As the Operation Christmas Child (OCC) National Collection Week comes to an end, I would love to share with you the challenges, celebrations, and joy we experienced. As Kirsten and I began this week we were met with the challenge of multiple sick children at home, and one that accidentally knocked his front teeth loose while at school. We were in tears. Overwhelmed. Kirsten reminded me that, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood..." (Ephesians 6:12). I don't remember her exact words, but she also added with a big smile something like this, "These shoeboxes must be going to do some mighty work because the devil is trying to steal our joy!" She was right. Our week was just beginning and we were lacking joy. It made me think of one of my favorite verses - Nehemiah 8:10, "...This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." In this passage, we know that Nehemiah is talking to the people who had just been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. They were weeping because they recognized their sin. I think we could say they were overwhelmed by their sin so much that it brought them to tears. I'm not saying that having sick children is a sin, but I believe that worrying about them in such a way as to be completely overwhelmed would not be what God had in mind for us that day. Kirsten and I prayed, we prayed a lot and we prayed often throughout the week. We were reminded that the LORD is our strength and our joy comes from Him.
It was indeed a joy-filled week full of celebrations. We celebrated when our Creekside MOPs group packed 500 shoeboxes. We celebrated with some teenagers who organized and packed over 100 shoeboxes through their school. We celebrated with cookies when a bus full of school children arrived to drop off the shoeboxes that were packed at their afterschool program. We were able to celebrate with each donor. We prayed with them and over the shoeboxes they brought. We had so much to celebrate this week!
Reflecting on this week, I know that we had the joy of the LORD in this place. With over 30 amazing volunteers, we were able to "cartonize" 2,261 shoeboxes that were brought in by our church, community clubs, school groups, and individuals around Forsyth County. It was such a joy to see God using his people to further the kingdom through these tiny shoeboxes. As our OCC shirts say, "Good News. Great Joy." These shoeboxes will be delivered all over the world and will be accompanied by the sharing of the good news of the gospel. What joy that will be for the children that receive them and what joy for the many hands that helped get these shoebox gifts to the children. If you were unable to join us this year, Kirsten and I would love for you to share in this joyful time of serving next year. It truly is a joy to serve with all of you!
Ginny Ellithorp & Kirsten Zimmerman