked to help Operation Christmas Child celebrate their 100 millionth box! You guys know how much I love OCC and I wanted to badly to be their but was already scheduled to teach a workshop in Atlanta. So… I sent my cousin and his wife to Operation Christmas Child’s 100 Million Reasons To Celebrate. It is hard to imagine that they have blessed 100 million children with a shoe box full of love, prayer, and presents. They have though, and the celebration of it was incredible!
This was their experience at this fabulous event:
The celebration started with music. We were still getting seated when the first band was on, but just hearing the tail end of their set I knew we were in for a good night.
Next, Ricky Skaggs took the stage. I have loved his music since I was very small. It was wonderful to see him live. After he played he told us some stories about the first Operation Christmas Child delivery he went on to Bosnia during the war. Hearing some of the obstacles they went through, you could see the hand of God working. He told stories of the children getting their boxes, and they showed video. Oh the smiles the kids had as they got their boxes; my heart broke and jumped for joy at the same time.
Matthew West was up next. He was such a light hearted person. He shared some very happy memories of going to Central America to pass out boxes. He shared that even after years of studying Spanish he still couldn’t speak it, but on one of his trips he when he was up front talking he was sure to use the one phrase he remembered, “Dónde está el baño?” He said all the kids got really quiet and pointed to the bathroom.
Up next was the fastest guitar picker in the world, Dennis Agajanian. I have never seen anything like that. He was very inspiring because the two boys next to us were fasting picking their air guitars for the rest of the night. He also shared some stories from that first trip to Bosnia. I remember such horror stories from that time, so it is healing to hear what Operation Christmas Child was doing to help heal the children.
We got to hear the story of the 100 millionth box. The young lady who was chosen to be the box ambassador was there. They showed video of her traveling the country to raise awareness for Operation Christmas Child, and having people put in donations for the box. Then we got to see the video of her give it to Brittany in the Dominican Republic. I know I started crying then. It was so moving seeing this little girl receive a Christmas present.
We then got to meet Liv. She is a full circle story. She received a box as an orphan, and now as an adult she has returned to pass out boxes. Her story was incredible. Again, I was crying by the end, because God is so amazing. Hearing about life in her orphanage was heart breaking. There were lots of children and no love to go around. When the Operation Christmas Child volunteers came they explained they brought love in boxes.
Inside Liv’s box was hair clips, the one item she wanted beyond anything else. She said she was touched because someone loved her enough to give her hair clips. Inside her box was also a split best friend’s necklace. She gave the second half to the lady who gave her the box, Susan. Turns out, God was working in Susan’s heart too. Two years later, Susan came back to Liv, to take her home as her daughter. Liv as an adult has had the opportunity to return to her home country to share the gospel with her birth mother and to pass out shoe boxes to other children. What an amazing story.
Next up was Michael W. Smith. His opening song was, Open the Eyes of My Heart. This song holds such a special place in my heart, and it was the perfect song to hear then. My heart was being opened in ways I couldn’t see or fathom.
We then heard another full circle story, Ted. He told of growing up in a Russian orphanage. It was a sad place. Again, lots of kids and very little to go around. He told of 20 kids sharing a towel at bath time. He then told about opening his shoe box and getting a “magic” towel (one of the very compressed wash cloths) and being overjoyed because he now had a towel of his own that wouldn’t be wet when he needed it. Again, I started tearing up. I will never look at a magic towel the same way again.
Franklin Graham’s daughter came out next to share about their new program, The Greatest Journey. It is a program that kids 3 to 14 can participate in if they receive Christ after they get their shoe box.
Franklin Graham was our last speaker. He talked about how Operation Christmas Child came into existence and how it has just grown. The passion he spoke with about these shoe boxes was very inspiring.
He shared some wonderful stories about how God has really been there to bless these kids, and somehow the right box always gets to the right kid. One example he gave was while they were in Russia there was a huge snow storm and one little boy didn’t have a jacket. Well, in the box he got was a warm winter coat. When we heard this AJ and I just looked at each other, with the question of how did they fit a jacket in a shoe box? Then we remembered AJ’s grandma did the same thing in a tiny padded envelope when he was young and in Peru. So, clearly where there is a will there is a way, especially when God is involved.
The final performance act was the African Children’s Chorus. The energy they had was phenomenal. They were singing and dancing all over the place. They also performed a song with Michael W. Smith. It was a beautiful tiny glimpse of heaven.
All in all the night was wonderful! It was so encouraging and uplifting. It gave me so many things to think about and was a world changer for me. I know our family will be packing shoe boxes this year. We had planned on it anyway, but our Christmas is changing more this year. I will never look at a shoe box full of presents the same way. I have seen the blessing it can be for a child in need. I have seen how God can use a pack of hair clips, a wash cloth, and a best friend necklace to change people’s lives.
You can be involved with Operation Christmas Child too! Here is all of the information you need to pack a shoe box.