Norma Thomas couldn't afford a Thanksgiving turkey.
At a Louisville, Ky., grocery store, she debated whether or not to buy the bird and skip all the other food on her list.
"Thanksgiving dinner and turkeys are a big thing in the South," explains Debbie Maize with Here's Life Inner City, the urban ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. "They're very important."
Norma decided to wait. She remembers, "I got down on my knees before I got into bed and prayed."
A few days went by. On Sunday, she went to church.
Norma's niece spotted her there and told her about some "Boxes of Love" that contained a turkey, the makings for a Thanksgiving dinner to feed six, as well as Christian literature. She told Norma they were being handed out by Greenhouse Ministries, a local church.
Norma collected a Box of Love.
"I know it was of God," says Norma, "because in my prayer I asked God to help me."
Of the 50 people who received Boxes of Love from Greenhouse Ministries (in partnership with HLIC), 6 people invited Christ to be their Savior, and 20 rededicated their lives to Him, says James Greene, the pastor of Greenhouse.
"Boxes of Love helped us gain respect in our neighborhood," says Deborah, James' wife.
"People were touched. They got to know us better and came to our church. It put us on the map, so to speak."
"Boxes of Love show people that the gospel is practical," says Meredith Gandy, director of communications for HLIC. "We care about your physical needs as much as the spiritual."
HLIC also equipped Temple of Faith Baptist Church in Louisville to give out Boxes of Love. Through another partnership with the Campus Ministry of Campus Crusade, some college students went door to door to deliver the boxes on behalf of the church. One door they knocked on belonged to 30-year-old Darrell Braden.
"Nine out of 10 times the person who opens the door is hurting," says Debbie.
The students handed over the 25-pound box, containing another Thanksgiving meal.
Then they all started talking. The students explained the gospel to Darrell and he prayed and received Christ that afternoon. Then they invited him to church.
"He came immediately -- the next Sunday he was there," says Joyce Welch, the mission coordinator at Temple of Faith. "Within a month, he was baptized."
Darrell also got involved in a Bible study in December, and has been participating in it ever since.
In 2002, 21 churches distributed 700 Boxes of Love in the city of Louisville alone. About 150 people indicated decisions to surrender their lives to Christ.
Boxes of Love were created in 1987, when leaders of an outreach to children in Brooklyn, N.Y., searched for a way to connect with parents. The leaders thought that if they gave the parents something they needed, they could more easily talk with the adults, and maybe even start a church.
One leader, Bill Wilson, was a friend of HLIC, so HLIC helped him raise funds for the project. The first year the group gave away 1,000 boxes. A church has since begun.
HLIC helps churches around the nation distribute Boxes of Love. From Atlanta to Spokane, Wash., and from the Twin Cities to Greensboro, N.C., HLIC has equipped 550 urban church partners to connect to the poor in their neighborhoods.
Over 26,000 "Boxes of Love" were packed and distributed during the Thanksgiving holidays in 2002, and fed more than 150,000 people in 17 cities.