Sam and I were able to deliver 266 shoe boxes to Orlando, FL to New Missions. Our trip was sponsored by Green Valley Moving and our sister company Green Valley Auctions who donated funds to be able to deliver the shoe boxes. Crosslink Community Church has been collecting these shoe boxes from their congregation since November. We were fortunate enough to have a van big enough to carry all of the boxes plus Sam and I to Orlando. This was made possible by Rocky's Gold and Silver Antique Shop who donated their van to us. We were thrilled to be given the opportunity to get these boxes to where they needed to be. New Missions is an organization founded by Jeanne DeTellis and her late husband George. Through this organization children all across Haiti and the Dominican Republic are cared for in numerous ways by planted churches and Christian schools. These children are fed, educated and loved by the people of New Missions and those who walk along New Missions to support them.
We left Tuesday night with 2 gallon size bags of popcorn and 12 hours on the road staring us in the face. We made a few stops and spent the following evening exploring St. Augustine which is an adorable, quaint town with amazing shops and restaurants. We arrived in Orlando Thursday morning and much to our surprise from all the pictures and things you hear about Florida, it was pouring down rain. As soon as we arrived to New Missions Sam received an alert on his phone for Tornado warnings. This was not at all what we meant when we bragged to our coworkers about going to sunny and 75 degree weather. We were greeted at the door by a lady named Holly who helped us unload our truck full of boxes. Throughout the morning we went through sponsored boxes. These boxes are sent to a specific child who a donor sponsors throughout the year. They send letters, and supplies to this child who then may also write back telling about their family and may even ask for certain items they or their family may be in need of. As we sorted each box looking for donations for shipping and making sure each box was securely taped, it was almost as if you felt the love radiate from each box. Some boxes were huge and contained clothes, soccer balls, stuffed animals, shoes, notebooks and anything extra that could be stuffed into any empty space. We had to make sure that any handwritten letters did not have addresses on them which made it hard to not catch a glimpse of what was written. I cannot emphasize the amount of times ‘We just want you to know that we love you and we pray for you daily’ was written. Or, ‘please write back and tell me about your family and if there are certain things you would like to have or are in need of.' I remember one specific box that was packed for a 19 year old boy. A picture of an elderly couple was at the very top and with it a note that said, ‘You are now a young man and we hope that you are continuing to follow Jesus and live your life in the way that he would want you to.’ I stopped and wondered to myself - how long has this couple taken care of this boy? From the sounds of it, they have sponsored him and watched him grow up into a young adult. How obvious it was that they love and cared for this young man. How evident it was that they wanted him to know that he was loved by them and by his savior Jesus Christ. They cared for his eternal salvation. Their box and letter were so intentional. They love him and in some ways, he is part of their family, part of their daily prayers and part of their life even from another country away. Often times Sam and I would look at each other with an item as simple as a toothbrush or a water bottle and say to each other, ‘This is so simple, but can you imagine what it feels like to be one of these children and open up this box?” They are so full of TLC. So meticulously put together for each individual child’s needs. After each box is sorted through and taped it is then grouped into age and what school it will need to go to in order for it to reach the hands of the child it belongs to. While packing, we met a couple named Rob and Beth. It was clear that this was not their first rodeo here. We began to chit chat and of course, they quickly learned about Sam and his habits with auction. We also learned that they are repeat volunteers for New Missions and travel about 1 hour and 45 minutes to help out on almost a weekly basis! They have 5 sponsor children and if I’m not mistaken, they have been able to meet all of them. Their love for these children that they only came to know through sponsorship is that to which you would associate loving a child of your own blood or a child that you took on the role of raising, nourishing and claiming as your own. The passion that they have to take care of them is admirable. Rob used to own his own business but he and his wife were able to retire and they now volunteer with New Missions. They help organize and lead their trips to Haiti and Dominican Republic. Rob was so excited for us to be there and we expressed how we would love to do a mission trip. He quickly asked if we had ever been introduced to Jeanne, the founder of New Missions and when we said no, that was that. Within minutes Jeanne had walked by and Rob made sure that she knew that he had some introducing to do when she made her way back. Jeanne is this full spirited, high energy, Boston accent, God serving and God loving woman who emits sunshine. She hugged me and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. She talked a mile a minute and when she found out that we had driven from Virginia to drop off shoe boxes she was ecstatic. She invited us to eat lunch with them and we quickly learned that this was extra special as she is not usually in the office. That particular day she had made Indian food and let me tell you, it was delicious! It was so wonderful to meet these people and have some time to build relationships with them. The whole building just has this aura of warm, inviting love. Everyone is so welcoming and it was an honor to sit and listen to them talk about where they are going and what GOD -through them- is doing. I overheard Jeanne talking to her husband and another employee about a trip and she looked at her husband and ever so simply she said, “So we can go to Israel in March, right?” I looked at Sam and giggled. It was such a small task to her, but yet so big. God’s work can be so small just like a shoe box but the outcome expands and ripples so much farther than what we could ever imagine. I look forward to what GOD -through New Missions- is doing and I am even more excited to be able to volunteer with them again. Sam and I came home with one thing on our hearts and that is to sponsor a child and have a goal to one day be able to meet this child that we have loved, cared for and prayed for.
I encourage you to dig further into the work that God is doing in New Missions. I encourage you to join. Sponsor a child, pack a shoe box, go on a mission trip, write a letter, send a card, breathe a prayer on their behalf or give of your extra change. What is small in our eyes is a seed that God has the living water to nourish, sustain and grow into a tree that is rooted and established in the love of Christ for all of eternity.