This year for Ellie's birthday we partnered with a group called Hope for Appalachia (HFA). I heard about them last year on a local radio station, and was able to donate some things at the last minute. This year, I knew they were the organization I wanted to support for Ellie's birthday! HFA creates something called Hope Boxes for the students in Eastern Kentucky, one of the poorest communities in our country. Inside these boxes are personal care items like toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, school supplies, little toys, socks and treats. The boxes also contain a ton of love, as thousands are created by people from all over. Each year HFA travels during the Easter season to Kentucky to deliver these boxes to children and present the gospel message, and they do that through the school system!
Last year, when I learned about them, I started to follow their FaceBook Page. I became a little obsessed the week they were in Kentucky, one of my students was on the trip as well, and I would anxiously await their posts and pictures. I wanted to be there so bad! So as I prepared to make contact about making Hope Boxes for Ellie's Big Give, I saw they had the 2017 trip dates posted...and sure enough, it was on Spring Break! As excited as I was that God was opening these doors, I was a nervous wreck about trying something new!
We reached out, learned about what goes in a Hope Box and started planning (yes I was so excited for this part!) We set a goal of 120 boxes and we began collecting items and was not let down by the amount of people that became involved! Donations quickly began rolling in and once again the mail lady and UPS man visited us almost daily!
As we do every year, we gathered for Ellie's Birthday Party, to celebrate her amazing 1061 days and to give back! There wasn't any snow this year (which I gotta admit, had me a little bummed out) but there was and always is an amazing amount of love! Our friends and family were amazing and quickly packed all 120 boxes!
We let the littles in on the action too, although I think the big kids enjoyed this part just as much! Ellie loved stickers! So in her honor we stickered every box we made!
Realizing this is the fourth time we've done Ellie's party, I love that there are some traditions that have started, that I think if she were here, she would adore! Her balloons were beautiful (once mommy got over the fact they weren't the typical pink balloons....change is good, change is good!) and were so much fun to watch twinkling in the sky.
We sang "This Little Light of Mine" and ate cake!
I sat in awe of this new normal. Of my amazing children who were so excited to celebrate their sister's birthday. Grateful for my family who come to a birthday party and work for a few hours. Amazed at the loving community that surrounds us, and no matter what we do, they support us.
When all was said and done, we created 165 Hope Boxes that Richard and I will be delivering in just a few short days!
This is what it's about. This is what life should be all about. Giving our time, our energy, our efforts to help others. As I watched toys and snacks go into these boxes, I thought about the kids that would open them, I thought about the teachers that would see their students experiencing this event and I was moved! This is the fourth Big Give we've done, but this is the first time I will get to see first hand the fruits of what we have done.
All next week, myself, Richard and about 80 other missionaries will be in Kentucky delivering these Hope Boxes and teaching about the amazing love of Jesus. I've taught children's church, Sunday School, Awana, even spoke in my church, which I know God orchestrated to prepare me for this upcoming week, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. But it's a different nervous then I'm used to....its like a calm nervous (oxymoron...right!). I'm not completely freaked out, even though there's nothing packed and about 10 loads of laundry to do. It's almost like my brain says "be nervous because that's what you do" and my heart says "you got this, God planned this trip, not you!"
I'm asking for prayer this upcoming week. Prayers that God will protect us as we travel and open the doors to each school we visit. Prayers that God will prepare the children and staff to hear about how much God loves them. Prayers for my health, I had the flu and pneumonia last week and while I'm feeling better, the allergies have attacked me big these past few days. Prayers specifically for myself, that I would get out of the way, my own doubts, fears and insecurities would be erased and I would remember that God just wants me to share His love and I know a ton about that!
I cannot wait for that moment (that I know if going to happen) when I watch a child open a box that we have made. When I see the joy on their face. When I get to share what God has done in my life with someone, when I get to use my story of my Ellie to explain heaven. I cannot wait for my divine appointment to serve these children!
One last little bit of honey for you from my week. One of my students walked in my office and saw these letters on my table that had been taken down off a bulletin board.
She got excited and yelled "Mrs. Blaine, that's my favorite song! Will you walk me to class?" We often walk together, so I said of course and told her that was my favorite song too. As we started off down the hall she started singing (which she often does) "this little light of mine.....Mrs. Blaine, sing with me!" So down the hall we went singing our favorite song! I knew that was a moment given to me by God to remind me that next week, He's gonna shine all over Kentucky, in those childrens' schools and I get to be one of the lucky ones to share that!
I'm not sure what kind of service we will have in the mountains, but I will do my best to update on Ellie's Big Give's FaceBook page how the trip is going! I also will have a journal with me because I know God is gonna use this trip to do amazing things!
~Prayers, Praise and Pink