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|