Lord ordered 2,000 backpacks from pastor
Two thousand Orillia students will head back to class with brand new school supplies thanks to the faith and support of some local congregations.
Back in January, Zak Gariba, pastor with Orillia's Jubilee Celebration Centre, was cooking in his kitchen when he said he had a vision from God.
"I saw some kids who needed backpacks for school," he said.
At first he thought supplying a few backpacks for families in need would be an easily achieved goal. Then his vision expanded to show that 2,000 backpacks were needed.
Unsure of how to achieve the vision, Gariba said he didn't move forward with it, but God kept sending him the vision and encouraging him to work toward making it reality.
Then in March, Gariba brought it up at a pastor's meeting with several of his colleagues at which time it was embraced.
Paul Carter, pastor at First Baptist Church, was especially quick to come and on board along with his congregation, Gariba said.
Other churches who joined in to offer their support included Bethel Baptist Church, Hope Community Church Orillia Life Centre and the Orillia Calvary Pentecostal Tabernacle.
With support for the idea, it was time to turn to the logistics of purchasing not just 2,000 backpacks, but the supplies to go in them. It threatened to be overwhelming, but Gariba said the Lord told him to keep moving forward.
The goal of $80,000 seemed steep, but the congregations of First Baptist and Jubilee Celebration Centre stepped forward and reached the goal.
Late last week, pallets of school supplies were waiting to be unpacked and put into backpacks sitting in the warehouse of R&F Construction, which donated the space for the project.
"We all know this is God's work," Gariba said. "It's another way of ministering to the people. Another way of getting the gospel to people."
Along with all the standard supplies students require at the start of the school year, a bible will be included with each backpack.
Gariba said Liz Shaughnessy, Kei Dube and Susan Storey have all been instrumental in bringing the project to fruition.
Through the backpack program they are hoping to reach families most in need of some help this year, Gariba said.
"I can just imagine the kids and when they get their backpack, the look on their faces," said Gariba. "Also so the parents can be at ease. They can save that $40 or $80 to buy food."
The support from the congregations and other churches for the program's first year has been both humbling and overwhelming, Gariba said. The hope is for the program to become an annual event.
Families with elementary-school- aged children who are in need of help with back-to-school supplies can pick up a coupon that can be redeemed on distribution days.
Coupons can be picked up at the First Baptist Church office at 265 Coldwater Rd. W. during office hours.
Backpacks will be distributed Aug. 16 from 1 p. m. to 4 p. m. and Aug. 19 from 9 a. m. to 3 p. m. at First Baptist Church.
For more information, call 326-3800.