When you ask Grace Jones about Operation Christmas Child (OCC), you'll quickly see that the Lord has given her a fervent love and desire for this program – her excitement is contagious! OCC has been part of Grace's life for almost as long as she can remember; she packed her first boxes at just eight years old.
Over the years, the Lord has humbled her through this program; knowing that such a simple outreach can not only bring that much-needed toothbrush or teddy bear to a person in need, but also deliver the glorious light of Christ, resonates strongly with her. Grace mentioned that one of the most touching parts of OCC is hearing full-circle stories behind the program and knowing that even in the contents of a simple shoebox headed overseas, God shows His sovereignty by getting the boxes in the right hands at the right time. The Lord moved Grace's heart in such a way that not only is OCC her passion, but also her mission-field.
Each year, Grace's enthusiasm builds and builds leading up to OCC time – you can see it in her eyes and smile as she talks about the program. Not only is OCC a way to take the gospel message to all ends of the earth, but Grace often speaks out, via social media, about OCC. Sharing information this way has provided many opportunities for her to connect with believers and non-believers alike, here at home. Grace posts about OCC and a believer with whom she wasn't previously closely connected to responds; they are then able to engage in meaningful conversation about the gospel and OCC. In addition, Grace's posts also gain interest and positive commentary from non-believers, giving her a gateway to share the gospel and for them to see the hands and feet of Christ in action. It's beautiful to see how the Lord can take our mission-field and expand it in any and every direction, using something as simple as packing a shoebox.
Grace shares that OCC is truly a simple and low-cost way for everyone to get involved in carrying the gospel across the nations, from right where their feet are planted. Since the Lord has given Grace a heart for the OCC program, she has taken on organization and leadership efforts for OCC participation within her house church – Queens and Brooklyn – a House Church meeting weekly in Oakwood and Dayton.
Queens and Brooklyn set out to produce 80 OCC boxes last year and they exceeded their goal – bringing in over 90. This year, the House Church set their goal to 100 boxes and Grace hopes they exceed that goal as well. She notes that the secret to effective OCC production is organization and lots of prayer. It gives families, couples, and singles a chance to participate together with a playing field that's accessible to all.
Each year, the House Church selects an OCC recipient demographic (age and gender) and they focus all efforts in that area. From their selected demographic, Grace develops a “shopping list” to help members of her House Church make purchases that will allow all of the boxes to be filled with a dynamic variety of useful and meaningful items. Once all items are purchased, they host a “packing party” with an assembly line set-up to get all of the boxes packed-up and prayed over before the collection date. This missional approach builds unity within the house church and fosters relationships in a new way by uniting people in overseas missions work right where they are.
Grace suggests starting early; using lists; collecting donations for shipping; shopping the dollar stores and discount store clearance sections; working with an assembly line; and, of course, praying intentionally over each box, its recipient and those delivering it.
Author & Photographer: Tess Augustine