Friday, March 30, 2007


A popular Christian song that crossed over into pop play lists begins with the title words, “I can only imagine”. But the truth of the matter that is taught to us in the Old Testament (Isaiah 64:4) and repeated in 1 Corinthians 2:9 is that we can't imagine!

“No one's ever seen or heard anything like this. Never so much as imagined anything quite like it - what God has arranged for those who love Him.” The Message

Each day of our Samaritan’s Purse distribution the above verse resonated in my soul as I stood before thousands of school children. Everywhere, every side, every which way I could look were faces staring in wonderment, waiting, and watching – but they were probably also beginning to exercise their imaginations! They stood gathered under the shade trees of the schoolyard and watched while some of their peers off-loaded the huge Operation Christmas child cartons from the truck. As the older schoolboys hoisted the parcels on top of their heads it was obvious they were heavy. But do you think the children could picture the “shoe boxes” of all shapes and sizes inside? Of course not! Do you think they could grasp the diversity of each one? Some plastic, some small, some large, some wrapped with brightly colored Christmas paper, some prepared with the carefully drawn sketches of the child that filled the box back home. In one word NO!

Sometimes I think our imagination gets influenced by our own 21st century view of grandeur. When we think what great things God could prepare for us in heaven we equate it to mansions we have seen driving through the “ritzy” part of town. You know, the ones with big manicured lawns, more rooms than people, and a whole staff to take care of the menial household and gardening tasks we won't have time for as we sing hallelujahs.
In heaven, we assume we'll have wings (or something) so Mercedes, Hummers and Rolls Royces need not crowd out the more important imaginations like – chocolate without calories. Oh, the sufferings of a fallen world Oh, the cynicism of western “more means better” and “he who dies with the most toys...” still dies.

As the children hold out their hands to receive the box, the air around us fills with the sounds of excitement! You can hear those who were first in line begin to open their boxes and the shouts, the laughter, the claps of enthusiasm roll back up to us like peals of delighted thunder. We’re bending over cartons, marking books (to ensure one box per child) twisting, turning, and saying “God bless you” as fast as we can. Our sweat drips together with the Africans, and our smiles are equally as big as we hand them their box. They cannot imagine!

There is one more group that would have a hard time imagining the faces of joy at distribution site, those on the other side of the world that prepare the boxes. As I look at the hand drawn pictures of an American child being held up by and African 10,000 miles away – my imagination lifts up toward the heavens. When the girls pull out their hair clips, brightly colored purses, a red feather boa, donned with great joy and laughter, I sense the Father saying “Boy, have I got a surprise waiting for you!”

Much of the mystery, joy, and delight of the true “Christmas Child” has been stolen in America by a man in a red suit with a white beard, uttering “Ho, Ho, Ho”. I can say with confidence – IN HO – the joy, the mystery, the delight of the “Greatest Gift’ was multiplied thousands and thousands of times each day. Once again I am proud to be in the “Operation!”