Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child

Elizabeth P

Elizabeth P

I am a recovering Army brat who loves to travel and start new adventures. My handsome husband and I met at Oklahoma Christian University and he whisked me away to Kansas. So, I bought some ruby red high heels and made Topeka my home. I have a rough and rowdy Princess 4-year-old girl, amazing twin boys (almost 3) and a newborn baby girl who all make every day an adventure. We are grateful to be part of an amazing church in Topeka who regularly challenges and encourages our whole family. I have been both a full-time working mom and a stay-at-home-mom and/or both at the same time at one point or another. I am constantly seeking God’s wisdom on “balancing it all” and following His plan for my life, not mine.
Elizabeth P

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The Power of a Gift

Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is one of my favorite ministries. If you’ve never heard of it, I hope this becomes one you choose to support! They say it’s the “power of a simple gift” which opens the door to transforming lives, communities, and eventually nations. The third week of November is National Collection Week and most likely there is a drop off location near you. 

The folks at Operation Christmas Child make it so easy to be a part of overseas missions. Plus, it is a fun thing to do with your kids during the holiday season. In each box goes a few small gifts or needed items, but what comes out is eternal. Think of every box as a soul, a child with whom the gospel will be shared.  Even better, OCC provides discipleship through local churches for follow up. OCC supports these churches in a variety of ways so that they can best lead and impact their communities.

Building a box is easy. Please do one this year…or five. You can even build a box online, or track it so you know where it gets delivered!

Need some ideas for what to put in the box? Consider these items:

  • Toothbrush, hair brush, comb, or mirror compact
  • Soccer ball with pump
  • Stuffed animal
  • Small doll or action figure
  • Coloring book and crayons
  • Stickers
  • Play dough
  • Clothing
  • School supplies
  • Yo-yo or Frisbee

Please take a minute to watch this video or click on the picture below to learn more about this exciting ministry.

Operation Christmas Child

Have you packed a shoe box before? What did you enjoy about it? 

What Is My Purpose?: A Question Everyone Asks

What Is My Purpose?: A Question Everyone Asks

Melissa W

Melissa W

Melissa is an Okie with a Texas heart. She is a wife and a mother of three - two boys and a girl (the girl being squished right in the middle). After having taught in the classroom for 8 years, she now happily finds herself as a stay-at-home homeschool mom living life on her little 1 1/2 acre homestead raising chickens, two goats and a small garden. In any spare time, she enjoys leisure reading and also enjoys writing on her blog (chroniclesofakeeper.com). Out of all the little adventures of life - her greatest joy is found in her relationship with God. Walking in His grace, living in His peace and resting in His redemption is something she is very passionate about sharing with others.
Melissa W

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What is My Purpose?

This life question will haunt many at one point in time or another: What is my purpose? The amount of time I have put into this thought alone accounts for over half my life. A haunting feeling always rising to the surface which begs the question of enough. Am I doing enough? Is what I am doing enough? This train of thought can suffocate and eventually destroy the drive that propels one into living out the purpose-filled life.

Over the last couple of years, I have come to a better understanding of what my purpose is and what it isn’t. Purpose has taken on a different meaning and I see life through different lenses. The process has led me away from the draining and approval-seeking path to one that is fulfilling and grace-filled.

Chasing the Wind

But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. – Ecclesiastes 2:11

If I could, I would throw out quite a few verses from the book of Ecclesiastes. I feel like I have a really good grasp on what Solomon was agonizing over in his deep contemplation of life. I too have sat back and taken assessment of my accomplishments, my possessions, and accounted for those gifts that are precious to me. People, things, decisions, awards, positions held–every moment of life–meaningless? Perhaps we search so hard for purpose, because we innately recognize the meaninglessness of everything. We were designed for purpose. Yet when that purpose is not understood–or worse, when it has been distorted–we mar and waste said purpose.

The effort and time we put into things, even good things, can all amount to wind chasing. Our work and our accomplishments are futile and they exhaust, with no hope of rejuvenation. When purpose is left out, all of the good and important things we do wash away like sand. We are left contemplating the thought of meaningless and enough.

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An Established Meaning

The first question found in the Westminster Shorter Catechisms asks: What is the chief end of man? The answer then given is: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

If we could let the knowledge of our prime purpose sink deeply, would it change us? We were created to bring Him glory and to enjoy His glory. I don’t know about you, but the knowledge of that is freeing and beautiful to me. This purpose, once known, makes all other decisions in life a little more clear–it is this ultimate purpose which drives.

“A sunset seen from the top of the I.D.S.—that’s glory. Or the I.D.S. itself almost invisible, like crystal against a grey-blue sky—that’s glory. A perfect performance on the balance beam by Nadia Comaneci—that’s glory. A perfectly executed 30-foot jump shot with one second to go—that’s glory, too…The glory of God is the beauty and excellence of his manifold perfections. It is an attempt to put into words what God is like in his magnificence and purity. It refers to his infinite and overflowing fullness of all that is good. The term might focus on his different attributes from time to time—like his power and wisdom and mercy and justice—because each one is indeed awesome and beautiful in its magnitude and quality. But in general God’s glory is the perfect harmony of all his attributes into one infinitely beautiful and personal being.”  –John Piper, God Created Us For His Glory

A Covering of Grace

I think of the years I spent looking for purpose, I think of the years I spent hiding from purpose, and now, I think of the years to come with an understood purpose. It is a covering of grace that can take wasted years and use them for His glory. It is a covering of grace that takes the new and untouched years for His glory, too. That is the thing about our purpose…it is not separate from Him. His grace is woven deeply in a tapestry of a life lived for Him and enjoyed through Him.

Embrace Purpose

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men… – Colossians 3:23

Sometimes, the purposeful life may tempt us to feel “less than.” Often, our perspective of this life is measured by great success in the eyes of man. We might even struggle as we look to the right or to the left and see others living out their purpose-filled life…and we may feel as if ours does not measure up. We might see those who lead thousands to Christ, we might see those who are glorifying Him while the world watches, and we may see those whose lives look so much more important than our own. When this temptation of comparison befalls us, we surrender to Him and press forward, looking straight ahead. We keep our gaze on Him and we complete every task for His glory and we soak in the joy that He offers. It is then and there that we will know we are living a life of purpose, because everything we do is for Him.

“To do even the most humbling tasks to the glory of God takes the Almighty God Incarnate working in us.”

-Oswald Chambers-

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What is my purpose- Social

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Six Tips to Prepare for Your Mission Trip

Six Tips to Prepare for Your Mission Trip

Toni B

Toni Burns was raised in a missionary family, they lived in Italy until she was 11.Upon returning to the states her family worked in South Dakota. While in college at Oklahoma State Toni did a summer mission trip to Ukraine. The following year she moved to Lubbock, Texas to attend missions school.She interned in Kosice, Slovakia for 13 months.After her internship she finished missions school and got a degree in Human Development from Texas Tech.Toni and her family lived in Guadalajara, Mexicofor 10 years.During that time they helped plant churches and minister to the Mexican people.Toni and her husband, Cory, mentored 21 year long interns during their stay in Guadalajara.
Currently Toni is a Realtor® in Lubbock, Texas and enjoys ministering to those she helps buy and sell houses.

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Preparing for Summer Mission Trips

Summer is my favorite time of the year. I love the warm weather and traveling. Over half my life, I have been blessed to do mission work and travel to other countries. I have worked in Ukraine, Russia, Slovakia, Italy, and most recently spent ten years in Mexico.

There is no greater joy than traveling around God’s creation sharing Jesus with others. Many of you might be preparing to leave, or have a loved one leaving for summer mission trips. I would love to share some things with you that I have learned about missions to prepare you for this great experience.

Mark 16:15

1.  The American way is not the only way.

Yes, we live in a great country and are very blessed in many ways. Please do not expect or want natives to act as Americans do. They are God’s creation just as much as you are, but they might do things differently than you do.  It’s not a question of right or wrong–it’s just different. Embrace the differences and praise God that we are all different even though we are made in His image. Praise God for the diversity in cultures.

Enjoy the culture you are visiting. Try new foods, activities, and enjoy the sights.

2.  Bless the people, but at the same time make your work simple and reproducible. 

It’s fun to bless the natives with neat gifts and crafts from the United States. Just make sure that you are not making it an environment where they think the only way they can bless others is by having neat things that they might not be able to get.  Help them see that sharing God’s message can be simple and is reproducible.

3.  Don’t make promises you can’t keep.  

You will fall in love with people and places on your trip. Please don’t tell them you will come visit or promise to send them gifts, etc.  Remember, “let your yes be yes.” It is easy to build a deep love for those you will serve. As you leave you will want to promise them that you will see them again. Hopefully that is true, but realistically you might not ever get to go back. They will hold on to that promise and will be disappointed or bitter when you can’t fulfill your promise.

4.  Be more like Jesus every day. 

While living on the mission field my husband and I mentored twenty-one interns. One of the most important things we tried to instill in them was that being more like Jesus every day is all that is expected of them. God will do the rest. We go on these mission trips wanting to save the world. If we go with expectations of baptizing and converting we might come home feeling like a failure. This is one of the devil’s ways of discouraging the church. Did you come home more like Jesus? Do you have more of a vision for what God wants? Did others see Jesus through you? Don’t define your success with things that are out of your control.

5.  Don’t expect those at home to understand what you have experienced. 

You will come back a changed person. Unfortunately many people back home will not understand how life-changing the experience was. They might not even think to ask you about how it went. Before you leave, set up some times to meet with people when you come back. Maybe you can host a breakfast or lunch for your supporters, missions committee, and family. Plan times when you can talk about your experience so others can be blessed by what you learned.

6.  Have a great time and keep your eyes open to His blessings!

 

Six Tips to prepare for your mission trip

Five Characteristics of a Unified Church

Five Characteristics of a Unified Church

Tamika R

Tamika R

I was born in Denver, Colorado. I moved to OKC after quitting my jobs as a teacher and YouthIntern to pursue the call into ministry. I started as a non traditional student at Oklahoma where I met my husband. He was a non traditional student working on a 2nd degree after moving from Poland to pursue a degree in Ministry. We dreamed together of serving the Lord in Europe. Now we are blessed to be witness to the awesome way that God works all over the world. We live in Vienna, Austria with our3 kids. We work with Eastern European Mission. We provide Bibles and ethics materials in native languages of Eastern Europe. That means we get to seeGod's hand and providence all over Europe. I am Publishing Assistant at EEM and a fitness trainer. I fill my days caring for my family, teaching gym classes and designing book covers and working on details to provide quality materials to those who need God's word. In my free time I paint, cook, make jewelry and run 2 blogs.
Tamika R

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Why is Church unity important? What does it mean exactly?

We travel to churches in various parts of the world each year. We meet with the churches we partner with and are constantly building relationships with new ones.

It is really one of my favorite things to do. Each church has its own unique set of characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses. I like to think of it as fingerprints. No two are the same, and they are indicative of who you are.

Unity is one of the things I always look for. Unity in Christ crosses cultures and any other boundary we put in its way. When the body of Christ is unified it looks the same in the U.S., Africa, Honduras, and Germany.

When we are of one mind and working in one accord as the Lord has asked, it is unforgettable and in some cases truly life-changing.

Here are some of the things I have learned as we have witnessed the power of unity in Christ.

Five Characteristics of a Unified Church:

Take advantage of everyone’s gifts and strengths. They allow everyone the blessing of giving their gift back in service of the Lord, knowing that it will benefit and grow all of them.

They confront whatever threatens the body of Christ. If someone is stirring up disunity or hurting the spiritual development of individuals, they put an end to it.

They pray defensively. The things on the prayer list are more about edification, encouragement, and vision for the church and its members. When someone struggles with faith or in life, they all carry the burden and bring their concerns to the Father in prayer.

They do not brush issues under the rug. They confront them, deal with them, and move on. The first time I witnessed this, we were at a family retreat in Croatia. A woman who had an issue with the behavior of another member asked the speaker about it during a session. One of the church leaders stood up and facilitated a discussion that helped both sides to work through it.

They don’t allow fear to stop them. One of my favorite churches to watch, hear about, and fellowship with is the church in Athens. It is the most diverse group of Christians I have ever seen. They hold multiple services, Bible studies, and events to spread God’s love to the many different people groups that gather there. As a matter of fact, last Sunday, the church in Athens baptized nine refugees traveling to build lives in Europe. While many fear all the unknown things that come with such a large group of people on the move, this church is taking advantage of joining God in meeting the people in some of their darkest moments. Keep in mind, this is a church that within itself has multiple nationalities. Aside from the many obvious differences they work together to bring others to Christ.

So what does this mean for us? What is our call to action?

Church unity begins with each one of us. When we decide to use our gifts to edify and develop the church, we are living as the body of Christ. When we forgive, have hard conversations, and pray blessing and success on one another, we are building up the church. Each one of us has the responsibility of ministering to one another and the world.

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A Road Map to Unity

Ephesians 4:1-16 gives us a road map on how we need to behave to grow in Christ and foster unity. Take some time today to read it and think about what role you have to play in your church.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gently; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  This is why it says:  “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)  So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Are there ways you bring about disunity?

What are your talents and how can you use them to build up the church?

ephesians-4_2

Love Gives Freely

Love Gives Freely

Tamika R

Tamika R

I was born in Denver, Colorado. I moved to OKC after quitting my jobs as a teacher and YouthIntern to pursue the call into ministry. I started as a non traditional student at Oklahoma where I met my husband. He was a non traditional student working on a 2nd degree after moving from Poland to pursue a degree in Ministry. We dreamed together of serving the Lord in Europe. Now we are blessed to be witness to the awesome way that God works all over the world. We live in Vienna, Austria with our3 kids. We work with Eastern European Mission. We provide Bibles and ethics materials in native languages of Eastern Europe. That means we get to seeGod's hand and providence all over Europe. I am Publishing Assistant at EEM and a fitness trainer. I fill my days caring for my family, teaching gym classes and designing book covers and working on details to provide quality materials to those who need God's word. In my free time I paint, cook, make jewelry and run 2 blogs.
Tamika R

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The Shunammite Woman

Do you remember the story of the Shunammite woman? You can find it in 2 Kings 4:8-41. It is a beautiful story full of selfless actions. She is a woman who had great means. She used what she had to bless the servant of the Lord without being asked.

God took notice and blessed her in kind.  Even when tragedy struck, she responded with grace. She was able to say, “It is well,” and walk forward with hope and trust. She knew who she was dealing with and behaved as one who had expectations that the LORD could do all she thought he could. Not only did she believe he could, everything she did was evidence that she believed he would.

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Last year while having breakfast with my dear friend Leslie, I heard of women in India who have this kind of faith.

Leslie is an amazing and inspiring woman whom I met about four years ago. We bonded by talking about creative projects. She lives in Ireland, but she and her husband minister all over the world so we cross paths often. My husband was there preaching about three weeks ago. He returned excited about the projects Leslie is involved in. Naturally, I couldn’t wait to hear about them myself.

She spends her free time trying to support women in India who could greatly benefit from very little. As she was talking to me about the things she does, I thought, why couldn’t I join her and we could help more women? I have decided not only will I join her, but I would like to invite other creative souls out there to join as well.

Curious?

Let me tell you what she is doing. The first project brings us back to the Shunammite woman. There are women in the Indian villages who need jobs. They are people who can and will work in a local craft. They want to start their own business in their craft, but they need start-up money. The organization is called SWAN and was named after the Shunammite woman. All of the women enrolled in the program have already committed to give 10% of their earnings to support the local preacher.  How much money is needed depends on the craft and the village.sweetcoupleinIndia

The second project is a more personal one. They have a rice project in the village of Pavara in Andhra Pradesh. They provide daily rice for about 150 widows and orphans. During this year’s trip, Leslie noticed an elderly couple and asked for their story. In their culture, the son would provide for them as well as his family in their old age, but their son is really poor and can barely care for his own kids and grandkids. So they collect wood and sell it. The husband chops and the woman pushes the wagon. For the past two years they have been unable to make this journey.

They should both be getting a pension, but for some reason the government is only paying him one. So they work. The pension they receive is 14 Euros ($14.87) a month. They can’t live on it. The amount of the pension for one year is 200 Euros. Leslie was able to sell crafts this past month to provide for her for this next year. I would like to raise 200 Euros ($212.36) to give her another year of pension.

Do You Have a Heart for Giving?

If you have a heart for giving and a passion for crafting, would you think of a way you could make and sell something to help these women? Women who are making so very little. Women who are willing to work hard to get the smallest amount of money to help their families and others.

I have set a goal this year to make 200 Euros to support this woman for the next year. Whatever I make beyond that I will give to the Shunammite Project in India. This will allow me to help women have the joy of creating, selling, and sharing to further the spread of the word of God in their villages. Everything made or collected for these women is 100% used for these purposes. It is all very well organized and professional. I will be painting, making beads, and felting.  You can do anything you love. If so, comment below and we will begin in January. Also, if you aren’t interested in making or selling something but would like to donate money, I know that would also be welcome.

Would you be willing to join me?

You can get involved by purchasing these great books written by Tony Coffey. He is Leslie’s husband. I read Once a Catholic before traveling to Europe on a mission trip for the first time. I recently created a cover for the Croatian translation of Answers to Questions Catholics are Asking.  He gives the proceeds from his books to the works and ministries in India as well.

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A House Divided Cannot Stand

A House Divided Cannot Stand

Toni D

Toni D

Toni was born and raised in a small town in Oklahoma.She graduated from East Central University with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Economics.After college, she returned to her hometown to marry her best friend, Charles.Toni is a stay at home mom to their three teens, two boys and a girl, whom God led them to homeschool.Her goal is to raise her children to love and serve the Lord.They live on a farm where they grow produce to sell at several farmers markets.She also plays the piano at church and teaches piano.
Toni D

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A House–and a Nation–Divided

In Oklahoma, where I live, we have a slogan: “A House Divided.”  This refers to families in which part of the family are University of Oklahoma (OU) fans and the other part of the family are Oklahoma State University (OSU) fans.  My family is one of those families.  We raised our children in an OU home, and our oldest child just started his sophomore year at OSU.  He is now an OSU convert, which has made for some interesting dinner conversation.

The Bible also speaks of a house divided.  “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”  (Mark 3:25 NASB)  Let’s back up to verse 24.  It states, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”  Right now, this is my concern and my fear.  Race, political affiliation, gender, religious affiliation, age–all of these and more divide our country.  This is not to place blame but to look at the issue of division.

a-house-divided

If we continue to allow labels to divide us as a nation, we cannot continue to exist.  Our country is in turmoil right now.  There are constant riots.  Ugliness surrounds the election and politics in general.  The wage gap between men and women is yet another point of contention.  Denominations bicker amongst themselves.  All these things have led to a division in our nation.  We are tearing our nation apart with all this.

Unity through Christ

I am not saying that we should compromise our principles.  We need to stand up for what is right, for what God tells us!  We must share the Good News of the Gospel.  The only way to have peace is through Christ.  As Christians, we must unite and take our country back.  Our nation needs a true revival of His people.  We must wake up!  We cannot sit idly by and wait for someone else to do it.  I am not talking politics here.  We must share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If all Christians would stand together, we could make a difference.

Perhaps University affiliation divides my household, but it is united on God.  My husband and I raised our children for God.  We taught them about Jesus and all three of them have a personal relationship with Christ.  That was our duty as their parents, to teach them.  It is our duty to share the gospel with others.  We like to push that off on the Church.   But it’s important to remember that WE ARE THE CHURCH!

Do you share your faith with others?

If not, what prevents you from sharing it?

A House Divided

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