By: Carissa Lovvorn
Over the holidays, my family and I volunteered for Operation Care International’s One Day Movement in Dallas, TX. Each year, this nonprofit hosts a Christmas Gift event that benefits families facing economic hardships and the homeless in the Dallas area. This year’s event was another great success. There were roughly 5,000 people in attendance which included 2,000 children and their families, 1,200 volunteers, and over 1,000 homeless guests including many veterans.
The night prior to the event, my husband and I went to the Dallas Convention Center to set up the “Storytime with Ms. Carissa” area. As soon as we walked into the convention hall, we were blown away by the magnitude of outreach that was to take place the next day. The massive room was organized into stations for haircuts, dental checkups, Santa visits, and entertainment/ games for the children. There were giveaway areas for coats, toys, shoes, detergent, and food. There were areas for counseling, veteran outreach, evangelism, and foot washing. As I walked through the portion set aside for the homeless guests, one area brought tears to my eyes. It was labeled “Phone Home.” This service provided individuals with an opportunity to call home. Regardless of the initial cause, homelessness tends to result in a detachment from friends and family members. This void is even more apparent during the holiday season when families strive to spend time together.
While reflecting on the emotional impact of being in that type of situation, I was reminded of what it is like to be disconnected from our Heavenly Father. During my teens and early 20s, I strayed from my faith and was living a life completely opposite of God’s plan. It was a very lonely and uncertain time. It took many years for me to realize that God was always near even though I felt alone. The Bible is filled with scripture concerning calling out to God in times of trouble. Take these three verses for example:
“Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’” (Isaiah 58:9 NKJV)
“I called on Your name, O Lord, from the lowest pit. You have heard my voice; ‘Do not hide Your ear from my sighing, from my cry for help.’ You drew near on the day I called on You, and said, ‘Do not fear!’” (Lamentations 3:55-57)
“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all who call upon You.” (Psalm 86:5)
The number of homeless guests that were served that day reflected only a small percentage of those suffering in the United States. The awareness that so many people spend the holidays alone is humbling. I am thankful for groups like Operation Care International who strive to bring joy, compassion, and God’s love to those in need. And much like the homeless who called home this Christmas, all we need to do is call out to our Heavenly Father. He is always near.