Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Giving the Gift of a Smile

As the Christmas season fast approaches and my heart fills with joy for the many blessings in which God has bestowed upon my family, I reflect on how I can share His peace and hope with others.  There is no better way to show Jesus than through serving others.  Each year, the AHG Staff and many Troops across the nation participate in Operation Christmas Child's Shoe Box Ministry, giving small toys and the message of Jesus to children all over the world.  I encourage you to connect with your family and friends and consider giving through this impact ministry.  For more information on how your Troop can get involved, visit the AHG website, here.  This year's National Collection week is November 14-21, 2011.

In the meantime, please take a few minutes to read a piece shared by Guest Blogger, Kim Rowland, Community Relations Coordinator with Operation Christmas Child.

Until next time,
All About Love
By Kim Rowland
Community Relations Coordinator, Operation Christmas Child

“I want to know Africa and its people, not just watch it pass by through the window of a bus.”

The thought flits across my mind, like a hummingbird pausing to feed, and darting away seconds later. An acrid, burning smell stings my nostrils as we bump past block-by-block of low, mangled tin buildings. Our coaster—and oversized van or undersized bus, depending on whom you ask—provides little cushion from the rutted red dirt roads. Shining dark faces glance up in surprise, as pair after pair of rich brown eyes catch a glimpse through our windows.

“Mzungu! Mzungu!” The tiny children cry out with glee to see a bus full of 25 white foreigners pass. Many jump up and down, throwing their hands up in greeting and chasing behind us, as fast as their dusty legs will carry them. Others just stare, pondering in silence what might possibly bring such a crowd to their little corner of Uganda.

This scene played out time and again as 25 youth and their chaperones from the United States trekked from Kampala, across the southwestern end of the country to Kamwenge, and back again. These select few chose to forgo one week of their summer vacations – trading lazy days at the beach for back-breaking days shoveling silt out of fish ponds, sifting sand for home water filters and delivering shoe box gifts to nearly 2,500 children.

These Samaritan’s Purse Youth wanted to experience something outside their comfort zones. As they traveled, visiting and working at various Samaritan’s Purse projects along the way, they spent nights without electricity and running water. They crammed themselves and their luggage on bouncing busses, without air conditioning or seat belts. All for the sake of love.

Ephesians 3:14-21 quickly became a theme verse for the trip, cropping up in several devotions that were independently planned before arriving in Uganda. Strangers quickly became friends, as they ministered the love of Jesus to countless others, and experienced His love in return.

Nowhere was the love of Christ more tangible than at the Operation Christmas Child shoe box gift distributions. Thousands of children, many wearing neat school uniforms, crowded the various schools, churches and orphanage in Kampala and Masaka where we stopped to distribute shoe boxes brimming with small toys, hygiene items and school supplies.

They sat patiently, lined neatly in rows according to age and gender. At each distribution, the SPY participants took turns explaining that, because of God’s love, each child there would receive a gift. At one distribution, a small girl sat down in Alicia Morrison’s lap.

“She just wanted love,” said Alicia. When she stood up to share with the crowd about Jesus’ love, the girl followed. Throughout the distribution, she stuck close by Alicia’s side, wanting to be held and cuddled, taught how to play with her foreign toys.

“Even though we were not able to communicate well because of the language barrier, she still felt loved because she could see the love of God working in all of us. As much as some of the families and children needed physical help, more than anything they need the love of God dwelling in their hearts,” said Alicia.

We did get to know a small part of Africa and its people that week, and were changed by our interactions with Uganda’s people.  Each hand held, each little waist hugged, taught us that Christ’s love is longer, higher and deeper than any ocean or distance separating our cultures. Each nail hammered, each scoop of mud shoveled, demonstrated that the Lord is able to do more than we ask or imagine.

Stephanie Sharron, 16, summed it up in one of her experiences. The last shoe box gift distribution was at a church that had survived in a community where previous churches failed. When Stephanie asked the pastor why it was successful, “he told me that they survived because they showed love to people. I was expecting some thought-out strategy or big plan, but they just showed love. It truly blew me away. Maybe everything I do, if done in love, will make a big impact.”

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

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