It took Ashvin Dhyriam 22 hours to travel from the southeast coast of India to Charlotte, N.C.
The Samaritan’s Purse (SP) Connect Conference brought together 300 people who coordinate the massive, international ministry that has distributed more than 100 million shoeboxes to children in 130 countries since 1993.
In Charlotte, Ashvin joined OCC coordinators from Florida, Hawaii, New York, Alaska, Minnesota, Puerto Rico and beyond. Wednesday afternoon, he toured the Billy Graham Library with Charles Owori, OCC’s national coordinator for Uganda.
Both men, like most of the OCC volunteers around the world, have full-time jobs in their home countries. Charles is a legislator in Uganda’s National Assembly; Ashvin works for two television stations run by believers who use TV to reach India for Christ.
“Back home, we all have our own jobs,” Ashvin said. “We’re just volunteers. There’s so much joy in doing the work we do. We don’t feel it’s a burden. But at the same time it can overwhelm you.”
That’s one reason OCC leaders chose to take the volunteers to the Billy Graham Library, a place that explains how God used a seemingly ordinary farm boy like Billy Graham to spread the Gospel to the nations.
The Library is set on a peaceful, grassy campus designed to refresh and encourage.
“The volunteers work so hard, and it’s kind of like a thank you,” said OCC employee Anna Owen from Orlando, Fla.
“This is a time for them to come in and be blessed,” added Albany, N.Y., employee Allan Perkins.
As hundreds of volunteers arrived in Charlotte and headed straight to the Library, their faces showed they were inspired by the message.
“I think the Library gives you a complete glimpse of how a person can change the world with God’s love,” Ashvin said. “It’s a simple Gospel, and yet Billy Graham did something phenomenal. And it also brings you this feeling that if you’re in God’s plan, you can make a difference.”
The work that Ashvin, Charles and so many others do through Operation Christmas Child certainly does make a difference.
Ashvin, for example, coordinates more than 100,000 shoeboxes full of gifts for the children of Tamil Nadu in southeast India. He works with local churches to not only distribute the boxes, but also to follow up with tens of thousands of children by sharing the Gospel through kid-friendly Bible materials.
It’s a demanding, year-round commitment, but the volunteers say the results are worth it.
“That’s my joy,” Charles said. “The happiness that [the children] exhibit, it’s life-changing. And sometimes kids get exactly what they pray for.”
As the coordinators prepare for another year of sharing “Good News and Great Joy,” they’ll need more faith and energy than ever. Ashvin and Charles say their journey through the Billy Graham Library has helped to re-energize them for the road ahead.
“I have a fresh passion,” Charles said. “I think God can use anyone willing to be used. Billy Graham said as long as the Lord gives him strength he will preach the message. I also say, for as long as the Lord gives me strength, I will serve Him.”