How to Organize An Operation Christmas Child Packing Party

This is the fifth year we’ve hosted an Operation Christmas Child Packing Party at The Valley church so we’ve learned a few things each year. I've also done some research via Pinterest and Facebook OCC groups to try to improve our parties each year. From the first year of packing with my kids in my living room to becoming more and more organized, we have grown our passion for this ministry.

I would love to share with you some of thing logistics we've learned.

Collection

We choose to only “officially” collect items the month [5 weeks] before our packing party. Some like to collect all year-long and we are looking into creating a housing space at our building for this but we have several other out reaches we focus on throughout the year.

The week before collection starts, we announce what Operation Christmas Child is, what we will be collecting each week, and when our packing party will be held. We do four main focuses: Hygiene, School Supplies, Accessories, and Toys. The fifth week is a catch-all and that evening is our party.

We also have an OCC info table set up that hopefully answers any questions someone might have as well as provides resources to help get people excited. Of Course, people can bring any items during these weeks, we just try to help narrow the focus. Next to this table we have a collection space designated- the past two years it has been this big blue shipping trunk. Each week we empty it, sorting items into bens.

On the last Sunday of collection, we take inventory and try to spot areas we might be short, comparatively and announce those needs via social media so people can bring them on our catch-all week/Sunday morning of the party.

 

Prep

Several of us {sometimes me and my children} go through all the bins and take everything we can, out of it’s packaging. If we need to, we open packs of crayons, markers, and colored pencils and divide them up into bags. This not only helps items go further but it also makes sure crayons aren’t melting onto other items in the boxes.

While doing this, we sort even further into gender and age groupings [2-4, 5-9, 10-14] if possible. Bagging things ahead of time helps your party flow better and sets you up for quality assurance.

We have always gone with an assembly line format- folding tables in a long line, filled with sorted items. This year, we added very visible signage using small orange cones wrapped in green garland with wording printed on cardstock and taped to paint stir sticks sticking out of them. These were placed at the beginning of each category to help make sure those packing packed items from each section.

I spoke with several others to make sure I was thinking through everything and we decided on a flow and through items we would need to help that layout work.

Layout

We chose to set up in our main room so we thought through making the experience flow in a giant circle. We had stations that everyone worked through to make sure we covered everything.

FOOD

You can’t have a party without food, right!? We set up a small pot-luck along one wall with eating tables right next to them. This is a separate space from packing, even if in the same room, because we don’t want to send crumbs with our boxes of awesomeness.

PHOTO BOOTH

We LOVE sending pictures with our boxes so we hired a friend to run a photo booth for us. This is at the beginning of the layout because we ask that everyone take a picture Before they start packing to give the printers time to print them while they load items.

PACKING

Our long line of tables full of goodies was broken into the same categories as the collections weeks but with a couple added sections with the essentials at the start: boxes, labels [tape and markers for selection and attaching], hygiene, school supplies, accessories, WOW items, and filler toys.

NOTE/PRAYER

We set up separate tables on the opposite wall from the food full of writing utensils, specialized postcards, blank printed info pages, blank Christmas cards, and stickers.

DROP OFF

We designated the wall near these tables for drop-off and had signs hung to help sort boxes by age and gender so we could see which needed more as we went.

Start again

PARTY

FOOD

You can’t have a party without food, right!? We set up a small pot-luck along one wall with eating tables right next to them. We had a group from our local drop-off location come to share with us about the process after we pack boxes. Everyone finished up eating while they shared.

PHOTO BOOTH

We LOVE sending pictures with our boxes so we hired a friend to run a photo booth for us. This is at the beginning of the layout because we ask that everyone take a picture Before they start packing to give the printers time to print them while they load items.

PACKING

Our long line of tables full of goodies was broken into the same categories as the collections weeks but with a couple added sections with the essentials at the start: boxes, labels [tape and markers for selection and attaching], hygiene, school supplies, accessories, WOW items, and filler toys.

NOTE/PRAYER

We set up separate tables on the opposite wall from the food full of writing utensils, specialized postcards, blank printed info pages, blank Christmas cards, and stickers.

Follow Up

We have invited any family that would like to join us, to deliver the boxes to our local drop off location and we've also complete 2 different tracking labels so we can learn where our boxes went, pray for them. Most boxes have addresses in them in hopes of building relationships with ministries dispensing and or individuals receiving boxes.

I hope this was helpful. I'd love to hear about your passion of OCC, how you pack, and maybe even how you follow-up to enjoy this passion all year-long.

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When an Open Door ISN’T from God

We've all heard about how we shouldn't freak out when God closes one door, right? "He'll always open another. Or a window. Just praise Him in the hallway." they'll say. But no one tells you how to determine if that tempting open door is from God...

Most would assume if there's nothing inherently wrong with said open door, then it must be opened by God. But I'm here to say I've seen Wide Open Doors that were very tempting, with their promises of better pay, nicer neighborhoods, closer to family, less stress, ease of transition, and on and on. I've yet to find scriptural evidence that American Dream promises are part of God's will for our lives. Many will listen to your predicaments and try to offer wise counsel but most will still just look for the easy path thinking that must be God's will because things are falling into place.

Don't get me wrong, if we look for it, God's hand will be on and in what He has called us to do. When we seek where He is already at work, we'll easily find a rough path He's already blazed. BUT that path may look like a jungle to those on the outside and not everyone's path will be cut the same.

After chasing Jesus to a new town to plant a church, having our space wiped out by a tornado, and then being portable for three years, to say finding God's will is a little complicated would be an understatement. Although our church plant is now four years old, we are still in infancy stage yet few of the resources of a genuinely new church plant are still available to us. With that being said, my hubs and I still feel God is not done in this city. In the midst of what God is doing in this city, we see our part of it still playing out. We decided to give up our salary in order to afford our new space and to do ministry through the valley.

In our efforts to still give most of our time to ministry, we have been seeking job opportunities that will allow us that flexibility and still bring in enough income to provide for our family. Enter two weeks ago, where I received a message about the opportunity to sell a product I'd been ingredient by for quite a while. I read the message, thought for a while, and talked with my hubs about it. I stared through the open door and saw all the pieces falling into place. I spoke with my friend on the phone and her enthusiasm was contagious. I saw the potential for this business to not only provide for my family but to accomplish the dreams I had for us in the future.

I signed up and started full force. I'm talking, worked my way through the daily start up suggestions, checking off boxes, listening to training's...lots of training's, and feeling good. After the boxes were nearing an end, only a few remained: Share your story. Sell to your friends. Build your team.

The one thing I lacked was -passion- for what was being sold. Don't hear me wrong, the business I signed up with is selling quality products that work, they have a great business model, and it pays well! I respect each women I know who works for them; which is one of the main reasons I chose to work with this business. I just couldn't get past my gut. As I began messaging friend and family, creating posts to publish, and talking about it with my missional community---it all flopped. It flopped not for lack of effort but because of my lack of passion. None of it set right. I started going through how I got started and where I went wrong in order to make me feel this way.

Confession: I didn't pray about it.

What the smack! The door was wide open. I stared straight into it. All the pieces fell into place. It was smooth. It was a wise financial move. It all made sense. And while tempting. It wasn't God's will. It answered so many of my prayers in a nice neat little package. I could even validate it with the potential to attain my honorable dreams for my family. But it still was not God's open door. for me. at this time.

I swallowed my nasty tasting mouthful of pride and quit. Yep. Lets just call it like it is and I Q.U.I.T. Oh, how I love being a flake, not following through with things, disappointing people, and quitting one more stankin' thing. {end sarcasm}

Today, this is me, waving at you from inside a different, slightly cracked, open door my hubs and I chose to walk through together. Sometimes walking in the light isn't as clear as we'd like. Sometimes God's will and provision isn't all warm and fuzzy. Sometimes His open door leads into the middle of town, in a box on wheels, where God can show intentional love in a bizarre way while ideally providing a little income for your family.

Say hello to...The Frozen Eagle shaved ice truck. What What! This new adventure is already proving to be a fun family endeavor that seems to have been opened by God!

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Adventure Awaits {in a shoebox}

In March of 2013, God launched the valley church here in Vilonia AR. He set us out with a mission to make disciples. We plan live in authentic community, learn biblical teaching, serve here in our area, as well as through go there, where ever that may be across the world to do just that.
Clipping along through the story of the valley and what God's doing, we come to April of 2014 when a crazy tornado swept through our town, destroying many things including the building we were leasing. That allowed us to get creative in how to serve our community during that really hard time. 

I share that all so you'll understand the awesomeness of the upcoming date! 

occ-display

Since the conception of the valley, part of our attempt to make disciples across the world was to partner with Samaritan's Purse to pack Operation Christmas Child boxes that serve as an amazing, door-opening, tool to share the gospel with children and their families. In the years we've been portable, we still chose to make it a priority to commit to this campaign. 

We have had to let go of a lot of things because it's just too hard to set up and tear down big stuff for just an hour and 1/2 service once a week. This year, I decided to make a BIG display to show the importance of this campaign to our church even if that means a lot of extra work. As a bonus, I think it's helping put a little cheer in our people's already generous hearts.

This week and last week, we collected TOYS! We collect the 5-7 weeks {depending on the year} in preparation for our Operation Christmas Child 2016 shoebox Packing Party.  This year it will be November 13th. Our goal is 60 boxes but I think we May just surpass that quickly...😳 Eeek!

occ-info-station occ-item-collection-trunk

::Collection Schedule::
10-2&9: toys
10-16: hygiene items
10-23: school supplies
10-30: accessories & boxes
11-06: catch up, bring anything you missed
11-13: PACKING PARTY!!!

The biggest news!? We are shooting for hosting the packing party In. Our. NEW. Building.

This space to worship in and serve from is just one small way God has continually reminded us that He is not done in this city, through us. He has provided *opportunities to build new relation ships,*unique ways to keep serving, *new families to join in our mission, and *faithful ways for us keep making disciples locally and across the globe.

The adventure awaits! You just have to be willing to take part. God's story is so vast and He invites us into it; isn't that inconceivable?! For many children in poverty-stricken parts of the world, their hope of being apart of God's adventure awaits in a simple [Operation Christmas Child] shoebox gift that might just come from us...or you.

Adventure Awaits! How will you respond?

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Enjoying My Supporting Roll in God’s Story

Two years ago, a traumatic thing happened in our small town- an F4/5 tornado took out most of the businesses, tons of home including an entire neighborhood, and many lives were lost. This happened just over a year after my husband and I moved our family here to plant The Valley church.

We constantly pray for God to teach us how live missionally: to love the community we live in, show new ways of share His love right where people are at in their lives, and grant us favor so door will be open to lead people to Him. That night in April, God handed us just that, on a filthy, demolished platter perfect for serving the hurt and searching town He sent us here to server.

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The days following the storm, my husband and I were overwhelmed with the support from all the networks we had been apart of, long and short term. I was too much to keep up with. I often felt like I'd been given this huge responsibility and I was failing by not being able to manage all the help He was sending our way. Things have slowed down over the past two years...well, in comparison to those crazy couple months to after the storm.

This year as I scrolled through my archived private messages and "memories" on Facebook, I was overcome with guilt all over again. How I didn't answer some of the lost messages from friends and acquaintances, timeline post I wasn't sure I handed well enough, and most of all the lack of appreciation I didn't show those how fought through the pile off notifications to help us. I had high hopes of sending formal Thank You cards, letters of how prayers were answered, gifts were used, and just how very loved I felt. Even now, satan is making my insides hurt with remorse because I am so VERY thankful to be a minor character in this beautiful thing we are living.

God has taken these two years to reassure me that while we are all just supporting rolls, in God's story, that all points to Jesus, they're all important I have shared before that I often give up on things because I see someone else doing it, and likely way better. BUT God has plans and invites us to join the adventure of going on it with Him.  We aren't called us to compare ourselves to others but rather support one another's part in the story.

Don't become arrogant when God's story starts playing out in front of you.

That's where focus is changed from what's most important or players get pulled.

Don't forget that the sun doesn't revolve around you.

The ONE who created light without that sun is where our focus should remain so we stay in the light.

Keep at the front of your mind, that EVERY story in this world points back to Jesus; whether it's acknowledged or not.

I want to make sure the story I'm in gives all glory where it belongs.

I guarantee you that this high schooler in our town was organizing volunteers sent her direction way better than I was. BUT God sent certain people along my path in life for such a time as this. He ask that I play a part in their story involving my town.

I know many of the women who worked the Play Place with me after the storm could have run it better, shared our story better, and accomplished more. BUT God ask that I run with it amidst my poor relational, communication, and organizational skills.

I promise, there were hundreds of other kids in our town that could have offered input on the new playground. BUT God saw fit to have my daughter and I as part of that planning team.

From schools, trips, camps, ministries, neighborhoods, and places we've passed through in live all showed up when God was ready for things to pan out that He's been writing since before I was born. Do you ever feel like you're not playing the part you want in the story of life? Be encouraged! Every [seemingly] small part in a story is valued.

When God ask you to play a repetitive, type-cast roll, Say Yes! When God invites you to play an unexpected drop-in roll, Say Yes! Because you never know when your story will change and there will be a big BUT GOD right after your YES!

Enjoying My Supporting Roll in God's Story

Thank you, to at least 2 different countries, 14 different states, 37 different US towns, and MORE than 61+ different friends/acquaintances who shared a part in our Vilonia Tornado chapter through asking for prayer from their friends, collecting donations, sending necessities/gift cards/monetary support, delivered items, helped with clean up, and so much more! It's so humbling to be connect to each of you and really hope I didn't miss anyone. These are just the names I could find on my Facebook timeline and private message history not including my husbands:

  1. Brittany Thompson- Ervington, AL
  2. Kelsey Harris- Arkadelphia, AR
  3. Danna Magness-  Batesville, AR
  4. Morgan Smith- Batesville, AR
  5. Shadrack and Mellissa Black- Batesville, AR
  6. Amy Howard- Benton, AR
  7. Kathryn Doland- Bethel Heights, AR
  8. Jessica Colley- Centerton, AR
  9. Kim Stiles- Conway, AR
  10. Morgan Williams- Conway, AR
  11. Molly Jones- Conway, AR
  12. Janna Chaffin- Dalton, AR
  13. Cheryl Patterson- El Dorado, AR
  14. Craig Herring- El Dorado, AR
  15. Dana Rumph- El Dorado, AR
  16. Deedra Nash- El Dorado, AR
  17. Wanda Deason- El Dorado, AR
  18. Hannah Henderson- Fayetteville, AR
  19. Kelly Malancon- Fayetteville, AR
  20. Sally Acosta- Fayetteville, AR
  21. Johnathan Stoner- Floral, AR
  22. Brandi Shinn- Greenbrier, AR
  23. Cristin Jensen- Greenbrier, AR
  24. Terri Nicholson- Greenbrier, AR
  25. Amy Whisenhunt- Greenland, AR
  26. Cindy Brantly- Little Rock, AR
  27. Shane Harris- Little Rock, AR
  28. Samantha Grant- Magnolia, AR
  29. April Winn- Marmaduke, AR
  30. Cathey Griffin- Parker's Chapel, AR
  31. Fran Brotherton- Parker's Chapel, AR
  32. Heather Gilmore- Parker's Chapel, AR
  33. Jennifer McNab- Parker's Chapel, AR
  34. Rita Snow- Parker's Chapel, AR
  35. Rob and Amanda Waggoner- Parker's Chapel, AR
  36. Julie Beavers- Pine Bluff, AR
  37. Jessy Cutrell- Star City, AR
  38. Doreen Keim- Siloam Springs, AR
  39. Ashley Hall- Strickler, AR
  40. Anja Spadoni- White Hall, AR
  41. Candace Achorn- White Hall, AR
  42. Shannon Paldino- Orlando, FL
  43. Kate Stoner- Keokuk, IA
  44. Jam'e Brown- Wichita, KS
  45. Katie Archer-, Ruston, LA
  46. Rebecca Dorobis- Rockport, MA
  47. Patrick Sherrill- Alpena, MI
  48. Karen DeBeus- Hope, NJ
  49. Sami Roe- Midwest City, OK
  50. Scott Jenkins- Norman, OK
  51. Edna Cain- Sapulpa, OK
  52. Betty Lin-Fisher- Akron, OH
  53. MaryAnn Waltz- Milford, OH
  54. Kathy Metivier- TX
  55. Christine Hurt- Orem, UT
  56. Abigail Assam- Lynchburg, VA
  57. Heather Rennie- Aberdeen, Scotland
  58. Jenny Sim- Aberdeen Scotland
  59. Rachael Underwood- Insch. United Kingdom
  60. Betty Pennington- ?
  61. Justin and Crystal Murphy- ?

 Thank You for playing your part in God's story!!!

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Happy Dependance Day

God bless America?

How arrogant can we be? What makes us think we have some spacial relationship with Christ just because we live in America?

image

Don't hear me wrong, I enjoying being an American citizen. I am so grateful for many blessings God has granted me with through living in this nation. The opportunities that have arisen because of where I live are innumerable but ALL of those still fall under the authority of Christ. Not the country in which I live. God had a "chosen people" in which His grand plan of salvation would play out through but after Jesus fulfilled that on the cross, the road to eternal life was opened to Jews and Gentiles alike. No amount of favoritism existed.

It's worrisome when we pledge more allegiance to our countries flag than we do to our King. When we do so, we are no longer Christians {Christ-followers} we are Americans {American-followers}. These words are NOT synonymous. A nation in and of itself can not be "Christians" and we are slandering the name of Jesus by claiming that America is a Christian nation. We Need To STOP! America is NOT a Christian nation. We are a nation like any other with good intentions, searching for a truth to live for. C

Can I tell you, achieving the American Dream is NOT God's blessing on you "living for Him"?! A team of individuals starting a new nation because of persecution a gazillion years ago does not mean this entire nation is chasing after the heart of Christ. Tagging the name of God to wars, political fights, flags, and our standards is self-serving and leading other nations to really think anything they see coming out of America is Christian.

Did you know that because of insistence to be labeled a Christian nation, citizens from other nations HATE the name of Jesus? They are not getting a correct view of Jesus via American TV, the U.S. in the news, and a lot of ignorant people who happen to live in America but don't follow Christ. The problem isn't media. The problem is trying to force moral standards on a pagan nation.

Enjoy the freedom we have left here in America because the Bible is very clear that FREEDOM in Christ is eternal but that doesn't mean following Him will ever be easy. Hug an amazing soldier who fight for those rights for us and thank them but don't loose focus on THE one who fought for our rights to be adopted into the family of God. The confederate flag, the American flag, or even the man-made Christian flag do not deserve your allegiance. Stop chasing the wind for a purpose to get behind and look up. Christ is there, behind all that muck we are blasting at one anther. None of that muck is worth the fight. Christ and His illogical love for undeserving humankind is what's worth the fight!

Happy Dependance Day!

Please break free from the idea that the American dream will save you and become a bond-slave to Jesus, becoming completely dependent on His every provision and not disillusioned with independence that will send you to eternal separation from the One we all need. I mean, just think of what would happen if Christians reacted to real issues like we do the distracting fluff issues!

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