By Karen Pierce Lim, former Samaritan’s Purse employee, Operation Christmas Child enthusiast, and mother of two.
My mother was always supportive of all my endeavors—including my Operation Christmas Child shoebox habit.
I packed my first shoebox for Operation Christmas Child in 1998, and after that, I was hooked. The next year, my sister and I set out to fill 100. Mom was on board to help us, finding and sharing deals and securing a large donation of wrapping paper from a local company—she helped to make sure our boxes were festive.That was Mom. Many times over the years she would hand me a bag or box of items she’d saved or picked up for shoeboxes. Her giving spirit and support of OCC continued until her health started to decline. When she passed away last year, I felt a part of me died, too.
I miss my mother every day, but especially so during the holidays and on her birthday, which is November 18.
GET INVOLVED: There’s still time to participate in Operation Christmas Child before National Collection Week comes to an end. Find everything you need, including how to pack a shoebox gift, where to drop off your boxes, and how to make a donation online to discover the destination of your shoebox gift.
Last year, I filled a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child in her memory, packing it with things she would have loved or selected, things that reminded me of her. It was therapeutic, and I still wonder about the little boy who received that special box. I hope and pray that he knows the unconditional love of a mother like mine—and of Christ, whose love never fails and never ends.This year, as OCC season approached, I wanted to do something special to commemorate Mom’s birthday. She would have turned 70 on November 18, which happened to be the first day of National Collection Week. And so I thought it would be a nice tribute to host a packing party the day before.
My goal was to invite friends over to pack 70 boxes in honor of Mom’s 70th birthday. A few weeks ago, I sent out an evite—and then started to panic. While I shop for OCC throughout the year and had accumulated quite a stash, I was concerned that I didn’t have enough stuff to fill 70 boxes. Likewise, I worried that no one would show up for the packing party.
O ye of little faith, right?
The week before the packing party, the Lord provided us with some awesome deals—complete with some 90-percent-off savings—so I was able to add to my shoebox stash! And the RSVPs slowly started rolling in.
More than 30 folks filled our home for the party, many bringing bags filled with shoebox goodies of their own. The packing was steady that afternoon, and soon we started running low on the pre-printed shoeboxes I’d ordered from Samaritan’s Purse.My husband and a friend started folding more boxes while I talked to guests and answered questions about the project. Before long, the boxes were stacked up in our living room, completely covering the fireplace. I knew then we’d passed 70 boxes—but I had no idea the Lord would double our efforts.
By the end of the evening, after all of the boxes had been filled and I added in six shoebox gifts I’d had upstairs, our grand total was 140! That’s twice the number I’d set out to fill in memory of my mother.
What’s even better is knowing the love from family and friends that went into each box. I hope to pass on my mother’s giving spirit to my own children, and Operation Christmas Child is a wonderful way to help.As Psalm 78:4 declares, “Tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done” (NIV). That applies not only to the children who receive the boxes, but also to those who do the packing.
I am so grateful for a beautiful mother who practiced generosity, for wonderful friends who showed their support and love for children around the world, and for an awesome, hands-on project that allows children the opportunity to tangibly participate in giving to others.
Mom’s birthday was a bittersweet day, but it was made brighter by remembering the kindness and generosity of those who came together to pack these wonderful shoe boxes—and by thinking of the children who will receive these gifts. I will continue to pray for them all.