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Acton's Bethel Church Sets New Record in Shoe Box Packing for Operation Christmas Child

Shannon Furzer, Community Life Coordinator for Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Acton, was overwhelmed with help from over two dozen GEMS from the Christian girls' group at the church (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Saviour) last Thursday evening.

The group packed 248 shoe boxes destined for the third world as part of Operation Christmas Child, almost doubling the 138 boxes shipped by the church last year. “All the items were donated or purchased with money donated by the community,” said Furzer.

The boys' and girls' boxes are categorized by age group: 2-4, 5-9, and 10-14. Furzer says that the items most in demand are school supplies and hygiene products. “The boxes usually contain at least one toy, what we call a wow item. Fishing kits with a line, hook and bobber are popular, as are sewing kits and crafts. You can pack a lot of things into a shoebox.”

The Christmas shoe box program has been picking up steam in Acton since the pandemic. Bethel Church has been a drop-off centre for the shoe boxes for the last three years. Last year Acton residents shipped 800 boxes in total.

“This kind of activity unites our community,” adds Furzer. “You can pack a box for as little as $20. A lot of families have done it for years. Linda Hush of Dollar Stretcher Days packed 100 shoe boxes last year and I think she's done 80 so far this year.”

Operation Christmas Child falls under the umbrella of Samaritan's Purse, a US charity in the fundamentalist evangelical tradition, based in Boone, North Carolina. Notably, the organization's president is Franklin Graham, the son of famous American evangelist Billy Graham.

OCC is specifically interested in reaching developing countries with its shoe boxes. In 2019 the charity shipped 10.5 million shoe boxes to children in 100 countries. According to Furzer all the boxes collected in Canada last year went to Mexico.

The boxes dropped off at Bethel are shipped to an Ontario collection centre and will eventually arrive in Alberta where all the Canadian shoe boxes are collected. “The Alberta distribution centre goes through every shoe box because certain things can’t be sent, like candy, liquids and playing cards,” adds Furzer.

“Part of it [shoe box program] is evangelism and discipleship. That's how the church can get into the community. We're just participating in this ministry, we don't actually run it--this is global,” Furzer said.

“We do support local ministries as well as global ministries. In the fall, we supported Links2Care and we helped do the backpack program in Acton and Halton Hills for lower-income families. Through the shoe boxes, Samaritan’s Purse partners with the local churches around the world to share the good news of the gospel. It is a Christian organization.”

Bethel Church is accepting donations of shoe boxes to Operation Christmas Child until Friday Nov. 17 at 1:00 pm.

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