Did you pack your Operation Christmas Child boxes earlier this month? You’ve read the literature of what should be included in the boxes and what should not. My eyes were opened to the mass number of boxes donated with items on the “don’t include” list when I worked in the Atlanta Distribution Center a couple of years ago.
I recently returned from three days at the OCC Atlanta Distribution Center. Just like last time, it was a huge blessing!. A nearby church allowed members of other churches to join them in this opportunity. This group makes everything fun, y’all! They are a barrel of laughs, even when we’re tired after a long day. Yes, we stand on concrete floors for long hours, sorting, taping, and packing for shipping. Yes, we get tired. Yes, we are often brought to tears, in awe! Yes, God is in it!
There are many jobs at the Distribution Center, and you pretty much get to pick your passion (or talent). The first person in the “line up” at each table removes rubber bands and opens each box (please don’t tape your box closed), removes the shipping payment that should be placed on top of all contents, checks for proper labeling attached, then passes it along the line.
The “checker” inspects every item in the box, removing bottles of any liquids, all food items (except hard candy), sharp objects (school scissors are fine), etc. Sometimes we have special instructions for removing certain items (like camouflage clothing on this trip) that are avoided for certain countries. For part of our time there, we had an undisclosed country’s shipment to complete with special instructions. So, sometimes we know the destination, and sometimes we don’t.
These are the different types of boxes the checkers encounter:
- The Box Runneth Over – crammed so full, when you remove the rubber band, the lid pops open and contents start spilling out. This requires the checker to dump out the entire box, search the items carefully to dispose of forbidden items (which go to homeless or needy in the area – nothing wasted, y’all), then all items repacked with exceptional organizational skills. Sometimes, even after removing some forbidden items, the checker cannot fit everything back without the bulging lid. This not only takes huge chunks of time for one box, but it also means two children could have had the blessing of a “normally” filled box rather than one overfilled.
- The Nearly Empty Box – sometimes groups or individuals volunteer to donate a massive number of boxes. Not always, but sometimes these groups of boxes have few items and are poorly planned. Sometimes people donate a huge box, which makes me wonder if the children who get a “normal” box feel slighted, especially when it is packed full. But for the more sparsely filled, we have bins of donated random items we can draw from to properly fill each box. Anything you can donate in large quantities, like soap, washcloths, children’s clothing or toys, toothbrushes or paste, will be used. Flip-flops are very popular, too!
- The Just Right Box – this is when the tears flow. When you open a box that was obviously packed with love and care and forethought, it is obvious! It is touching! It is what we’re supposed to do, as Christians! We need to pray as we fill these boxes. God knows each child that will receive a box, and He knows their needs. He communicates with us if we’re listening, y’all.
Children who receive these boxes often need basic hygiene items. They are happy to get a bar of soap and washcloth! School supplies with pencils (and sharpener) and paper are needed. These items alone can fill a box, and they would be perfectly happy. But when you add small items of clothing and a toy, it’s icing on the cake. A box full of a dozen McDonald’s happy meal toys makes me sad. Is that filling a need, or simply filling a box? Will these children know what to do with happy meal toys? I think not.
After the checker, the next job on the volunteer line is the taper, who (guess what?) runs a line of tape around the box to secure it.
The taper gives the box to the packers, who organize the shipping boxes with great care, trying to fill each securely with 16 boxes. This is a job for the strong ones, ’cause the final step is to lift that big box and place it on a conveyor that takes them to 18-wheelers for the land, air, and/or boat travel ahead. Our jobs at the volunteer stations are only a small part of the huge process of getting these treasured boxes to all the children in the countries that await their arrival.
At random times throughout the day at the Distribution Center, an OCC worker calls for all volunteers to stop working temporarily. They introduce someone, share a personal story, or share a video of a former box recipient and how it impacted their life. Then they lead us in prayer as we all grab a box and hold it close to our heart, praying for these children and all others in these countries, that these boxes will bring Jesus to them in a real and personal way. Multitudes have had changed lives through this awesome ministry.
Billy Graham is not the only Graham reaching the world for Christ. We all know Franklin, as well. Most of us know a bit of his story as a young rebellious kid who wanted nothing to do with his father’s ministry. Franklin Graham’s life is a perfect example of how God can impact a world through the change of one man! What if more of us were like him? Wouldn’t that be something?!