UNREACHED

Unwrapping JOY: The Worldwide Journey of a Shoebox

December 13, 2023 UNREACHED Season 1 Episode 12
UNREACHED
Unwrapping JOY: The Worldwide Journey of a Shoebox
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever wondered about the journey of a simple shoebox? Together, with our special guests - Maggie, Kimberly from Samaritan's Purse, and Clint - we unravel the touching journey of shoeboxes filled with gifts from the generous hands of donors to the overjoyed grip of a child. Hear the moving tale of a child in Malawi who, despite receiving a once-in-a-lifetime gift of a giant sucker, chose to share it with his entire community. Journey with us, as we follow the story of a small church in Texas that packed over 8,000 shoeboxes amidst a devastating hurricane, and Bill, an atheist, who felt moved to pack a shoebox after noticing the Operation Christmas Child signage. 

We don't stop there. We delve into the multifaceted process of Operation Christmas Child, from packing to shipping the shoeboxes, and highlight the intense dedication, commitment, and prayer needed to overcome hurdles like government importation clearance. We witness the transformative power of The Greatest Journey, a discipleship program by Operation Christmas Child, and understand its profound impact on children globally. You'll be inspired by children in the Philippines who, after receiving their shoebox gifts, are now full-time volunteers and trainers for the program.

As the Advent season approaches, we find joy in the act of giving and sharing. The joy of a child unwrapping their shoebox gift, the joy of a community coming together to pack gifts, and the joy of seeing the love of God spread to the unreached. The themes of joy, generosity, and God's love are intertwined throughout our discussions. So, we invite you to join us, as we light the candle for joy and share these heartwarming stories that truly embody the spirit of Christmas.

Follow @unreachedpodcast on Instagram for more!

Speaker 1:

In Revelation 7, john shares his vision of heaven, with members from every tribe, tongue, people and language standing in the throne room before the Lamb. Yet today there are still over 7,000 unreached people groups around the world. For the last six years, my family and friends have been on a journey to find, vet and fund the task remaining. Come journey with us to the ends of the earth as we share the supernatural stories of God at work through the men and women he has called to reach the unreached.

Speaker 2:

Hello friends and welcome back to the Unreach Podcast. Dustin Elliott here, your host, and the sound you just heard is the theme of this week in the Advent season. It is the sound of pure joy. This is the joy of hundreds of kids receiving Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes and it's one of the most beautiful sounds on planet earth and I'm so grateful today to get to share that with you as we light the candle for joy. This is our third week. We've already lit the candles for peace and for hope and today we have two great guests back from Samaritan's Purse. We have Maggie and Kimberly and we also have Clint on the mic today and to follow up the sound of joy you just heard, we're going to start with a quick story and then we're going to introduce our friends. Clint got to travel with Operation Christmas Child a couple years ago to lead worship in the delivery of the boxes, and I'm going to let Clint clue you in to what that experience was like.

Speaker 3:

And Merry Christmas everybody. It was my privilege to get an opportunity to go with Operation Christmas Child to Malawi in Africa. I was so grateful to get to spend some time with some of their international staff and some of their staff from Boone that traveled on the trip as well. But the biggest part that stuck with me is there was a key moment that I got to experience in one of the ceremonies where all the children got their boxes, and it kind of redefined what joy looks like for me. So the sound that you heard earlier Dustin just referenced it. It is just absolutely incredible to hear that many kids so excited about something that's now theirs, something that's been packed from the other side of the world, that's been shipped and given to them and put in their hands, and something that now belongs to them. Well, there is one specific thing in one of the boxes that the kids opened that just stuck with me that I'll never forget for the rest of my life.

Speaker 3:

Now, quick preface I don't think this item was really supposed to be in a box. All right, maggie, I think you can give a little like yeah, maybe that's not necessarily true, but there was a giant sucker in one of these boxes Like one of those. If you could just imagine one of those suckers. It's like six inches long, massive, round sucker. A whole bunch of different colors. Just beautiful rainbow sucker that a kid pulled out of his box Now in Malawi. We traveled on a dirt road to get there. It was a literally like underneath underneath a tree is where we ended up having the ceremony just a beautiful group of people that came down these dusty roads to come and participate in this.

Speaker 3:

So a kid pulling a giant sucker out of his box may have been like the most epic moment in his entire life and it's probably one of the only times he'll ever see a piece of candy that big ever. So his eyes got massive, couldn't believe that. He just pulled this thing out and he was showing it to all of his friends. All the kids are screaming. They're going crazy.

Speaker 3:

And then he did something I'll never forget for the rest of my life. He took the sucker and he smashed it on the ground and it split into about 30 different pieces and he started handing pieces of this sucker out to all of his friends and everybody was coming over. It's really hard to put into words how moving this moment was. This kid got something that was a once in a lifetime gift and the first thought was to share it with his community. I think it impacted me and changed the way that I look at the gift of grace and the gift of God and what God's done for me in my life and how I want to be extremely generous with that. I don't think I've ever looked at a sucker and mass general store the same for the rest of my life, and every time I see one of those, it's this incredible reminder of the scene that I got to witness there in Malawi that I was so thankful for.

Speaker 2:

I love that story. I know we're not supposed to put suckers in boxes, so Maggie's going to tell you the same thing, but I love the fact that that brought so much joy to that kid and that his first thought was to share that joy with others, and that's such a key here and so now let's take a moment. I want to introduce Maggie and Kimberly. Maggie, tell us a little bit about yourself first, please.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, hey guys, my name is Maggie Stretch. I'm from Texas, praise God, and live and work here in Boone, north Carolina. My role as content manager for Operation Christmas Child, which basically just means I get to be a part of all the testimonies and stories that are shared and all their various beautiful formats. And I can confirm please, don't put a sucker in a shoebox. But I mean, there are so many amazing toys and things that you can put in a shoebox that kids can play with their friends. We hear stories all the time of soccer balls just like transforming an orphanage because they all get to play together now.

Speaker 2:

So that's an incredible story. Leave it to Clint to break the rules right here at the start of this show.

Speaker 5:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Okay, and Kimberly, kimberly, welcome and tell us about yourself, please.

Speaker 5:

Hi, I'm Kimberly Ianilli and I work over on the international team and part of a global programs team that develops content, evaluates continuous improvement in our program, in our global programming for the ministry. And I will just say that it's possible. Candy used to be allowed in the old days, so it's quite possible. In the old days it was legal when you were there.

Speaker 3:

It very well may have been. I am an old head and it was several years ago that I got to experience this with you guys. I think she's aging you a little bit there, but I'm okay.

Speaker 5:

Yeah Well, we're always thinking about the future, so the old days for us is sometimes last year, so you're good.

Speaker 2:

Well, thank you, ladies, for being with us. And so what we want to do for the listeners today as you've already got to meet several other folks from OCC and from Samaritan's Purse today we want to take that one step further. So the theme is obviously joy. It is the Christmas season, we are lighting the candles, praise the Lord for what we get to do this time of year and what we get to share this time of year. But what you may or may not be aware of is these little shoeboxes go on a journey. I mean, there is a lot of moving parts, a lot of people involved, a lot of coordination and collaboration and facilitation, and so we're going to start and go through the journey of a shoebox. And so, maggie, why don't you lead us off Step one? What is the first thing that happens in the journey of a box?

Speaker 4:

Yes, so exciting and just want to underscore, even as it ties into the theme, that the journey of a shoebox looks so different. It is changing and there's so many variables, but joy, it really does underscore every single step and I think, speaking on behalf of our domestic audience and team members, which is such an honor, I would say that it really gives people purpose to be a part of Operation Christmas Child. Here there are so many people that have a deep longing to go to be a full-time missionary or whatever that can look like overseas, but they just can't for whatever reason, or the Lord has called them here, and so Operation Christmas Child really gives people an opportunity who are passionate about the nations, like myself, to be a part of reaching the nations with a simple shoebox. It's a profound, it's kind of like God's love. You're like, oh, that sounds simple, but it's deeply profound and somehow participating in the Great Commission by packing a shoebox gift. That's crazy, but we get to be a part of it.

Speaker 4:

So, yeah, I just want to zoom in on the first step, which is packing the shoebox. Last year there were over 9.4 million shoeboxes packed in the US alone in the US alone, in 10.6 globally. So you can imagine all the people that are involved in packing the shoeboxes. But, specifically, if y'all are familiar with a place called Wild Peach Texas I don't know if y'all are familiar with that, but we have some amazing year-round volunteers from Wild Peach Texas and their names are Mark and Sherry Brumbleau and I think they're the most high-quality people in the world.

Speaker 2:

Amen Go Texans.

Speaker 4:

Go Texans. So I just wanted to zoom in on their story and really honor what the Lord has done in their midst and their joy, I would say, that helped them persevere through a lot of trials. So in 2003, this church had 25 church members and each year they would pack 10, maybe 20 shoeboxes. So about a decade into packing and their peak of shoeboxes was 43 shoeboxes.

Speaker 2:

Love it.

Speaker 4:

So, a decade into packing, they realized they had been asking the Lord the wrong question. So instead of asking the Lord, what can we afford? They started asking God, god, what do you want us to do? That year they set a goal of 500 shoeboxes as a church. They exceeded it. Keep in mind 25 people. They exceeded it 532 shoeboxes. Oh my gosh, fast forward. Again they're in Wild Peach, texas. They got nailed by Hurricane Harvey. It was tragic. Seven of their church members' houses flooded, their church flooded, and that year they still packed more than 8,000 shoeboxes as a church. That is a super natural. That's a sign of wonder, if you will.

Speaker 2:

No doubt.

Speaker 4:

That's super natural, and they have also never wavered on their $10 shoebox suggested donation. So that means that they are not only packing 8,000 shoeboxes, they are also paying for the shipping cost for these, which is $80,000. And so this church has just continued to rest and the Lord, depend on the Lord and really their joy, it has been multiplied to the nations and so, yeah, they're some of our strongest partners, and when I think of joy, I think of Mark and Sherry Brunbelil.

Speaker 2:

That's a beautiful story. So tell me more, a little bit. While we're here, let's camp out for a second on packing because, joy being the theme, there is a lot of joy that goes into this, and you got grandparents and parents and kids that are coming together that are being a part of something bigger than themselves and they're getting to put some joy and some love into a box that's going to go. They're not going to know exactly where it's going to go, they're not going to get to see exactly the face. Necessarily it gets to receive it. Tell us about some stories you've heard from that multi-generational kind of experience.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, well, one of those, again from a church in Texas. We hear about children receiving shoeboxes and giving their lives to the Lord and their parents and grandparents. But we see that on this side of the shoebox. It's profound Again. It's a sign and a wonder. It's the joy of the Lord that's a witness in people's midst that as they're packing shoeboxes, so really what that looks like is maybe a packing party for a church or a group or a family, and so they'll all go out and buy all the items together and that in and of itself is just really fun and thoughtful.

Speaker 4:

But at these packing events we have heard and seen people give their lives to the Lord. They've been profoundly moved by the act of generosity or the faith of a church and they've said I don't know what this is, but I want to be a part of it for eternity. And they've repented and professed that Jesus is Lord and given their lives to the Lord. And I've heard that of a nine-year-old woman on this side of the shoebox to a six-year-old little girl. So the Lord really is moving in our midst.

Speaker 2:

Praise God. So step one packing. Step two there's six steps. By the way, maggie gets the first three, then we're bringing in the ringer the closer for the last three. But step two, let's talk about collecting. What happens next?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, so collecting, also known as like we have drop-off locations. We have over 4,500 drop-off locations all over the US, and so this is churches or local businesses and they open up their doors for one week, called National Collection Week. It is like for us in the domestic side. It's what we work for all year. It's when we start seeing the shoeboxes come in by the millions and the thousands and it feels like Christmas all week. It's astounding Because every year we start at zero shoeboxes we don't carry shoeboxes over. Every year it's zero and then we just see the Lord multiply and grow and move and it blows our minds and it moves us towards it.

Speaker 2:

I love that.

Speaker 4:

So the collecting is over 4,500 locations open their doors and people find a drop-off location is what we call it near them and they come and they drop off their shoeboxes. So in 2019, we had a story of this man named Bill who lived in Tennessee and Bill, every day he drove past Operation Christmas Child signage. He was just curious, he was like I don't know what that is. So during National Collection Week, he actually pulled in, he parked his car and he walked in and he just said hey, what's Operation Christmas Child? I just see this signage, I've seen it at this church, and they said hey, operation Christmas Child is packing shoebox gifts for children all over the world to share with them a tangible expression of God's love. He's like well, I don't really believe in God, but that's great, I'll do it because it's a good thing.

Speaker 4:

So Bill's wife had passed away the year before and he packed shoeboxes. He packed a shoebox in honor of her, but Bill just kind of thought that it was cool. He lingered the whole week. So we went and packed shoebox and brought it in and then he just kind of lingered and they told him about Jesus and they told him about the message of salvation and Bill gave his life to the Lord during National Collection Week at a drop-off location, and so that's what I'm saying, like just this thread of overwhelming joy that is a witness of Christ's love here and all around the world.

Speaker 2:

I love it. I love it. So we pack a box, we collect the boxes, and now we've got to get the boxes to a certain location or locations, stateside, or at the sending churches globally. So next step shipping.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. So we say shipping and another way that we can kind of think about that is just a mega collection, if you will. So we have eight processing centers all over the US, drop-off locations. There's so much coordination of logistics but all the shoeboxes go from the singular drop-off locations to one of these eight massive warehouses processing centers, and we have over a hundred thousand volunteers that come in the US, they go to a local processing center and they'll volunteer two hours, four hours. Some travel, like I was serving in Texas and we had women from, like, north Dakota. They were there for two weeks to volunteer every day. I just the commitment of people that love operation because the child blows our mind. That's very humbling. So we bring all the shoeboxes together and we actually have to process them so that suckers don't go to children on the world.

Speaker 3:

Oh boy, hey, maggie. So I used to serve as a chaplain in the NFL, and specifically for the Carolina Panthers, and so the whole team we went to go serve at the distribution center or at the processing center there in Charlotte at one point and it was so cool. There were some big guys and we moved a lot of boxes and it was like we were very much in competition with one another and it was amazing. Such a cool experience, and I'm 90% positive that the sucker that ended up in Malawi was probably one of the boxes that I missed they're taking personal responsibility.

Speaker 3:

I'm circling it back around, I'm taking personal responsibility. The sucker was in my box that I missed because I was so enamored with, in the competition of all of these football players, moving a bunch of boxes at the processing center.

Speaker 4:

Oh yeah, the competition is honestly really real in the processing centers and it's really fun. There's just this like, there's this sense of just purpose, and we have these short breaks every like two hours or so where we just everyone who's near a box just lays their hands on the shoeboxes you probably did that, clint, and praise for every child that is going to be receiving these shoeboxes. So this is really. It's a Herculean effort on behalf of our logistics team, domestic and international. And then it is a beautiful point If you think about it linearly, we're domestic, hands off the baton to our incredible international team and just says may the Lord go with you and be with you and they send these shoeboxes all over the world.

Speaker 2:

Kimberly, you know what that means.

Speaker 5:

I know what that means.

Speaker 2:

That means you're up, my friend. The baton has been passed All right, so tell us what happens next.

Speaker 5:

Boxes are processed in the processing centers and our team is on site to help load the containers with the processed cartons of shoeboxes. And those containers are. It's an art and a science. There are specific load specifications and let me just multiply the challenge here because not all containers are alike. So what gets packed to go on a shipping container is a different load specification than what gets packed to go on trucks that are going across the border in New Mexico, and it's different even for those in our affiliate offices overseas who have yet different specifications. And so we have a fantastic logistics team that works with us on the international side and they are constantly running numbers and doing calculations and putting together loads.

Speaker 5:

And all of this is done to facilitate a plan for these containers going into 115 countries around the world. So we take what's been generously given and prayed for multiple times here in the domestic operations and by our wonderful donors and shoebox packers around the country, and we put that into a plan that has boxes being put on container ships heading towards the Philippines. Usually those are packed in our Fullerton California facility and they start their long journey. And in Texas we send a lot of boxes down to Mexico. In Colorado, those trucks are loaded and they go down to Mexico and et cetera, et cetera.

Speaker 5:

And let me just tell you a little story about the trucks that go to Mexico, because one of the very important things that happens in every single country is called importation and we have to get clearance, for we have to get permission to import the boxes, which can be challenging sometimes because we don't know what is in every single box. We can't just say here's a load of toys, they're all this let us in. Every single box is unique, packed with love, prayed over and has contains different items. And so there is a lot of prayer that goes around the importation process to give us favor with government officials to let us in.

Speaker 2:

No doubt, that's huge.

Speaker 5:

So when we drive these trucks down from the Denver processing center down to the Mexican border, we have a team on the ground there that is facilitating. They've built relationships with the customs officials, they've been down there, they've got prayer cover. Like people in the country, our prayer partners are praying. Please give us favor. Please give us favor. And those trucks 99 of them to Mexico are one by one, yet processed, they get inspected and they praise God make it across the border, and so we really pray for that. We pray for this every year In a similar process. Just think 115 unique countries, unique governments, unique customs officials and somehow it's a God work that those boxes get across the border and into the hands of our volunteers in those countries.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no doubt about it. And you say 115 countries. The graphic I'm looking at says 100, so that tells me we're growing, we're going into new countries every year. I mean, what would you say? The growth rate is five or 10 new countries kind of a year right now.

Speaker 5:

I would say yes to that and we're constantly working to get into countries where God is leading us to go. Sometimes we may get impacted by a conflict or something going on in a region. Our teams are constantly working to see where can we reach children with the gospel of Jesus.

Speaker 3:

So we're only on step four right now and I'm blown away by how much this entire process is covered in prayer. It's just incredible. It's not just the packing boxes at your church, it's not just the distribution centers, it's not just the processing, it's not just the shipping and the borders Every single part of this process is completely covered in prayer and God gets all of the glory from all of this. It's one of those things where I'm blown away that I get to live in a time where the proclamation of the gospel is happening like this. This is incredible.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, it's amazing, and you're right. We call prayer the foundation of the ministry. We want everything covered in prayer. We want the whole ministry covered as a whole, and then we pray for individuals. We get prayer requests constantly coming our way about individual challenges, someone who's going through one of our international volunteers or one of our domestic volunteers or our staff. We pray for it all because God sees and moves the big ministry and he sees each person. You had four and a half million children enrolled just in one year in the discipleship program the greatest journey. These numbers are big and they're impressive sounding. When we talk about these numbers, we a lot of times will say them all the way out to the single digit, because we know that God sees each and every child as a special creation of his and he loves each one so much.

Speaker 2:

Praise the Lord. You know what they're shoeboxes. But I see an analogy to lunchboxes because they're like some loaves and some fish. Those boxes don't just get the kid right, they get the family right. There's a multiplication effort there. Even last week, when we're hearing from Pastor Zira and the Himbah tribe, he kept using the word headman. The headman right. The tribal leaders got into it right, their hearts were softened. The family showed up, the whole village. You're seeing people following Christ and now making disciples, now taking that to the villages around them. So I don't it's not just a shoebox, I mean it's a lunchbox and it's an opportunity and through all that prayer for the Lord, to multiply.

Speaker 2:

I'm kind of a background finance guy, so numbers aren't just numbers to me. I like to think about them in this context. You're in 60% of the world's countries. There's 195 countries in the world, right, you're in 60%. Now, if I'm in, if I'm one of those other 80 countries, at this point I might be kind of asking some questions and going, I might reach out, you know, I might reach out to Espion and say, hey, come in here. We got some good kids that need to understand this stuff. We've got some families. We've got some opportunity here in our country. Let's get it in the rest of the spots where we aren't yet right.

Speaker 4:

Amen. We've been in over 170 countries and territories is how we describe that, and so I guess maybe it's a little higher of what we've reached. You know, each year it's closer to around 100 to 115 countries for each year, but historically we're up there.

Speaker 2:

That's truly amazing. Let's continue on our journey. We've got through this distribution phase and so the next step now. The trucks have gone, the planes have gone, the ships have gone, boxes are on the ground. Now they're going to the local churches, they're going to the local centers and you have these outreach events. So take us through Kimberly. What does it look like on that side of the receiving hands that are making the actual delivery?

Speaker 5:

Well, let me take let me take us back one step from the outreach event. There is a group of over 7,100 volunteers who are year round volunteers in our countries around the world, who they're the ones who plan and implement the ministry with local churches and ministry partners. So they are working even now to plan for the boxes that are being shipped this season over to their countries and they are working to find who are the ministry partners who we're going to partner with this year. They make sure that they are ministry partners who are aligned to the gospel message, are people of integrity, and they go through this process every year of selecting just the right ministry partners to be Operation Christmas Child partners. And so teams are doing this as we speak. They're holding vision meetings, they're sharing, they're casting a vision, for you know who are, who are the children who we want to reach with Operation Christmas Child this year, and they're helping ministry leaders to catch a vision and see how can we, how can we use this to grow our reach and where we live.

Speaker 5:

And we have a ministry training. Every single year, every season, we train our ministry partner teams in the program. Here's how you plan for a really great gospel centered outreach event. You know, here's the materials, here's how to use them. We teach the teachers how to teach the greatest journey and disciple children through the 12 lessons. So all of this happens ahead of time and now we can get to the outreach event.

Speaker 2:

Okay, got it, got it. So now we're ready for outreach. So what we had to set the table with was the planning right. There had to be preparation. We had to get everybody ready to go. Is there a story that you have, from just the planning and the prep that you want to share, of somebody's heart really being changed and moved?

Speaker 5:

Well, I would love to share a story from the Philippines, and this is a story of. It's a story of multiplication that sometimes we will refer to as full circle. I don't know if you've ever heard any of our full circle speakers who come around and share how their life was changed whenever they received a shoebox as a child. Well, this is a little bit different full circle In the Philippines. They have been doing the ministry for many years and they are to the point where they have people who are teaching the greatest journey, who have now become trainers of teachers of the greatest journey, and then some who have even become discipleship coordinators, full-time volunteers year round. And it all started for them when they were a child who received a shoebox and received discipleship from a volunteer, from a teacher, through the greatest journey. I was traveling in the Philippines a couple of years ago and I was witnessing one of our train the trainer events where we brought trainers in to teach them. This is how you go and train ministry partner teams and they pulled up a PowerPoint and they started showing photos of hey in this province. Here we have 12 full circle teachers who are now here at this training and they were children who received a gift box. They said but wait, that's not all from this province over here, and this was all in one region in the Philippines, in one super region in the Philippines. There's 12 more from this region and they would stand up and come to the front and talk about how God had changed their lives through the gift box and the greatest journey. But wait, it's not over. From the south down here, we have another team and here's four more, and so on and so on, and there were 10 or 12 slides of this until there was a big group gathered at the front and the whole place was erupting just hearing the stories of these young people whose lives had been changed, who started following the Lord when they were young, through Operation Christmas Child, through the dedication of not only receiving the gift box and hearing the gospel, but the dedication of teachers who took them through the twelve lessons of the discipleship journey, the greatest journey.

Speaker 5:

This is an example to me of the investment that is happening around the world through a simple shoe box, because that shoe box is what we bring it and that's what kicks it off. It's like the big party at the beginning. That's when we have an outreach event that a team has been trained for and they plan. How are we going to plan a great event that is fun, that is safe, where all those children can hear the gospel of Jesus? What's really cool is we have developed a theologically sound, child-friendly, eight-to-ten minute gospel presentation that we train our ministry partner teams to give. We have big posters with beautiful illustrations that go along with the gospel presentation. Eight to ten minutes, they get it all. They get everything from creation to the birth of Jesus, to the death of Jesus, to how Jesus loves children, and at the end is an invitation for them to pray and follow Jesus. It's pretty amazing.

Speaker 2:

Let's dive in real quick there. On the greatest journey, there's an app that y'all created. If somebody's listening to this and they haven't ever done it, they haven't gone through it with their children, nieces, nephews, grandkids. Whoever grab this app, what is that going to be like? Tell us what they're going to, give them a little preview of becoming a character in the greatest journey and what they'll do.

Speaker 4:

We had a really generous donor here in the US that really had vision for why are we discipling children overseas? But we need this here. We need this to disciple our children here. What are kids here doing the most? Unfortunately, probably on an iPad or the phone. It was like, if they're going to be on an iPad or a phone, let's give them gospel material and content to learn from. It's honestly really fun. I've played it a couple of times just to test it out, to know what I'm telling our audience about, but it's a really child-friendly, completely rooted in the gospel. It's like these little episodes where Jesus is feeding the 5,000 and you're playing the games. You're dragging the fish into the bucket and dragging the bread into the bucket, but just like two and five, and then you see it feed 5,000. Something really fun. I'm so glad that you mentioned the greatest journey app is that we are developing that Spanish version that will be released in 2024. Again, we work with app developers and it's really top of the line content.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, fantastic. I appreciate you sharing that. If you have a chance, check out the greatest journey app. If you get it and you love it and you're like now what I want more, just some other friends of the show that I would point you towards Our friend Brent Ducing down the road here in Austin with TruePlay Games. They have committed a ton of resources and effort to putting high quality Christian content in the app store. Start with the journey, see what lands, see what clicks, and then, if you want more resources, there's a few more. If you're looking for more beyond that, send us a note and we're happy to connect you. Now we know where we can go on the journey. Now we know we're going to be able to go on the journey in a new language and I'm sure there will be more that we'll come after. Let's get back, kimberly, on our storyline here. What comes next?

Speaker 5:

Okay, so we've had this wonderful, amazing, fun outreach event and at that outreach event, the teachers who have been trained invite the children to come back and join them for the greatest journey. One of the very first lessons that they hear is Jesus loves children. Children belong in the kingdom of God and he loves the children. Because we want children all around the world to know that Jesus loves them, it's really important because in so many places, children are not valued and children are going through hardship. So, fundamentally, for them to learn that God, he loves me, he values me as a person, is life changing for so many children. They study a lesson on the death and resurrection of Jesus and they have the opportunity right then to give their lives to Jesus.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I love that. I'm just curious, Clint, let me ask you a question. When you hear joy, when you think joy, when joy is the theme of the day, show what comes to mind for you.

Speaker 3:

So the first thing that pops in my head is this it's through the spirit. Through the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith. When it's still in the self-control, check me and make sure I got all those. Yeah, that get all of them. Come on, pastor, let's go pastor.

Speaker 3:

The fact of the matter is people are desperate for contentment, for happiness, for joy, and oftentimes those things get confused with one another. But joy is a fruit of the spirit, meaning that it exists exclusively behind a relationship with Jesus. It exists exclusively because of the spirit of God being active and involved in our lives. And when I hear all of these stories from all these different countries, these over 100 partner countries where we're shipping boxes around the world but the joy of the Lord is the thing that changes the lives of these kids and changes the lives of these families, and the only hope that they have to receive the fullness of joy is to have a relationship with Jesus, Amen. And so I'm so thankful that these boxes give way to the greatest journey, which the greatest journey is a process of by which they have the ability to understand and discover this joy that they can have in the Lord.

Speaker 2:

I love that, maggie, you know what's coming. Same question when you think joy in this Christmas season, where do you go?

Speaker 4:

When I was 11,. I just remember the Holy Spirit telling me he's marked my life with joy, like my whole life. People have said, maggie, you're so happy, you're so happy. And I say, listen, it's the joy of the Lord. There's full joy in His presence. That's what I live for, not for the joy, but for His presence. The heavens reign at the presence of God. Sai and I moved at the presence of God. It's like, lord, if mountains move and heaven responds to your presence, soften our heart that we would respond to your presence. And there's just this natural overflow of joy that comes when the Lord is here, and he is here and you all, god with us.

Speaker 5:

I love the passage from Matthew 19 where Jesus says let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. When we talk about joy, it's the purity that we see in children that God tells us that it belongs to them. You know, they're the ones that. And he tells us in another passage that we have to become like them. Yeah, be, childlike.

Speaker 5:

So the joy that we and all of our people, who, everyone who's a part of Operation Christmas Child, will see the statement good news, great joy, and this is real. And it's the joy that those children exhibit that we want, we want to share in that joy that they are experiencing, because it is from the Lord, and that, to me, is what I think of when I think of joy is just the pure joy of children.

Speaker 2:

And often you can experience happiness somewhat seasonally, when times are maybe good, but joy is something that doesn't leave you as long as you're walking with the Lord. So I go to James one. I mean, look, there's a lot going on in the world right now. We're talking Christmas and we're talking joy and we're talking about spreading the love of Christ to children around the world and it is amazing. But there's a lot of other things happening and somebody's listening to this right now and they're thinking about maybe things don't feel so joyful, anything's don't feel so happy.

Speaker 2:

And when I think James one, I think, dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know, when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow. When your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. Joy does not exit stage left when circumstances change and when you give a kid a box and they go through a journey and they give their life to the Lord and they now are equipped, with the presence of the Lord, to live joyfully the rest of the days of their lives. It's through the valleys and on top of the mountains that we get to continue to have that joy. And so I asked that question, and you know, for those listening, ask yourself that question what do you think of when you think of joy? What comes to your mind? What scripture, what verse?

Speaker 2:

Send us a note, let us know, because, second Timothy 2, 2, 2, life first for discipleship in our church, a life first for Samaritan's Purse, as we learned from the first week with David and Joel, take these truths and teach them to other trustworthy people so they can pass them on to others. That is a joyful giving and this is a season for joyful giving. This is a good opportunity to segue, you know, the habits of a global Christian right. There's a lot of ways to get involved and be a part of taking the gospel to the nations. You can do it with Samaritan's Purse, of course. You can do it through Operation Christmas Child. You can pray, you can give, you can go, you can send, you can mobilize, you can welcome people on respite back home. There's so many roles to play and everyone is equipped. Everyone has one.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I just want to mention. I feel like if I could tell, if I had a megaphone that could reach the earth, I would just share. Like this project is not about. It's not about just the gifts, it's not about the toys, it's not about the small items that go in, it's about the gospel and that might go without saying. I mean, we've been touching on that the whole time, but it's such a privilege, it's such an honor to work here. The joy of the domestic volunteers and the international volunteers just electrifies you with the joy of Christ. It's impossible to not catch it, it's contagious.

Speaker 2:

I love that. It's tradition here at the Unreach podcast long standing of tradition that we ask our guests to pray for everyone on our way out. So, ladies, if you will please, yeah.

Speaker 4:

Father, yeah, we love you. We love you. We receive your love. We thank you that you created us out of an overflow of your love, that you created the earth out of an overflow of your love. We pray that you would fill us up, holy Spirit, with every good thing that you want to share with this world, that we would get to be your ambassadors, that we get to exercise our identity as children of God as we bring peace, as we bring joy, as we bring love and hope. We just bless Dustin and Clint, lord. We thank you for what you're doing through this podcast. Lord, we pray that you would reach the unreached here in the United States, lord, that people would stumble on this podcast and that their lives would be transformed as they hear about your love. Lord, we say come, holy Spirit, have your way. We submit to you, we honor you, we bless you in Jesus' name.

Speaker 5:

And Father, as we anticipate your coming during this Advent season, we just thank you that you have chosen us to be your children and we thank you for the opportunity to share your love with others. And, lord, we just ask today that you feel everyone who's listening today. Just fill each one of us with your joy. Your joy, lord, that is just beyond what our human understanding is. I pray that we would know that it was from you, lord, and if there's someone listening today who does not know you, lord, I pray that you will just pierce their heart with your joy and give them the curiosity to find out what this unexplained joy is. So, lord, thank you. Thank you for your love, thank you for filling us with the fruits of your spirit, including joy. Just bless us as we go on our way and help us to have the merriest and happiest of Christmas Holiday, celebrating your love in Jesus' name. Amen.

Speaker 2:

You just teed up next week beautifully, ladies, because love was mentioned in both of your prayers, as many as any other word, and that is the last week of the Advent season. So we're, you're, three weeks in, right here. We've got one week to go, so don't go anywhere. Come back and join us as we eagerly anticipate the arrival of the King, and we love you all in Jesus' name. Amen. Visit gmailcom. You, you, you, you, you.

The Journey of a Shoebox
Church's Journey of Joyful Shoebox Donations
The Journey of Operation Christmas Child
From Shoebox Gifts to Joyful Transformation
Prayer for Reaching Unreached in US