Greeings from Quito, Ecuador!
It has been one of the greatest joys of my life to be a part of this shoe box distribution trip with Operation Christmas Child.
Today was also one of the hardest days of my life.
We distributed boxes at three different sites today: one public school and two orphanages.
I want to tell you about one sweet little girl in particular, Ruby.
Ruby lives at an orphanage just outside of Quito. This orphanage is run by a Christian couple who have made it their mission to take in children that are at risk - the children have been abused, abandoned, or have some other special need.
The living conditions were the worst I have ever seen. Shards of glass lined the tops of the brick wall surrounding the orphanage to keep people out. The play yard was bleak.
At first it took the children quite some time to smile and respond to the clown troup that was traveling with us.
I thought of my own children at home in the United States - who were at that very moment going to the movies and out to eat lunch.
My heart broke into a million pieces.
Yet amid all of this, God was there. He was there in our travel group. He was there in a shoebox that my daughter had packed over a month ago.
I knew when I saw Ruby that she needed the box from my Anna. Ruby was so interested in the clown performance and greeted me with a hug immediately when I saw her.
She LOVED her box. I could tell she had never seen anything like this in her life.
I thought of Anna and how she lovingly packed this box. It was a powerful moment, friends - one of the most powerful of my life.
When Ruby was asked by our translator if she had ever received a gift (of any kind) before, she replied, "No.".
When asked what she learned today she said, "I learned that Jesus loves me."
Before our team left the orphanage, we were able to give a small gift to the couple that ran the orphanage and to pray with them - to let them know we loved them and we supported them.
It's SO MUCH MORE than a shoe box; so much more.
I have so much to share with you, my friends. For tonight, however, I just want to tell you that these boxes MAKE A DIFFERENCE. You have no idea the smiles, laughs, and great joy I witnessed today because of shoe boxes full of gifts.
“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”
~St. Francis of Assisi
I look forward to sharing more with you as the week progresses. We have more distributions tomorrow, and then a full day of flying home on Wednesday.
Remember, it's still not too late to pack a shoebox. You can pack a shoebox 365 days a year ONLINE... check it out - it's lots of fun and a great gift idea!