Packing Hope: Olga & Jerry

Four years ago, my husband Jerry and I heard about Operation Christmas Child. We were first drawn to the organization because, growing up, even coming from modest households, we both have joyful memories of opening up gifts on Christmas morning and wanted to make that happen for other children in the world. In our first year, we packed 8 boxes and every year a new goal was set. This year, we learned that along with our heart-filled boxes, the children would also be given a book called The Greatest Gift, where they are introduced to the one true God and His Son Jesus who was born for our salvation.

Knowing that our boxes would not only bring joy to children around the world but possibly salvation,

the desire was planted in our hearts to make our yearly tradition even bigger!

This year, we extended the invitation to more family members with the hope to pack even more boxes so even more children would have the opportunity to hear about Jesus! During our gathering this year, we quickly realized that God touches lives and hearts on both sides of a shoebox.

Many people in our family were blessed to have been born into Christian faith, but not all of them know Jesus as their personal Saviour and therefore it was amazing to watch them as they packed shoeboxes in His name. Packing shoeboxes has given Jerry and I the opportunity to live out God’s mission not only around the world but also right here with our own families, sharing the Greatest Gift with them. This year, 225 boxes were packed by 62 people – that means at least 287 lives were impacted…Praise God!

Hannah

They say your mess has messages, tests are testimonies. Nothing is wasted. When I thought I was alone, I wasn't. God was with me every step of the way. All the rejection, desperate attempts to gain acceptance and a broken heart would lead me back into the arms of the one who first loved me.

Rejection of my complextion and me as a person was constant. Growing up in a white town, hearing it all the time became a 2nd language. Despite my will to succeed, it was always cut down by constant teasing, bullying and ridiculed. From "colorism" to racism, being me was never enough. When I would hear these statements, I felt undesirable and worthless. God had made a tremendous mistake in my design. Racial slurs would buzz around like hungry mosquitoes waiting to suck my blood out. I was made to believe that I would not amount to anything, that being black was a hinderance to success. The viciousness of these comments took its toll on me. I covered my pain with pseudo-smiles, sports and music. Isolation was my home away from home. I would avoid anything that would express myself on a grand scale.

Going to church was no better. The name calling and bullying continued. Church was supposed to be a safe haven where all those rejected and broken could find refuge. For me, I didn't feel welcomed. Too many contradictions in actions vs scripture made leaders ill-equipped to lead. Learning and understanding the teachings was a challenge. I had enough. I was hurting and God was doing absolutely nothing to stop the hurt from those in and outside the church. If God loved me, he would not allow me to go through this, bring justice to my wrongdoers. With that said, I stopped church and turned away from God.

My spiritual void was filled by participating in various activities to gain acceptance. From drinking and smoking to partying, it took the focus off who I was. I welcomed it. Even though these things brought contentment, it was temporary, leaving me emptier empty inside. Toxic relationships soon followed. I was constantly investing all of my efforts to be accepted and was getting nothing in return.

"I was emotionally bankrupt."

After many years, I hit rock bottom. I was a dead woman walking. I couldn't go on. Best thing was to just leave for good to a sweeter escape. I was so overcome with emotion, I dropped to my knees and started bawling wishing somebody would take away the pain from rejection, the hurt from worthlessness, the aches from heartache. A warm embrace soon engulfed itself around me. It was soothing and inviting. It called me by name. I rocked away to the voice that was speaking promises in my soul.

Jesus was a witness to my brokenness for a long time. For years he heard the cries of the heart. He used people as instruments to reach me when I couldn't hear him. For years too many people and things not of Jesus managed to take up residence in my heart and mind. Illegal renovations took place in which none of them had permits for. That day ,the time for Jesus to take back the keys to my heart and start evicting the squatters of rejection, depression and pseudo love. When I moved further and further away from him, Jesus never let me go. He kept his eyes fixed on me, keeping watch over me. The light of the cross guided me back home. At its foot, I lay my burdens down and took a seat by the still waters. In total surrender, Jesus restored my soul. His blood washed away my iniquities, transfuse my heart with forgiveness, hope and grace. Wounds that were once infected by slurs were now healed. Jesus has and continues to fix me, make me new, showing me a new way living. This amazing love has and continues to carry me ,never letting me go. I am a overcomer.

"With Jesus at my side, I will never be shaken."

I'm a child of God. I am beautifully and wonderfully made. I have purpose. There is a wonderful plan for my life. My cries at night were not in vain. Joy finally came in the morning . Somebody was listening and that somebody was Jesus. He pulled me out from the miry clay, giving me the best days of my life.