A Winnipeg family of five saw first hand the power of praying over a shoebox when they distributed boxes in Costa Rica together.

Lori Bettig has been involved with Operation Christmas Child for decades, from packing shoeboxes as a family each year, to becoming project leader at her church, Grant Memorial, in Winnipeg. 

"As a family, we've always been super excited about the potential for these small boxes filled with love to travel to different places in the world to land in the hands of a very special child," she says.

A Family Affair

In 2015 the Bettig family went to Costa Rica on a distribution trip.

"We're a family of five and the trip was over Christmas, the end of December into January. It was the top of my bucket list, something I've always wanted to do," she says.

The Bettig children ranged from pre-teen to teenagers at the time of the trip.

"We wanted to wait until the kids were at a great age to be able to realize the impact as well," says Bettig.

The family, along with the group from Samaritans Purse, spent 10 days there in total. Their time was spent between distributing shoeboxes as well as playing with the kids, outreach in the community, and painting houses.

One memory, in particular, stands out to Bettig, involving her son. 

"Back in Canada as we were planning for this trip, we were very carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully filling out boxes with a particular child in mind. We don't know who that's going to be but God knows."

One of the days they were there, Bettig's son, Calahan, connected with one boy while playing soccer. While he felt God was leading him to share the box with the boy, Danfred, it wasn't a distribution day.

"We pray about who we're taking our boxes to and I really feel like that was the boy I should have given it to," Calahan said to his mom. 

Bettig told her son that perhaps God had something else in store. A few days later in a town much farther away from where they had first met this 12-year-old boy, it was time to hand out boxes. 

"We walked into a very noisy place packed with moms and kids with music playing. We looked around and Calahan spotted Danfred there, the same boy."

Everyone was in tears as the box was revealed that afternoon and the Bettig family could see the impact a shoebox makes. 

Bettig encourages people to include a note and picture in the box with the supplies. 

Lori Bettig with her shoebox recipient.Lori Bettig with her shoebox recipient. (Supplied)

The shoebox packing and collecting have gone from a church and school event (Linden Christian School is attached to the church) to a full community event. 

This past Sunday Bettig connected on a live-feed with staff on the ground in Central America after the digital church service.

"They have 30,000 shoeboxes in Costa Rica right now with 62 volunteers that are going to deliver them door-to-door."

Boxes are still being collected despite COVID, and simply handed out individually instead of having the big get together and party in a local church like they normally do. 

"We are putting together an online shoebox packing party and it's already launched, right off the Grant Memorial website."

The online aspect, which is available on the CHVN website as well, makes packing shoeboxes easy.

CHVN is partnering once again with OCC to collect shoeboxes at St. Vital Centre from Nov. 19-21. You can also pack a box online with CHVN here.