Artists Inspired Blog Circle – White

December. The month of giving and receiving…and hopefully more giving. This month, our Artists Inspired Blog Circle is doing the color “White” as our theme, and I couldn’t be happier. I started out a touch saddened by the prospect of not having snow (we don’t get “snow” here in Oklahoma City very often…if we get cold stuff, it’s often ice!), but as the month has gone on, I decided to take this an entirely different direction. And, what prompted it? Well, it wasn’t exactly what I would have anticipated.

Around mid November, I saw an article floating around on Facebook and, to be quite honest, it broke my heart. I actually hate that I’m going to post it for it to have a bigger audience, but in order for you to follow my post and my words, it is fair to give credit to where this came from. Here it is:

7 Reasons Not to Participate in Operation Christmas Child This Year

Now, if I haven’t lost you all together, and you really decided to take a peek at this opinion piece, and have come back to reality, you may see why I’m a little saddened by this author’s blog post. And to be clear, I don’t follow this person, nor do I know who she is. This just came across my feed, sadly. If you know me and my family at all, you know that we in fact participate in Operation Christmas Child every year, and have for quite some time. It’s a family tradition, but beyond that, it helps us each year, amidst the holiday buying and busy-ness to stop and consider the lives and needs of others.

Below is one of the first OCC’s we took part in. By the looks of it, it’s around 2011. Our traditions typically come in the form of doing things with our kids, and this is one thing we knew we wanted to teach early on: the gift of giving.

Okay, so before I go much further in to Operation Christmas Child, let me go back and revisit the theme of our “White.”

White to many people can be interpreted or symbolized, as pure or innocent, maybe even unblemished. I often think of Heaven and what I imagine it to be like, good and pure. Scientifically, (or maybe visually) white is the reflection of all the colors of the rainbow. Something so great and powerful, and pure and good at the same time. This verse from Revelations stands out to me:  “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” Rev. 19:8

I’m not going to take a pictures of a bunch of snow, snowflakes, flowers, or fog or clouds or even foods with white. I look forward to all of those things if my fellow Circle Members share those (trust me, these ladies are TALENTED!) But, no. Not my take. Instead, this month, I’m using the symbolism of “white” as I described above and share with you about one of our family traditions…Operation Christmas Child.

Now, what is Operation Christmas Child?

Operation Christmas Child is a missionary project that is part of Samaritan’s Purse. The details on Samaritan’s Purse can be found hereBut the mission statement is:
Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I’m by no means a rocket scientist, but I think it boils down to a nondenominational evangelical organization that helps people through various types of situations around the world. And yes, it spreads the love of Jesus Christ.

Operation Christmas Child takes a direction that gears its efforts towards children — often the victims of poverty, among other things, due to where they are around the world. Each year, around mid-November, Christian churches and individuals around the world pack up regular shoeboxes (or, ones they donate for the cause) to fill with goodies. These “goodies” can range from toys to hygiene items to underwear to sports equipment. And probably tons of other “things” but at the end of the day, they are bringing not only these “things” to CHILDREN who may not have otherwise been given ANY GIFT in their lives, but the boxes bring hope and encouragement. And love.

 They let children know they are not forgotten. They are important, valued, created for a purpose, and someone way across the world is thinking of them and praying for them.

Here’s a bit more from the Operation Christmas Child site – under the link for Eternal Impact.
Operation Christmas Child — Eternal Impact

For the record, when my husband and I decided long ago to start contributing towards Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child, it wasn’t through blinded following. We researched Samaritan’s Purse and OCC. We spoke with friends in our home church and others. To be honest, this is the first time (reading the Emily Joy Poetry blog noted above) that I have heard anything negative about OCC. Now, to be fair, I have watched other documentaries and have heard of other missionaries describe a couple of the highlighted points by the blog, but never about this one. For instance, I do recollect watching a documentary in particular about the shoe industry and how sending brand new shoes *can* put shoe makers/cobblers out of business in some villages. And that there is a natural disruption in the economy for some communities.  And that does make sense.

Now, I am going to touch the points on which I firmly disagree.

Seven, actually.

1. Okay, we get it. So this girl doesn’t like or approve of Franklin Graham or what he believes and teaches based on his desired to share the gospel BASED ON BIBLICAL SCRIPTURE. Why NOT take millions of children and deprive them of gifts at Christmas. All in the name of not wanting to support one man, and the vision of countless others. Sure. That makes TOTAL sense. Let’s not follow a calling that we may have from the Lord (to help children through this ministry) based on our dislike of one person, who might not share our beliefs, but who, according to Facebook and Twitter, is an awful person. With a heart to help people.

2. Nevermind, back to number 1. Quite frankly, I try not to meddle in the financial affairs of others. My guess is that Franklin Graham is a highly educated businessman who is successful in leading his companies/charities/organizations to receive the donations that they receive. So, although I don’t know for certain, a quick glance here, courtesy of CharityWatch, leads me to believe the statement and link posted in the blog regarding Graham’s salary pulls towards the bias the author wants to see. I’m far less interested in what he makes for his hard work, and more interested in knowing what he does with it. But, again, that’s between him and God. Not us. Unless something comes back saying all of our donations didn’t get to the children or the money was improperly used (and according to this, it wasn’t – you should check the percentage for compensation of leaders), I’m good with Graham, the mission, and his salary.

2. Really this time. Because number 1 is making me very sad. It was suggested that the items in the box would be random “cheap trinkets” and essential junk that no one would be able to figure out how to use (in many cases). I cannot speak for everyone. But I know the years that we have donated, “cheap” is NEVER what we were going for. Now, useful, small to fit in the box, interesting, fun, hygienic…those things we did try to find. But never “cheap.” In fact, I just took back about $35 worth of things yesterday that wouldn’t fit in our boxes this year! They were filled to the brim and we were sad that those didn’t make it in (and yes, boxes, but I’ll share more on that later, because I can address another “reason not to give”). The list of items that are suggested and approved is here. Now, again, I’m not genius, but I would think that hygiene items, school supplies, a fun stuffed animal, and maybe a yoyo would be AMAZING for child. You know what, heck with what’s IN the box. Haven’t you ever received something and just been happy that someone thought of you?! I have. Imagine someone, a child, perhaps, who has never received a gift in a shiny red box. Or wrapped in wrapping paper with fun characters. Do some people just throw “junk in a box?” Maybe. Did those who prayerfully sought guidance and were led to share from their hearts? My guess is a resounding, “no.” Do some people get seasonally off items? Sure, but I’ve also received a few things that weren’t exactly my cup of tea too, but I am always grateful. I know that not every is like that, however, but on the chance that there are a few out there that truly do love and appreciate the thought of these gifts (and, maybe the gifts themselves) isn’t it worth it if we as a Christian Family are willing and able to give?

3. Oh, I’m going to enjoy this one. The local economy may be disrupted. <sigh>…Is this by the cheap “junky trinkets” that no one will know how to use? Seriously? If you wanted point number 2 to stick on some level, this point should not have been mentioned. Again, I agree that something (like shoes) might disrupt the economy. Or even grain and rice. But the gifts we send to children…especially if they aren’t useable – see number 2…are likely not going to hurt the vendors there. The point was made that these items are typically vastly different than the normal toys there for the particular culture. So this shouldn’t be an issue based on your own argument.

4. Racist or sexist boxes. Clearly this chick has either never had children and/or she led a very humorless life and childhood. First, racist boxes? Are you serious? With loving hearts, we Christians are so awful we want to send cheap gifts (from our own money and shipping costs) to people in other various cultures so that we can show the worst sides of our society? The images are cartoons. Yes, they may have some cultural context along with some cartoon-like and fun depictions (I’m part Asian, so I can say this…Asians are OFTEN depicted by those rice hats. And you know what? I’ve never been offended). A Latino child in a native looking poncho? I can’t speak for them, but I would think that a child really would just see…a happy cartoon of children receiving gifts. From various cultures. To address another quick point – we can show compassion to others in many ways, not simply by letting them immigrate to our country. We need to be proactive and create an immigration policy that works. Just letting anyone in to our country isn’t working. Protecting our own citizens does not have to be in opposition to having a secure immigration policy.

Sexism? For the love. There are in fact two sexes. Male and female. I’m sure I could debate forever my reasoning here (cough, cough…science…biology…reproductive organs…) but as far as children are concerned, there are boys and girls. I’m going to keep it simple, though I know there a few complicated exceptions to this general train of thought – just bear with me for the main points to address the article. Girls would be more likely, for instance, to wear an undershirt (we bought those the last few years for our “GIRL Boxes”  – because it seems more age appropriate as we are buying for the 10-14 age group). Did we include a soccer ball in her box? Why yes, we did! And writing supplies and hygiene products, a card game…so many fun, useful (and easy to use) items. And our “BOY box?” We did a younger box (5-9) for him. He got some fun superhero socks (so, totally sexist there, I guess, but given the choice, that’s what my 6 year old BOY wanted to purchase for him), a cup, toothbrushes, a card game, crayons, stickers, and I think a little stuffed animal. But each of our children buy for someone across the world who they don’t know, but want to relate to. And to pray over. Sure, a 10-14 year old girl *could* want superhero boy socks in a size 5, but my guess is the age appropriate gender box would probably be a bit more to her liking. Maybe if one were to criticize less and see the process at work, they’d understand. Knowledge is power, after all.

5. I’m seriously not even sure how to tackle this one. I’m not sure what kind of “Christian” denomination this author is from, but as I understand it, as a Christian since October 2003, we, as Christians, are to be the “hands and feet of Jesus.” To help those in need. To spread the gospel of our Lord and Savior. To love one another. Giving children a box with presents is a great opportunity MISSED if we don’t take the time to spread the good news of Jesus’s love! If one is a Christian, why wouldn’t they want to share the joyous news of Jesus with EVERYONE?!

6. Here’s the quote that Emily’s missionary friend, Joelle, “The way Operation Christmas Child is presented to kids is that these are gifts from your brothers and sisters overseas who love Jesus and love you, which sounds nice. But ultimately it perpetuates the damage that followed post-colonialism aid, which instills in children overseas from an early age that you need white people to give you things, and in our children, that the poor need our things. In mass and over time, it’s this ideology that actually make poor communities poorer.”

For the love. You could read WAY, WAY, WAY in to a simple act of love and kindness, despite cultural differences and diversity and maybe come to this sad conclusion. But, if you’re someone with love and genuine selflessness, I don’t understand how you can leap from gift giving to post colonial imperialism. One could, however, see that an act of kindness made in honestly and the purest of intentions could perpetuate love and spread the gospel of Jesus. Oh, and save lives. Eternally save lives.

7. This point suggests, incorrectly, I believe that those of us who are participating in OCC and donating to Samaritan’s Purse and other such causes are doing so blindly. So many other things with this one, but I need to close at some point. But, one major point — my children aren’t being taught ANYTHING about trying to assuage “their guilt” (or anyone else’s) by giving. That’s nowhere near the lesson we are teaching our children. We teach them to give out of love and kindness. We teach them that giving is better than receiving. You don’t have to live in my home to see it, nor do you have to have me state this, but my children are some of the most kind and capable children. They give out of love and selflessness. Sure, they are children in America with working parents and they get all they need and then some. But my children are typically the first to offer their earned money for others. My 10-year old daughter actually used some of her own money because she wanted to purchase gifts this year. This isn’t the first instance nor will it be the last. And it has nothing to do with a guilty heart. It has everything to do with being taught the value of life and love. The sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

My point with Operation Christmas Child and our Artists Inspired “White” Blog Post theme: the act of sharing their love through gifts is one of the greatest joys of innocence and purity and love and honesty that I know. My children don’t know about any of the “7 Reasons…” in that blog post. What they know is that there are people out there in need. They don’t need toys or yo-yo’s, or stickers or candy or games, but we do have them to give, and moreover, my children (and thousands of others!) want to love and share to others. And if that love comes in the form of a shoebox of items (toys and so much more), given with the purest of intentions and love, and guidance of missionaries and leaders who want to help these countries, then my prayer is that these gifts are well-recieved, and that more people in this world see the purity in giving just as my children and my family do.

These images are from this year’s drop off. We started at First Moore Baptist Church, but had missed the pick up due to some missed days at church. So, after we found the new drop off location, we traveled a few miles down the road to Emmaus Baptist Church. So thankful for a community of Christians who are willing and able to share the love of Christ with other in this way!

My cuties. They love giving. Not just to OCC but to so many causes.

We are thankful to have had one of our favorite best friends with us for the drop off.

The tree was gorgeous at FBC-Moore…we had to stop for a picture. Trimmed in purple…a majestic color to honor our King.

Peyton wanted to join in…and of course we welcomed her! After all, not quite a decade ago, these two beautiful girls were besties going to FBC-Moore’s First Learning Center Program!

And, probably the most touching images and moments. Just a couple shots to make sure I could join them in prayer for our Boy box and our Girl box.

Love. My Mommy heart wonders what he was thinking. It could have been about the journey our boxes would take, or the child that would open the package he’s holding. Or, as a 6 year old, it could have been about Pokemon! But in any case, I know this child’s heart and that these moments are special to him and that he will pray for this box and the child who receives it for a long time to come. After all, isn’t that the most important lesson?

I apologize for the lengthy post, but I hope you understand why I chose to write a bit more for this month’s {White} theme.
So thankful you all took the time to come by my blog. A special thank you to a few of my proofers for this post which obviously has my heart in it! I loved having friends and colleagues, Nikki Smith and Rachel Haynes go over a few key points with me, and that they took the time to review and help me with the draft!

Also, Elizabeth Willson is one of the most generous and talented photographers I know (you can find her FB page here, and I am so thankful that we’ve connected for me to have gained much insight from in this post, and many other things! Her spiritual beauty and heart for giving and being compassionate are incomparable. With her help, I wanted to add a couple of informative videos as well. If you are interested helping in Operation Christmas Child and maybe need a nudge to overcome some of the skepticism you may have heard, please consider watching the following, all from Samaritan’s Purse:

Good News. Great Joy.
(The impact beyond the shoebox “gift” that these children feel – it’s more than handing out a box and receiving a toy. It’s about the eternal impact of Jesus on their lives.)

Church to Church
(The hands a feet of Jesus, hard at work to give glory to God’s Kingdom. Christian to Christian, church to church.)

Lives That Are Changed
(If you aren’t sure about the impact, please watch some of these stories! Individuals are helped and change, communities, churches, and countries. What a profound impact from a simple shoebox.)

Next up in our Artists Inspired Blog Circle is the talented Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith photographer/storyteller (Facebook page). Click here to see Nikki’s take on this month’s theme – I assure you that you’ll love it…she’s one of my favorites to follow!

The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.