Today's guest blogger is someone I could have never imagined that the Lord would send to me. I have known Kathy Butler my entire life. Her first love is Jesus, she is a faithful wife, an amazing mother and even better grandmother. She loves strong, she loves well, and everyone that knows her loves her so deep. She is a mentor and sounding board for many. To me, she is a best friend and goes against what the world says about mother-in-laws. Her passion is missions and she is currently a year-round volunteer as an Area Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child. Welcome Kathy to the blog today!
I am so honored to be invited as a guest blogger. I have enjoyed so much reading each of these ladies words of encouragement each day. I will say right up front, writing is not one of my strong points. I will talk your leg off all day long, but this is a major stretch for me.
I feel so honored that the Lord is allowing me to serve Him in the ministry of Operation Christmas Child. My family and I have been packing shoeboxes for this ministry since 1995. Each year we send a couple of boxes and feel like we had done our part. About ten years into packing, the Lord impressed upon my heart that we could do more. As I looked at the number of shoes I had in my closet, I thought I should fill a shoebox for every pair of shoes I would buy for myself this year. The excitement continued to increase from that year on. In 2009, I got my church involved. I really wanted to do more for this ministry. Searching the Internet, I found that Operation Christmas Child was building teams in local communities of volunteers. These volunteers would serve by praying, calling upon churches and community groups to become involved or by placing a drop off location in the community. I signed up immediately. So here I am, seven years later, more passionate than ever before about this ministry.
In May of this year, I was given the opportunity to travel to Rwanda, Africa with several other volunteers for Samaritan’s Purse. We were there seven days and were privileged to be a part of several shoebox distributions. We also were able to see “The Greatest Journey” discipleship program in process. I knew that I was not only going into another culture to talk about Christ, but I was going to be Christ to the people there. I knew the Rwandan people would associate my behavior, attitude, and character with that of Jesus. It is not enough simply to talk about Christ, I had to imitate Him. John 15:5 says, “He who abides in me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." Not only was that true while I was serving in Rwanda, but I must imitate Christ every day of my life regardless of where I am or whom I am with.
Operation Christmas Child first distributed shoebox gifts in Rwanda in 1994. That was the year of the Rwandan Genocide. There were over one million people killed within a period of four months. When arriving in Rwanda, I thought these people may still be angry and full of bitterness, but I found that to be totally the opposite. These people were so full of kindness and thankfulness. I went to be a blessing to these people, but I received such from these precious people. I learned that 42% of the Rwandan population is fourteen years of age or younger.
At each distribution, the gospel is clearly presented in a way each child can understand before they even know there will be a tangible gift given to them. Each event proved to be different in the culture and the way the children reacted. Upon arriving at our second distribution event, the smallest children began to cry and run away from us. They had never seen white people before. It didn’t take them long to warm up to us and see we were there to bring smiles and laughter. My job during this distribution was to put the shoebox gift into the hands of the child. What an overwhelming feeling! For over twenty years, I had been filling these shoeboxes with gifts and prayers and now I was putting them into the hands of these precious children. With each shoebox, I was able to look in the big, brown eyes of these children and tell them that Jesus loved them in their language,“Yesu ara-gu-kunda”. There were eighteen adults that gave their hearts to Jesus on that beautiful morning in May.
I can still see one little girl who pulled a bar of soap out of her box and was so thrilled. She began to smell and kiss the soap over and over again. Another young boy pulled out a wad of pencils wrapped together with a rubber band and ran around holding them in the air showing them off to everyone. These children were so thankful for every item that was packed. If I had to say one item that I will always try to include in my shoeboxes, it would have to be sunglasses. Every child that pulled a pair out of their box put them on and danced around as if they were in Hollywood.
My heart is still tender from the experiences I had that week in May. I pray that the children and adults I came in contact with that week saw the love of Christ in action. If you have ever wondered if those shoeboxes you have been packing are actually making a difference, let me assure you, not only is it bringing joy into their hearts, but it is making an eternal difference for the Kingdom of Christ.