Shoebox theology

First published 13th November 2012

I had the best afternoon for ages today. I was invited down to the Operation Christmas Childcollection centreat Christ the Servant church in Stockwood today by my friend and colleague Sue Farrance. Sue is the LLM at Stockwood and sub-Warden of Readers for South Bristol and she organises the collection of brightly decorated shoeboxes filled with toys and treats for needy children every year.I spent the afternoon packing completed shoeboxes into large cardboard boxes for loading into lorries destined for Belarus at the end of the week.

At the start of the afternoon Sue gave us a 15 minute briefing on how to check the shoeboxesto make sure they are okay to send. The key message was 'don't mess with the boxes'.Each boxhas been lovingly created by someone for a child they don't know butwant to have a special Christmas. Some of the boxes aren't very neatly coveredwith Christmas paper, some have an odd mix of contents, some aren't very full at all, some are full of useful but dullthings and some are, frankly, full ofwhat my nan would call 'tat'.

Checkers are asked to look carefully through the boxes without disturbing the contents too much - the creator has put them together in just the way they want the child to see them when they arrive. The checkersneed to remove anything which would be harmful to the child and anything which might prevent the whole load from getting to its destination, ie anything which would be picked up by Customs and may cause the whole shipment to be held up.Other than that, the checkers are asked not to judge the boxes by their own standards but to respect thecare with which the creator has lovingly assembled them - 'don't mess with the boxes'.

If the checkershave to take things out, there are some spare'good things' available to make up the difference. But checkers are encouraged not to add too much, just enough to fill the gap created by whathad to be removed - 'don't mess with the boxes'.

Packing the shoeboxes into the larger boxes wasn't easy. All the shoeboxes are different shapes and sizes so they don'tfit togethervery well. SometimesI had to wait with an incompletebox for quite a while, waiting for just the right size and shape of shoebox to fill the last gap in the box. And I had to be quite careful not to force a wrong-shaped shoeboxinto too small a gap - the papercovering the shoeboxes was easy to rip, spoilingthe effect the creator was hoping to achieve.Be careful with the shoeboxes, they break easily.

On Sunday I'm preaching on the heavenly banquet at church. Who knew that God would meet me this aftenoon and preach to me on that very theme?

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