Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The smell of new toys and an opportunity

I love this picture of our grandchildren. That little fellow missing the front teeth is headed off to college this fall and our granddaughter is in high school now. Where did the years ago?

They were helping me put together my Operation Christmas Child boxes a few years back. And no, it’s not too early for me to be talking about that. I'm giving you some lead time, because given the circumstances, it may take a while to put your boxes together this year. I checked the Samaritan’s Purse site, and despite the pandemic, they are still a go for collecting the boxes this November. The need for them will be perhaps even greater with the virus and other disasters ravaging so many places around the globe. Again, shopping for those boxes could be more challenging.

Here’s why it’s worth the effort.

I’m an alumnus of Young Harris College, and when I received my monthly magazine this summer, I was thrilled to find a story about a student there who has personal experience with Operation Christmas Child. Dasha Vander Maten grew up in an orphanage in the Ukraine where she received one present a year. It was a box from Operation Christmas Child.

An American family adopted her along with her two biological sisters when she was twelve and now she is a student at YHC. Remembering those yearly gifts she received, last fall she set out to raise money and donors to provide 100 boxes for Operation Christmas Childa goal she more than exceeded. She said, “I remember the smell of the brand new toys when I opened the box (as a child). When packing these boxes myself, it brought that smell back to me.”

Great story, right? There are so many Dasha’s out there. And every child who receives a box is invited to participate in a discipleship program called The Greatest Journey.

As I’ve shared before, my sister and I try to put together around twenty-five boxes each year. In order to do that, I shop all year, so the cost is not prohibitive in October and November. I found a few things on sale after Christmas and Valentines’ Day this year, but of course quarantine hit and all shopping came to a halt. Because we try to limit our trips out, my trips out now are mostly to the grocery store and art and hobby stores. But, even with those limits, my boxes are almost finished.

Here are a few tips.

Maximize your grocery store shopping. Matchbox cars are one of the biggest thrills for boys and many grocers offer them at great prices. Stock up while you’re buying your toilet paper. School supplies are at their best prices now and a must for the boxes. At my grocery store, I can buy four composition books for a dollar. You can also grab soap and toothbrushes in the toiletry aisle. The toy section in many grocery stores provide great choices for the $5 wow toy Samaritan’s Purse asks we provide. At hobby stores, I’ve found stickers, stamps, bolo paddles, balls, and other items all at tremendous savings as stores have been clearing out summer merchandise. If you pick up a few things every week, you can not only fill the boxes you usually do, but perhaps add to their number. Also, you can pick up a few things online as well, but shipping can add to the cost.

A few years ago, I let go the premise that all boxes have to be alike. My boxes will likely not even go to the same town, much less the same country. Just use what you can find, but try to cover the main categories: $5 wow toy, toiletry items (no liquids or toothpaste), school supplies, and fun toys.

As I’m packing my boxes, I pray for the children who will receive them. This year, I’m going to take advantage of the tracking Samaritan’s Purse provides when you make the shipping donation online. I think it will be fun to see where each one goes. But really, only heaven will reveal all that comes of these gifts we send. John Wesley once said, “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.”

Let’s give more kids like Dasha the smell of those new toys and the opportunity to find Jesus.

"Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back--given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting is the way. Generosity begets generosity" (Luke 6:38).

If you're looking to do a little early Christmas shopping, Grace Publishing has an anthology called Merry Christmas Moments. I have an article in it about my Operation Christmas Child boxes entitled, "Sharing the Gospel from my Exploding Closet." Authors receive no royalties from this collection. Instead, proceeds go to Samaritan's Purse. HERE if you'd like to order.

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