Tomorrow we will hand over our 119 Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes into the hands of the Samaritan's Purse volunteers at the Hawthorne Gospel Church collection center. These same shoe boxes that YOU donated. The ones that YOU wrapped at midnight at your kitchen table while muttering about what genius invented shoe boxes with hinged lids! The same shoe boxes filled with the soap, toothbrushes, washcloths, crayons, puzzles, and stuffed animals that YOU chose. The stuff that overflowed from the donation boxes, and seemed to multiply like loaves and fishes the night of the packing party. The same boxes that WE laughed over, and prayed over, and sang "Joy to the World" over. The boxes that YOU sponsored with your generous hearts. These are the boxes that will make a difference! YOUR boxes! Because of YOU, little hearts will know the love of JESUS! These boxes ALREADY have been touched by so many! And they have just begun their huge journey into the hands of a child somewhere in the world who needs to feel the love that YOU filled them with!
It seemed, this year that the enemy wanted to squash our efforts. That happens when he sees the Lord working through us so boldly! For a while it seemed that there was every reason to doubt whether this year would yield a productive outcome. But we remained steadfast, and He led us to victory over our doubts! We achieved an all time record of 119 boxes!
I need to thank several people, and I am so afraid that I am going to forget someone, so please forgive me if I do. I have shoe box brain! First, ALL of you! But particularly the supportive congregation of the First Reformed Church of Saddle Brook, led by Pastor Christopher Wolf, as well as my two right hands, Thomas Van Winkle and Ellen Plog. We had the best time together setting up for 7 hours last Saturday! Thank you to the ladies who stepped in to pre-wrap all the boxes; that was a great help this year! Some women I still haven't met; they just volunteered to wrap and drop bags full of boxes at my front door! Others were my own fellow marching band moms Diane Snyder, Michelle Liebig Nosch, Karen Bressan Obiso, Tammy Gordon and my church friend and original master wrapper, Mary Marino, and Carrie Maier Anderson and her mom, Barbara!
Thank you to everyone who donated big and kept donating when we started running out of things! Without you, where would we be? You know who you are, and my heart is forever filled with gratitude not just for the bags full of items you brought, but for the honor of being friends with people who have such huge hearts...for Operation Christmas Child and for everything else, including me, especially when I have emotional breakdowns on the band bus, and you come to the rescue with just what I need, exactly when I need it. Thank you to every single packer at the party. I know it's a busy season, and I thank you for making this event a priority in your lives! Jennifer Crozier Wien, Sherry Griesback Dapcic and David, Lisa Sher and Josh, Catherine Wasdyke, Heidi, Jessica, Emma, Gracie, Angelina, Kathy and Molly, Vicki Auletta Brown and Madison, Frank Arnone, Jim Gilbert, Gale Hendrickson, Jen Wolf, Kathy Alia, Linda Casbar, Maryann Demboske Viele and others, whether you were there in person, or sent items. From the tiniest toddling shoe box packer to the most seasoned one. The love comes from Jesus, but it flows through you. Thank you for being vessels of His love.
Thank you to the young men in the kitchen Thomas, Justin, Colin, and Ben who made the hot chocolate....and thank you Teresa Cali for being the grown up who cleaned up afterwards! Seriously my dear friend...what would I have done without you this year? Thank you for knowing my heart so well, without me even needing to say a word. Just knowing where my heart and my head were at. Thank you for being that person who i could ask to do anything, knowing it would get done. I love to serve the Lord with you!
Thank you to EVERYONE who donated funds to ship the boxes. Whether it was one box, or 28 boxes, or more! I am overwhelmed by the generosity of you all! Especially to the little boy who proudly presented me with his dime! I still have it, and will give it to the regional coordinator tomorrow! Many thanks to Kim Marie, Julie Stipo Kooistra, Kelly Eckel Mahoney, and others for their assistance in the raising of funds for shipping. Thank you to Kathleen Shanahan for putting me up for the night during an unexpected snowstorm and for sharing that moment when I got the text that we had finally met our shipping goal! Thank you for helping me put all of those tracking labels on all of those boxes...even when I know you had other things that were so important too! And a big thank you (although it's not happening till tomorrow) to Jennifer Crozier Wien's husband Steve for transporting the boxes to Hawthorne Gospel.
And a general thank you to everyone out there who helped keep me going through a couple of very difficult weeks. Maybe it wasn't specifically Christmas Child related, but you really blessed me particularly when my water heater and my car failed: George the mechanic, James J. Maniscalco, Sam Rivera, and James Anderson, Diana L. Pilz, Christopher Wolf, Dawn Romano Massa, Mike Lefebvre and Sarah Lefebvre, Judy Johnson Martin, Glenna Hadley, Teri Corse Siber, Denise Sprague, and a whole host of online Christian Widow sisters who never stop praying for me!
Finally....and only because I've left the most important for last, I thank GOD for the opportunity to do this every year, and for working in my life and in yours to make such a huge change in the lives of others. I pray that this experience has blessed you as much as it has me! And I hope that the Lord will lead you to join us again next year!
I pray that I didn't leave anyone out, but I'm sure I have. I did not do this alone. GOD did this through YOU and me. I am so blessed to be part of a community that comes together with such purpose! May He continue to bless you richly and abundantly throughout this season of love!
~Lynne Van Wyk-Wojcik