“Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.” (Alma 37:6)

Have you ever wondered about those small and simple things you do? Do you wonder if they are important or if Heavenly Father is pleased?

Several years ago, a friend’s daughter lost her home to a house fire. My friend asked all who knew the daughter to make a Christmas ornament because they were missed, and Christmas was approaching.

This was not the first time I had heard that, following family photos and journals, Christmas ornaments were the thing disaster survivors missed the most. Four years ago, Operation Ornaments was born, and we began distributing ornaments to disaster survivors throughout the United States. Disaster survivors are some of the most underserved people in the United States. There was a terrible tornado in Tennessee on December 9th.  Are we hearing about those survivors anymore? On average, two weeks following a disaster survivors are forgotten. Heavenly Father has not forgotten.

As we have worked, the question, “Is this important to Heavenly Father?” has been answered many times over. Let me share a few.

Our coordinator Laura reported in June 2023:

“I want to share a little something that happened to me over the weekend that broke my heart. I visited an eastern Kentucky state park with my family and drove along many of the roads where homes once stood until the flood of July 2022 swept them away. We saw deserted trailer homes along the banks of the river with FEMA X’s spray painted on them indicating that they are a total loss. My heart was sad to see this financially depressed area with so much devastation still evident after almost a year.

When we arrived at the park, there was a huge, closed sign on the entrance sign. Up until recently, this state park was closed to visitors because it has been home to many families who lost their homes in the July 2022 flood that killed 45 people and destroyed 9,000+ homes. Motor homes were donated by private citizens, the Kentucky government, and the Tennessee governor for families displaced by the floods. Most of these families have recently moved into their new homes, but over a dozen RV families remain.

I spoke with Larry, a resident from Hazard, who has been living in the campground since last July waiting for his home to be finished. He was planting a garden in buckets on his picnic table so he could grow vegetables for his RV neighbors. He shared his experience with me of that dreadful night of the flood. He said that the water rushed into his home where he was with his 2-year-old granddaughter and his wife. He handed the toddler to his wife and told them to get to higher ground. He wasn’t able to move quick enough, so he got on an air mattress and rode it down the rushing river until he was rescued. His quick thinking saved his life. He told me it was the scariest roller coaster ride ever. He is looking forward to being in his new home in September.

Speaking with Larry was the highlight of my time in this park. It was a reminder of how quickly nature can claim what we own and love. I was humbled by seeing the washer/dryer trailer that was brought in for these families to use free of charge and also the portable shower trailer.

I am thankful for my visit with Larry and will always remember his humble conversation with me. He has so little, yet he’s growing a garden for others. I was so happy to see him smile when I shared with him the ornament project and all the love that you are sending with the ornaments. He is excited to receive a family pack later this year.

Fast forward to November 2023: Laura posted

Do you remember Larry who I met living at Carr Creek State Park?

As I was winding through the Appalachian Mountains to my next stop to distribute ornaments, I saw the sign for Carr Creek State Park where I first met Larry in June quite by accident.

I received a prompting to detour and see if Larry still lived in the donated RV. At first, I hesitated, asking myself why he would still be there when his home was supposed to be done mid-summer. The prompting said, “What do you have to lose?”

I found Larry and 6 other flood survivors still living in the campground. Larry remembered our visit from June, and we spent a couple minutes catching up. He’s hoping to be home for Christmas. (Btw-his garden was a success and he gave all the produce to his RV neighbors).

I delivered your love to all 6 families. They felt your love and faces radiated joy.”

Heavenly Father is aware of us all, even young children who need a lift. Last year we received just four ornaments from Washington state. The young men and young women from the Lexington Kentucky North Stake were sorting the more than 10,000 ornaments into family packs and one young man picked one of the Washington ornaments. He just lit up as he shared that he was born in Washington and missed it.

This year as Laura was speaking with a community volunteer working with survivors, she discovered there had been an apartment building fire and because Laura was prompted to speak with this woman, we were also able to serve those survivors as well.

In Florida, Imogene was collecting ornaments when a hurricane caused heavy rain. Even though the boxes of ornaments delivered that day were soaked they were all fine, no damage.

And then there was this:

In 2022, I was traveling to Colorado to help distribute ornaments and sat next to a woman on the plane. We began talking and of course we asked each other the big question “where are you from?” She was from my son’s hometown and she even knew him and his family, they were and still are in the same ward! That led to a discussion about why I was traveling and a conversation about Operation Ornaments. I explained we were serving the survivors of the Marshall Fire and she shared that she worked for a doctor who had contacts with people who lost homes and they also had patients who had lost homes. Because of this meeting we were able to deliver an entire box of ornament packs to 50 families.

In Colorado:

Last year, we received 20 ornaments from a crafter in Japan. Carol, our coordinator there, made up over 700 packs from the more than 10,000 ornaments she received. After delivering hundreds of packs, she was contacted by a woman who noticed we had received ornaments from Japan. She related that when her house burned, she lost everything she had from Japan, where she had lived, and asked if there was any way she could get one. Remember there were 700 packs and only 20 of them had a Japanese ornament. Carol is not easily discouraged so she assured the woman she would try. After searching just a few packs she found it, an ornament from Japan.

Deanne shared the following last year after talking with a survivor who had no idea about Operation Ornaments until AFTER their discussion:

“I sing in a local choir in Broomfield, CO. I learned last week that one of our members was a victim of the Marshall/Superior fires. She and her family lost EVERYTHING. They had 5 minutes to grab pets and vacate. They’ve been living in temporary housing for almost a year and she was super excited that they’re breaking ground next week on building a new home.

I said “I can’t even imagine your loss and how you begin to process it.” She commented “I’ve shed a thousand tears but have found peace in the memories and that I’ll never have to worry about cleaning out all of those closets.” She added, “Honestly, its the little losses that are the hardest. Like treasured Christmas ornaments. This first Christmas is probably gonna be tough.”

Remember Deanne’s friend knew nothing about Operation Ornaments before the discussion. We were thrilled to be able to deliver ornaments to her.

Last year we received adorable ornaments from a woman who raises sheep. This September she had a house fire and lost her home. We received this message from her after sending her love with a box of ornaments:

“I want you to know what an amazing gift you’ve given me through your group / charity / service project. I often wondered if the recipients would feel touched and loved and know how special we as the creators and givers tried to make each individual ornament. I often wondered if those who opened each little package would know how much love we were trying to send to them through each ornament and hoping they would feel some sort of connection to Christ, some sort of hope and relief and knowledge that brighter days are ahead…. And now I Know… God bless you. Thank you so much. Merry Christmas to you.”  Catherine is proof small and simple actions make a huge impact.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught: “To move upstream toward our eternal goal, we must constantly keep paddling. It helps if we are part of a team that is paddling together, like a rowing crew in action.” I believe God has sent angels to work with us creating ornaments, a team paddling together, and as soon as we posted about Catherine’s loss so many reached out and wanted to help by sending ornaments for her.

We have never had nationwide coverage but we have still grown to over 2,000 crafters. We collected over 36,000 ornaments from 48 states, Canada, China, Ecuador, and Ukrainian refugees. We served over 2,500 families and more than 7,500 individuals. We also became a non-profit this year. We could never have accomplished this in just four years without God’s help.

One of the most special moments over these four years was when I handed a pack of ornaments to a survivor in Colorado and she looked at me and said, “Now I know God has not forgotten me”. That is the power of small and simple acts.

As you let the spirit guide you small and simple acts of kindness and service will be revealed to you.  “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).

To learn more about Operation Ornaments visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/1130528510770698)