I love connections, both making them and watching what grows from them. One of my all-time favorite connections dates back to our first year at Camp Lebanon, now thirty-plus years ago, when Bill and I had the privilege of meeting Malvin and Helen Robinson at Palisade Baptist Church in Silver Bay.
In those early years, we shared some fun days fishing walleyes together on Silver Island Lake. These days, we stay connected when Helen brings her gang of “girls” to Women’s Retreat – seventeen of them this year! The number of sweet gals coming to retreat with Helen keeps growing even as her family and connections keep growing. This spry 82-year-old is one amazing lady, biking the Wobegon Trail last year (asthma and all) and “horsing around” (literally!) on our horseback trail rides this year.
Helen’s life story is all about connections as she lives out her passion for Christ and the Gospel and then shares this legacy of faith with her family. October provides her with the golden moment, as the entire Robinson clan gathers at her small home in Silver Bay to celebrate Christmas early before she and Malvin head south to Texas for the winter. But this annual celebration and gift exchange is anything but ordinary! In fact, the gifts have nothing to do with toys or trinkets. Instead, the family gathers to give “Mom and Dad” the one present that has been on their “Christmas Wish List” for the past 15+ years: filled shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child!
And not just a few boxes! Last year, the Robinsons and their family filled 90 (count em!) shoe boxes. Helen and Malvin gather supplies throughout the year at various places. One favorite “Flea Market” vendor in Texas collects stuffed animals and other items and has them waiting when they come down. The rest of the family also finds and makes fun gifts for the boxes all year long. As for the packing, last year the mission was accomplished with the help of five siblings and spouses, twelve grandkids, and twenty-two greats. Some filled boxes, while others cooked food, watched infants, or “supervised.” Extended family unable to be in person also contribute, sending cash to help cover the postage costs.
Through the years, “Christmas in October” has become a very special tradition for the entire Robinson family. According to granddaughter Taylor Kofstad, “My Grandma is the kindest, most amazing woman I know. She got involved with Operation Christmas Child to bring her family together and show them how to help others around the world. She taught us that even just a shoebox full of little things can change someone’s world. She may have only mothered six children, but she has touched the hearts of many more than that.”
“Packing shoeboxes is a legacy my Mom has passed down three generations,” daughter Carol Pearson wrote. “The older great-grandkids help the younger ones choose a box to fill from Grandma’s ‘mini-store’ in the basement. They totally ‘own’ the box as if giving it to a friend. Everyone is involved and extended family help with the postage. By being the hands of Jesus, we get the blessing!”
Daughter Barb Hamilton added, “Participating with Operation Christmas Child has been nothing but a blessing. It’s great to find bargains all year-round that you know will be fun and beneficial for a child somewhere in the world. Our Robinson family tradition truly exhibits the spirit of giving joyfully. It’s what we want all of our kids and grandkids to share in and remember how much God has blessed our family and how we can help others.”
For 10-year-old great-grandson Logan, there’s a special bonus. “It means I get to spend time with my cousins, great grandma and great grandpa, and my grandma, too,” he said. “We give kids toys and stuff they need and they get to hear about Jesus! It makes me happy to make them happy.”
For 8-year-old great-granddaughter Macy, the tradition brings a simple reward. “It’s just fun to pick out toys the kids like to play with,” she beamed.
For Helen, Malvin and the clan, “Christmas in October” is a treasured connection boxed up in love that just keeps giving and giving.
p.s. Want to join in on the fun with Operation Christmas Child? Visit their WEBSITE.