How Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes Grew Two Kingdomworkers

I am hesitant to publish this post, because it means I’m fully committed when I do.  But here I go.  I am posting “chapter 2” of the book I am currently writing about the grand adventure Livvy and I have taken when we believed that God would help us raise $35,000 to rebuild a hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  You can click on the links in this post and see the videos that Samaritan’s Purse filmed last year (2015) when we got to go to the DRC for the dedication of the new maternity ward which now serves approximately 1200 mothers and their babies.  You can also read more about all of that by going to this blog post, written immediately upon our return last year.

Since Livvy and I have founded The Number One Team, Inc.,  we have been reflecting on how the two of us at the age of 12 and 16 have even gotten here!  This particular chapter tells much of that story.  I hope you enjoy this.  Comment to let me know what you think, because I’ve never written a book before and I am hoping it will inspire others to step out in faith to do something to glorify God and help others as well.

A Leap of Faith©

shoeboxWhen I think back to my early childhood, I see a vast “library” of fun and memorable experiences. Of the many books and novels in the collection, I see an entire series titled, Time I Spent With Grandma. I can very vividly remember my grandma taking my sister and me, to her church every Wednesday and showing us off to her friends in a way that only a grandma could. Another chapter in this same book, describes an annual tradition when she would take us down to the local bargain-store to pick out items to put inside two Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes. Of these items, we would include hygiene items and gender specific toys, which Livvy and I would pick out personally (and wished we could have kept for ourselves). During these formative years, I never understood why any child, rich or poor, would ever want to receive a shoebox with a teddy bear, race car, and a toothbrush. Today, I know that regardless of how much they hate it, children must brush their teeth (a concept unknown to most children younger than nine years old).

Another concept that I have learned through growing up, is that this tradition of packing a shoebox was monumental in bringing me to where I am today. Teaching a child who does not know left from right, what it feels like to send a gift to someone across the globe, is a lesson that can only be bought with Bargain Mart race cars and Scooby Doo toothbrushes. Little did I know that not only was I having acts of kindness and concern for others planted into my soul, a Samaritans Purse Christmas catalog would be sent to our home each year thereafter, because of our international boxes of love. Since my grandma lives with us, and she had already subscribed to the Samaritan’s Purse gift catalog, all of her mail would be sorted through by one of us, and brought down to her since the mail sorting was a traditional daily, family chore for the youngest child.

photo-sep-25-6-08-08-amOne fateful October day in 2013, my sister and I were doing our daily mail sorting, and saw an image of a happy, foreign girl holding a few baby chickens. Intrigued by the adorable little creatures on the cover, we immediately opened it up to see what this magazine was all about. We quickly found that there was a nearly infinite number of ways that we could help those who are much less fortunate than we are. My sister and I immediately wanted to do something to help, but we were just two, average, helpless children. What could we do?

After a short brainstorming session, we decided to do the one thing we could do at the time, which was to make and decorate cakes. We baked a few cupcakes and I decorated them to look like bugs. We posted a handwritten sign about the intended use of the proceeds and a plea to: “Please donate!” That’s exactly what people did at the garage sale where we offered them.

To have enough money to send chickens ( the cute ones shown on the cover), we needed $14. We raised $35. Instead of spending our surplus on two sets of chickens or other random gifts, we decided to pool our money and set a slightly larger goal of a $70 goat. To a 9 and 13 year old, jumping from $14 to $70 was similar to transferring a goldfish from the PetSmart tank, into the neighborhood swimming pool. Regardless, we called our wage-earning cousins, clutching our catalog opened up to the goat, and asked that they donate the remaining $35 dollars. After a quick conversation, we hung up with a fistful of hope and thirty-five additional dollars.

“That was too easy,” we said to ourselves, as we looked for the next object we wanted to save for. As fingers flipped the pages, our eyes read a line that said, “Medical Supplies: $150.” “YOU CAN BUY MEDICAL SUPPLIES FOR JUST $150!?!” That was the obvious next goal, so we held onto our money and scoped out the next audience we would ask for funds.

When I first started making cakes, I set up a Facebook page to document my creations and let others know that I was an aspiring “Cake Boss.” I did not know at the time that this digital journal could be used as free advertisement. I immediately posted on Facebook that Livvy and I would make a cake for anyone who would donate to our cause. Livvy and I discussed this new goal for several days. In fact, although we thought the $150 was a wonderful goal, there was something nagging at us. We kept going back to two items in the catalog that we had been completely drawn to. With our vast knowledge of fundraising thus far, we calculated that we would have the money in no time at all.

Before even getting one more donation toward this new goal of the medical supplies, we prayed and considered moving up again to one of the two items. Livvy and I held a “mini board meeting” amongst ourselves, and decided that if we were going to do something larger than the goat, we wanted to do it for two reasons: we wanted to help others in an extraordinary and lasting way, but more importantly, we wanted to glorify God. We must have been struck with a sudden burst of wisdom from God, because there is no way that a 9 and 13 year old could naturally decide that if we did something that only required $150, people would think it was us who accomplished the task. We did not want that. We wanted to do something that when people looked back on it, they would have no other choice but to say, “Wow, it must have been God who did that, because there is no way those children have the resources or funds to do something that big!”

After we came up with the requirements for our new project, deciding on one became easy. The two other items in the catalog that we had been inexplicably drawn to were the biggest things in the catalog. Of course, we had to discuss this with our mom first. We sat down by the counter while she was cooking dinner, and sprang the question on her. The conversation went something like this: “Mom, Livvy and I feel like we can complete this goal of getting medical supplies on our own. And if we can do it on our own, it means it really didn’t take any faith. We want to do something that requires a lot of faith.”

“Okay, what are you thinking,” she said, without surprise in her voice or looking up from her frying pan.

“We want to either raise $10,000 for a water purifier, or $35,000 for a hospital.” Somehow, she seemed to choke in surprise. Much later, my mom explained to us her mode of thinking in that moment. She thought something along the lines of, “I have obviously not taught them anything about money. But if I say, “no” to this grand idea, everything we have been teaching them about faith will seem irrelevant.” Her next thought was, “Well, anything they get for Samaritan’s Purse is better than nothing.” What she actually said to us was, “go ahead and try.”

Again, Livvy and I had a consultation with each other. We quickly threw the water purifier idea out the window, because we wanted to go big or go home. This left only one other option.

hospital-donation-signWe posted on our Facebook page that we had changed our minds and decided to not just buy a set of medical supplies, but just go with the entire hospital instead. If anyone wanted to help us by donating, we would create a personalized cake for them. This leap felt like the PetSmart goldfish transfer was not just from the tank to a swimming pool, it was to the Atlantic Ocean, and we were jumping in with both feet.

There must be something adults love about two little blond-haired, chubby faced children raising money for needy children that just makes their wallets catch fire, because within the first two hours or so, we had already received two cake orders – one of them even gluten free. Over the next few weeks, we were up to our ears in cake and Halloween-themed, no bake cookies. In fact, two weeks after jumping from a goat to a hospital, we had inspired enough donations to be clutching $350 in our hot little hands, to which Livvy delightedly declared, “Gabe, we have 1% of our project! God is giving us our hospital!”