People from 102 nations gather in Orlando to celebrate what God has done through Operation Christmas Child
Kathy Schriefer, an Operation Christmas Child area coordinator from Pennsylvania, reports from a conference in Orlando that brings together volunteers and ministry partners from all over the world
Tonight was our first general session for the Operation Christmas Child Global Connect Conference and it was a mind-blowing experience to be worshiping with brothers and sisters from 102 countries around the world.
After Randy Riddle, director of domestic operations, led us in a time of rousing praise to God (complete with noisemakers) in celebration for 100 million shoeboxes, he was joined on the stage by former shoe box recipient Izabella McMillen. She reminded us, “I would not be able to stand her today without your faithfulness.” Seeing the video of Izabella’s story helped us focus on what each of these precious boxes means to the child who receives it.
As he came back to speak of the history of OCC in the United States, Randy spoke of the exponential growth of those early shoe boxes. “When it was paired with the Gospel it became something God blew His breath on and it exploded.”
And Franklin Graham said, “It’s something God has done and we want to give Him the glory.”
Ross Rhoads, pastor of the first church to pack shoe boxes in 1993, told of how their church collected 11,000 boxes in just 14 days that first year—a foreshadowing of God’s hand on the project.
Canadian pastor Sean Campbell’s church in Canada also packed a large number of boxes in that inaugural year of 1993 and joked that it was the only year Canada packed more boxes than the U.S. On a more serious note, he spoke of the Bible’s warning that in the end times “the love of many will grow cold,” and reminded us that packing shoe boxes is a way to keep our love alive.
Sean told the story of giving a shoebox to a 10-year-old boy in a psychiatric ward in an Eastern European country. When he pulled a Beanie Baby out of his box and smiled, his doctors were amazed. The doctors explained that the boy’s parents had been executed in front of him four months earlier and this was the first time since that he had smiled.
“It’s all about the Prince of Peace,” Sean said.
After some phenomenal guitar and worship music by Dennis Agajanian and the Tommy Coomes band, Franklin Graham introduced Louie Giglio.
Speaking about the global presence in the room, Louie said, “We are better when we are in the company of people from the whole world.”
There is a plaque in the Georgia Dome that commemorates that largest gathering ever held in that venue—a Billy Graham event. Louie said we’re here to remember the legacy of a faithful God.
“We’re not here tonight to underestimate the power of God,” he said. “We’re here to celebrate that God will expand His kingdom.”
He admitted that he can’t comprehend 100 million shoeboxes. It’s supernatural.
But we also can’t fully comprehend that God emptied Himself and took on the skin of a baby and appeared as the gift of God to the world in that original mission of Operation Christmas Child. Into a manger came majesty—majesty in a mess.
How amazing that God gave the news of His coming first to the shepherds. They were too dirty to go to church and God said when you can’t make it to me, I’ll come to you.
What Louie felt God wanted him to bring to us tonight was a personal encouragement that the God of 100 million shoe boxes is on our side. There are huge hurdles in each of our lives tonight where we’re trusting God and the truth of Ephesians 3:20 is that God is able to do immeasurably more than we can imagine. To HIM be glory. We’re in partnership with the God who does immeasurably more.
When you walk in the door of God’s faithfulness, it marks you.
You can count shoe boxes but you can’t count changed lives. You can’t quantify the healing God brings through a shoebox. You can’t count the immeasurably more.
In that night glory came into the mess of a manger and peace with God is now possible.
Those who were rebels against God can become the worshipers of God.
It’s not just on a grand scale; it’s on a personal scale. We cannot count God out because God can do immeasurably more.