Jim L. Bennett is the 86-year-old director of BGMC (Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge) for his church, Living Word Fellowship — located in the uniquely named community of Boring, Oregon. But for nearly two decades, Bennett has been bringing a unique excitement to BGMC Sundays for Living Word kids and adults alike all due to rather unremarkable containers — the humble pop can and bottle.
Jim recalls that he first started collecting pop cans for recycling to help purchase the church’s Royal Rangers group new uniforms in 2004. “After that, I thought it would be a good way to raise money for BGMC,” he explains.
In Oregon, pop and other beverage cans and bottles can be recycled at stores, earning recyclers up-until-recently 5¢ per container (now it’s 10¢). Jim started letting people know of his efforts to raise money for BGMC through collecting cans and the word spread. Along with people in the church, people who didn’t even attend Living Word began to drop off their cans and bottles for Jim and his wife of 63 years, Sherry, to sort through and recycle.
Pastor John Menaker, who has been serving in ministry at the church since 2002, becoming lead pastor in 2017, chuckles a bit as he notes some of the bottles and cans dropped off are alcoholic in nature.
“We have a small church of about 100,” Menaker says, “and Jim has been attending here for about 20 years — he literally helped build the church building. I frequently use him as an example, asking people to serve in the nursery or with seniors or wherever with the same passion Jim has in working with BGMC.”
“In the beginning, employees at the local stores thought I drank a lot of pop,” Jim says with a laugh, “but I told them what I was doing and how it was all for missions. Now, when I go to the stores, they don’t even count my cans because I have them all counted and sorted for them — they have learned to trust me.”
Debbie Gering, Jim and Sherry’s daughter, says she’s attended Living Word Fellowship on BGMC Sundays in the past and confirms that there is a level of genuine excitement as the children’s offering is collected and a “boys or girls” winner announced.
Gering notes that a number of family members have been drawn into the can collecting effort over the years. “My youngest niece helped take cans in when the bags were almost as big as she was,” Gering laughs.
But BGMC isn’t the only activity Jim limits himself to. “Dad never sought recognition,” Gering says. “He has always served wherever he was needed — Sunday School superintendent, Sunday School teacher, Royal Rangers commander, choir member, board member, in ‘gospel sings,’ and he’s even used his exceptional ability to whistle for weddings and funerals.”
Recently David and Mary Boyd, national BGMC director and national BGMC coordinator, respectively, were made aware of Jim’s can-collecting efforts, which has raised more than $43,000 for BGMC over the years.
The Boyds connected with Trent and Tina Morrow, long-time missionaries to Uruguay — a country that is officially atheist and where schools teach there is no God. However, the Morrows are seeing children respond in great numbers to the gospel message and Christ’s love for them.
“We wanted to recognize Jim and honor his efforts,” David says. “The Morrows, with the help of BGMC, are currently constructing a large open-air chapel that can seat 500 people to use for their children’s ministry and leadership training. We thought this would be the ideal building to dedicate in Jim’s honor for his tireless efforts in helping to fund buildings like this and other BGMC ministries throughout the years.”
“We will dedicate the building to him,” Trent confirms. “There will be a plaque there honoring Jim Bennett for his faithfulness to God through his ministry of working and giving to BGMC. It will be a great honor for us to do that for such a deserving servant of God.”
Menaker, Bennett’s pastor, says that Jim has been an inspiration to young and old alike through his dedication and ministry. And only a couple weeks ago, Jim shared with Bennett a diagnosis of advanced cancer, with doctors estimating two months before he passes into eternity.
“Jim has always said that he sees every pop can as a soul for Christ,” Menaker says. “Whatever happens in the next couple months, whether God chooses to heal Jim or welcome him home, I believe one day every one of those pop cans will be represented by a soul won to Christ due in part to Jim’s love and sacrifice.”