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Sarnia thrift store operators puzzled by religious backlash

Troy Shantz A popular Sarnia thrift store has experienced a backlash after it dropped the word “Bible” from its name, its operators say.
Mission Thrift Store manager Connie Berry and assistant manager Nick Grover at the Mission Thift Store, formerly known as Bibles for Missions Thrift Store at 1426 London Rd. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

A popular Sarnia thrift store has experienced a backlash after it dropped the word “Bible” from its name, its operators say.

Word has somehow spread that the Bibles for Missions Thrift Store on London Road became a Muslim operation after its name was changed to the Mission Thrift Store last summer, manager Connie Berry said.

“It’s the same cause, and it’s the same mission. It’s just a different name,” said a puzzled Berry.

She and her staff don’t know how or why the rumour got started but it’s so widespread they’re taking out radio ads to set the record straight.

Recently, a Mission Thrift Store truck was making a delivery to a customer’s apartment when a stranger in the parking lot told the customer he shouldn’t support the store, Berry said.

“He tried to convince the customer not to take the stuff off the truck,” saying the name had changed because the store was now run by Muslims, Berry said.

After one woman refused to pick up an auction item at the store, Berry said, the woman said she’d heard from a “very reliable source” the money was supporting Muslim refugees.

When Berry pointed out store’s mandate hasn’t changed the woman denied it, saying it was “all a cover.”

“So I said to her, you know I’m a Christian also, and if I see … a homeless person, if I see a Muslim refugee, I’m not going to segregate anyone.”

The problem began after the name changed, Berry said.

While shopping at a grocery store she was asked: “What’s going on over there at Bibles for Missions? I hear a bunch of foreigners have taken it over.”

The BFM Foundation (Canada) is a volunteer-driven Christian organization that operates 50 thrift stores in Canada, including Sarnia’s. Net proceeds support the work of the Foundation and Bible League Canada in more than 40 countries.

All the thrift stores were rebranded last July by dropping the word “Bibles” in the name for marketing reasons. People were coming in looking to buy a Bible and were surprised to discover it was a thrift store, the Foundation said.

The goal of the stores is to provide reasonably priced goods that can be reused, instead of finding their way to a landfill, said Foundation CEO Casey Langbroek.

“Mission Thrift Stores welcome people of all ethnic, religious and socio economic backgrounds,” he said.

Nick Grover, assistant manager of the London Road store, said he’s perplexed by the backlash.

“We help anyone, regardless,” he said. “We have homeless people that come in and we help them with whatever they need.”

The store currently has three Lambton College volunteers from India helping out, and Berry said it’s possible some people have incorrectly assumed they are Muslim.

“I have a lot of compassion and a lot of grace for people. I love people and if anybody’s in need I’ll help them,” she said.

“But when people are misinformed and don’t want to listen to the truth, I find that can be really annoying.”

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