Wednesday, September 28, 2011


If you have been reading this little blog of mine for very long, or if you happen to know me in the real world, you probably already know my passion for Operation Christmas Child.*  What you may not know is how our church came to be involved in this ministry.

Ken and Mae joined our church in the final weeks of my second pregnancy ... I remember being surprised that they came to the shower the church gave us (which was after the evening service on the day they joined) and I still remember the cute little outfits that they gave us for our first son.  Little did I know then how God would use this precious couple in my life.  Many things about the years that Ken and Mae were with us stand out ... memories of her sense of humor even through terrible trials and his amazing talent in creating beautiful backdrops for our VBS stages, but it is for her love of Operation Christmas Child that I will always remember Mae and this ministry is her greatest impact on my life.

In 2002, when Mae first suggested we pack shoe boxes, I don't think that very many of us were familiar with Operation Christmas Child.  I am not sure that I had even heard of Samaritan's Purse, though I did know who Franklin Graham was.  I think I packed one box that year ... our church packed 32 total and we were pretty happy about that.  We would continue packing boxes over the next several years and in 2005 we became the only drop-off location in our county.  I remember that first year, receiving boxes and packing cartons, mostly in the hallway of our church where we were tripping over each other and laughing and, for me especially, learning more about these ladies I had known for years and yet didn't really know all that well.

Fast forward a few years and we are still a relay center and we now have several church members who are year-round volunteers with Operation Christmas Child.  In November we will go back to Atlanta to work in the processing center preparing the shoe boxes to be sent to their final destination, the children!  By the way~it is so exciting to know that you are the last person to touch a box before it is placed in the hands of a child. 

So now you know that Mae's willingness to encourage us to do something new has greatly impacted our church, but the story doesn't end there ... and this is the part that gets harder to tell.  In August of this year, Mae went home to be with Jesus.  She will be greatly missed by those of us who worshipped and served with her, but the legacy of her mission work still goes on.  While preaching Mae's funeral, our pastor shared about her work with Operation Christmas Child and how this ministry has touched hearts in our church and how God is using this ministry to reach children all over the world with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and equipping local pastors in the areas that receive boxes to reach children they might never have been able to reach before through the power of a simple gift. 

 What Bro. Don didn't know as he spoke that morning was that there was a lady in attendance who knew Mae outside of the church.  She also knew about Mae's involvement with OCC and after hearing the sermon that morning she was inspired to find out more and to take this ministry back to her own church.  They had been involved at one time, but not in the last several years and she felt led to encourage them to pack boxes this year and the ladies of their WMU have agreed to do just that!  Wow!  Since each box that is packed represents an opportunity to share the gospel with another child and possibly with that child's family, I am always excited to hear about even one more box that someone plans to pack.

I only knew Mae for a few years and I am sure that there are many things about her life that I don't know, but I feel certain that the impact of her love of mission work and her commitment to serving our Lord will continue to be felt in the years to come.  I know that I will always be thankful for her impact on my life.

*If you want to know more about Operation Christmas Child, check out their website or ask me or anyone who works with this ministry and we'll be happy to tell you how to get involved.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sweet, Sweet Spirit

Today, our church celebrated twenty-five years of ministry.  The preparation for this service has been the number one topic at church for weeks.  A tremendous amount of planning and work went into the day and now that it is over I can say, without any reservation, that it was all worth it ... at least it was for me.

The church was filled to overflowing, our normal crowd of 60 or 70 swelled to well over 125 and I kid you not when I tell you that we had standing room only.  I wasn't prepared for what happened when we stood at the beginning of the service to sing Holy Ground.   I was filled with a rush of emotion that immediately brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes.  That same feeling would come again and again throughout the service.  I was moved by the emotion evident in each person who had a part in the service.  A short history of the church was given by the widow of the first pastor.  The former music minister spoke about his days serving the church and sang The Longer I Serve Him.  When our pastor spoke about his nearly twenty years at the church, it brought tears to my eyes again, especially as he thanked his sweet wife for her support of his ministry.

Surprisingly, I listened with new ears to what is now a familiar story to me.  I was there when the church celebrated 15 and 20 years of ministry, I remember hearing much of this same history and I enjoyed being part of those days, but they didn't have the same affect on me that today's service did and I have been trying to figure out why.

Somewhere deep inside me I am trying to articulate an answer to that question and I am finding it to be a difficult task, but I can say that it has to do with the love that God has given me both for the group of people who make up this church and for the ministry they have been so faithful in building.  The struggles of those who have been part of the history of Crossview, who were willing to persevere in what they believed God was calling them to do, have laid a foundation that we are still building on today. 

I think what I am beginning to realize is that this means more to me today than it did five or ten years ago, because these people have come to mean more to me over the years and their lives have become inextricably intertwined with my life and with my family.  No matter where God leads our family in the future, this fellowship of believers will always be a part of who we are. 

I can close my eyes and look back across that congregation today and memories come rushing in as I see the ladies who rocked my babies in the nursery and showed them the love of Jesus before they could even crawl, and the youth that were the reason we were called to the church in the first place~now all grown-up and married, some with children of their own, not to mention the ladies that I have come to love and respect as we have prayed together on Wednesday nights, and the men who provide the leadership needed to keep us moving in the right direction.  The truth is that no matter how hard I try to capture in words what is in my heart, I will never succeed in doing it justice.  The attempt brings to mind one of my favorite lines from the movie Skylark "...sometimes, words aren't good enough."

The service today was concluded with a wonderful sermon, delivered by a former pastor who challenged us to not only remember the things that God has done, but to look to the future for what He is calling us to do.  What a fitting challenge for a day that could have been too wrapped up in the past.  As our pastor said at the conclusion of his testimony today, what has been accomplished at this church isn't because of what we've done, it is because we serve a great God and He has done great things.  Amen, Brother, amen.

Friday, September 9, 2011

a box filled with hope

Livia Satterfield
In 1999, this young lady was a twelve year old girl living in an orphanage in Romania.  Her mother had placed her there hoping to give her a better life.  Last night, I had the wonderful privilege of hearing Livia tell her side of the story at a gathering at our church beginning the countdown to the 2011 collection season for Operation Christmas Child.

Livia's story is a powerful one.  It is a story that is hard for me to grasp here in my comfortable home with well-fed kids who, along with their parents, have never known anything but abundance.  Livia told us that there were days when they had an abundance of food and the children were given bread stacked with butter, so much butter that to this day she can't stand bread and butter.  Then there were the days when food was scarce and they were given hard, moldy bread ... her words: "we just had to try and eat it, gulp it down, because that was all there was." 

But, as Livia's story unfolded, we learned that while the food supply might have fluctuated, one thing was always the same ... the lack of love.  There was no one to comfort them when they had bad dreams, no one to touch them or hug them,  no one to tell them that everything would be okay.

Until one day when the children found out that some people from America were coming to visit them.  I could share the story Livia told us last night, but she tells it much better ...

A box filled with hope ...
Livia reminded us more than once that to those children in her orphanage these boxes represent hope.  Hope and, perhaps for the first time in their lives, an expression of love.

We all know how important it is to have hope and to know that you are loved and I for one know that I have never truly experienced a lack of either one. 

I cannot imagine what it must be like to desperately want something as simple as hair clips of your own and know that you have no hope of ever receiving them.   Yet, God used a simple shoe box gift to not only give her the hair clips she wanted but also to show her His love for her.

Livia described packing a shoe box like filling a box with sunshine to light the world of a child somewhere in darkness ... how amazing is it to have the opportunity to be a part of something so simple, yet so special, so potentially life-changing for a child.

Livia's story has a beautiful, full-circle ending since she was adopted by the woman who gave her the shoe box and now volunteers with Operation Christmas Child.  But, even for those children whose outward circumstances don't change, they still receive the message that there is someone, somewhere who loves them enough to fill a shoe box with gifts for them.  And much, much more importantly, they hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and that is the ultimate reason that we keep packing shoe boxes year after year.

One more thing Livia told us that really stuck with me ... how easy it is to pack a shoe box.  We hear so many stories about the kids who get exactly what they want or need and that might add extra pressure, thinking that we have to put in just the right thing so that the child receiveing our box will be happy.  Yet Livia told us about a boy in Costa Rica who received mittens, a scarf, and a hat and how excited he was to put them all on, even if they did make him sweat.  The key is not stressing over what you put in the box, and instead taking the time to fill the box with prayer.  According to Livia, the two most important items to fill the box with are prayer and a personal note with a picture.  Not hard at all, is it?

Here are a few more pictures of our Countdown event ... only 66 more days until National Collection Week!

Jamie Hardenbrook - Regional Director of the Southeast region in Atlanta, GA

Most of the OCC people and year-round volunteers that were there last night

Frances Fair - the Area Team Coordinator for Jackson

Livia and me