Monthly Archives: October 2021

Joyful Christmas Boxes

Some big Operation Christmas Child news is breaking: Alex Nsengimana of Rwanda, a shoebox recipient who is now grown, is coming to Cairo First Baptist Church October 19, tomorrow, to speak to those who are packing boxes, those who are curious about this huge project, and anyone who wants to see what God can do with a simple shoebox.

We’re packing Christmas boxes for children we’ll never know living in places of which we may know nothing. Individuals, churches, Sunday school classes, mission groups, all over the world are involved in this far-reaching cause. We’re packing toys, hygiene items, notebooks, socks, tee shirts, Bibles, knowing that the Lord will bless the child who opens each box. We pray for these children but we very seldom see their faces and then, as in the case of Alex, only years afterward.

If you’ve been packing boxes every year, you may have heard some of the marvelous accounts of how these boxes affected the children who received them. It is particularly meaningful to hear from one of those recipients themselves. Alex Nsengimana is one of those. He is from Rwanda and experienced firsthand the travesties of tribal unrest where genocide claimed the lives of his caregivers. He received a Christmas box from Operation Christmas Child one year after arriving at the orphanage which was his home for several years. That shoebox gift sowed seeds of hope and love that he desperately needed. Now he lives in the U.S. and he will be coming to Cairo First Baptist Church to share what that gift meant to him and how it changed his life. I’m so excited about this opportunity and want to pass along the invitation to you to come tomorrow, Tuesday, October 19 at 12:00 noon. First Baptist is located at 505 N. Broad Street. Bring your own lunch and spend an hour with Alex and many who love to pack those boxes!

How did we gain this wonderful privilege of sharing with children around the world who may have nothing for Christmas other than this colorful box?

In our church, in the 1990’s, one dear mission-minded lady named Helen King introduced us to this opportunity. She came back from a women’s meeting ecstatic about this ministry. It was a new cause at the time and our church took on Helen’s enthusiasm and went to work. On a designated Sunday we trooped down the aisle carrying our shoeboxes of varying designs and sizes to lay at the altar for the prayer of blessing. It was such fun involving our children and youth in this wonderful project and seeing them proudly present their boxes at the altar. We’ve “done” shoeboxes ever since, though now our church purchases the number of uniform boxes we think we can fill instead of our using “real” shoeboxes. These are a lot prettier and made to stand the rigors of shipping. This year our church will be the receiving place for all the boxes from surrounding churches, a job faithfully filled by Eastside for many years. Gary and Rhonda Keve will receive the boxes from all churches and then pack them in large boxes of fifteen each to carry to Valdosta. Rhonda said one church is planning to bring 300 boxes so she and Gary would really like some help on those days. Call First Baptist at 229-377-2233 for more information.

But how did the shoebox story really begin? In 1990 David Cooke and his wife Gill started a move to give gifts to children in Romania. In the summer of 1993 Franklin Graham of Samaritans Purse, received a call from an Englishman who asked if Franklin could provide gifts for children in war-torn Bosnia who would otherwise have no Christmas. He had learned of the idea that volunteers could fill shoeboxes with simple gifts and wanted Franklin to implement the endeavor. Franklin responded positively to the request but was so busy with other concerns connected with Samaritans Purse (rescue missions, feeding the hungry, etc.) he forgot about the Englishman’s plea. At Thanksgiving the man called back to see what Franklin had done about his idea. Franklin was chagrined at having forgotten but instead of throwing up his hands at the impossibility of collecting hundreds of shoebox gifts on such short notice he called a pastor friend and asked him to see what he could do. The response was overwhelming. The pastor called a few weeks later asking when Franklin could come get the shoeboxes that stacked high in the hallways of his church. That was the beginning of the worldwide distribution of gifts through Operation Christmas Child. This year, with participation of local churches around the world, 188 million boxes have been delivered in 170 countries. Thousands of children have become Christ followers as a direct result of those boxes and the following discipleship course they’re invited to.

I remember well some of the Operation Christmas Child stories I’ve read (“Operation Christmas Child: A Story of Simple Gifts” by Donna Lee Toney is available online) and a very few I’ve heard in person. Each one is so precious and brings ready tears to my eyes. Once, in First Baptist Church, Atlanta, we heard a young woman give her account. She said her box had changed her life forever in that through it she had come to know Christ. The one item that she treasured the most, other than the Good News, was a toothbrush. She had grown up in an orphanage where she and maybe twelve other girls shared one toothbrush. It was a marvelous thing to have her own toothbrush.

Go to your church, almost any church, I think, and pick up a Christmas box with instructions. Then put on your shopping shoes and head to the store. Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Wal Mart, wherever you like to go. Depending on what store you shop, you can generously fill a Christmas box for about $20. I learned that once Operation Christmas Child delivers boxes through the help of their local churches, that village or area will not receive boxes again. There are so many villages, so many children! Because of that, I have paid more careful attention to packing a box that contains good long lasting toys and other items.

Start “packing” for Christmas!

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Celebrating Columbus

I can hear our young voices now and those of generations of other voices chanting “In fourteen hundred and ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” words of the poet Jean Marzollo. I was not aware, as a young student, of the poet’s name, but I was very aware of Christopher Columbus. To me, he was a shining hero who left safety and home to seek a path to the east by going west. He was brave, adventurous, and determined. In my family we honored Columbus on October 12 as we did George Washington on his birthday, February 22, and Lincoln on February 12. We knew he was an Italian who relocated to Portugal and then Spain, that he believed the world was round when so many still thought it was flat, that he obtained sponsorship from Queen Isabella to explore the possibility of a newer, safer trade route to the Orient. We knew that, even though Eric the Red of the Vikings, really discovered North America first, Columbus was in the forefront of explorers first setting foot on our continent.

As an adult I learned some more interesting things about my hero, Columbus. For instance, he was a praying man. He kept a journal (I guess he called it a log) and in it are indications of his spiritual journey as he, still a young man, set out in the ships Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria for unknown territory. A couple of his quotes from his journal: “No one should be afraid to take on any enterprise in the name of our Savior if it is right and if the purpose is purely for His holy service” and “He has bestowed the marine arts upon me in abundance.”

Six or seven years ago a replica of one of the three Columbus ships docked at St. Marks in Florida and some of us were able to go down and see it, even go on it and explore its very confined deck. The replica ship, so authentic in every detail (the galley, the captain’s quarters, the deck, sails and ropes) had been on tour for months, even years, docking in many ports in South and Central America as well as the shores of North America. Charles and I enjoyed so much investigating the ship, reading plaques, sharing the time with our granddaughter Amanda and two of her children.

When the “Cancel Culture” wave began I simply could not believe it. It’s bad enough for the critics to dredge up lies about living officials, but to tell lies about Columbus whom many American countries have honored for 500 years? Maybe you, too, have been shocked at the massive move to cancel our history, our culture, including the demolishing of statues of founding fathers, other historical heroes–and even Christopher Columbus. Why? What have “they” found for which to blame my hero Christopher Columbus?

A recent article by Matthew White in American Family Association Journal lists some of the myths (used information from WallBuilders with permission) that have spread and developed on Christopher along with established truths to counteract those myths. For instance, one myth or lie is that Columbus “greedily sought gold so he could get rich.” The historical fact that refutes that is that “Columbus primarily sought gold in order to provide for the needs of the church, both for evangelism and to fund a crusade to retake Jerusalem from Muslim invaders.” Columbus is accused of selling native women into sex slavery when, in fact, he fought against both the native practice of sexual exploitation as well as sex trafficking by Spanish rebels. He actually liberated women of several villages who had been forced into servitude. Critics have even accused Columbus of being “a senile fool who had more luck than brains” as an explorer of the New World. Matthew White states “In addition to being largely self-taught, Columbus was one of the best navigators the world has ever seen. For nearly 400 years scientists and seamen both acknowledged this fact.”

My feelings of pride in my hero Christopher Columbus were reignited as I read that he, even as a teenager, began taking many trading and expeditionary voyages (even as far north as Iceland) learning the Atlantic wind systems and currents. He had a dream early on to set sail to a new land. Here’s what he wrote: “Our Lord opened to my understanding (I could sense His hand upon me) so it became clear to me that it (the voyage) was feasible…All those who heard about my enterprise rejected it with laughter, scoffing at me…Who doubts that this illumination was from the Holy Spirit? I attest that He with marvelous rays of light, consoled me through the holy and sacred Scriptures…they inflame me with a sense of great urgency…”

When I went to get the mail yesterday I realized it was a holiday, Columbus Day, so no mail. I spoke out loud to the cats and the birds as I ambled back to the house, celebrating the fact that my hero is still honored on this day. In some states the holiday has been renamed “Indigenous Peoples Day,” but millions still celebrate Columbus with school holidays. It is, in fact, still a national holiday. Columbus landed on a Bahamian island October 12, 1492. He made three more voyages across the Atlantic and, though he went home in chains once because of accusations by an enemy, he was fully exonerated. He certainly was not perfect. None of our past heroes nor the present ones are. But look at the impact he made on his world as well as our world in his few short years. He died at age 55.

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