Going Barefoot So Others Don’t Have To
On Friday, May 11th, 14 students entered the church knowing they would be going barefoot for 15 hours to raise money for Christian, humanitarian organization, Samaritan’s Feet. And that was pretty much all they knew. They didn’t know what they would learn, what challenges they would participate in, that they couldn’t put as much as a drop of water on their feet until the 15 hours were over. Sometimes it’s in times of not-knowing that God can break through and speak to us about what He is concerned about. It’s in these moments that we get to know His heart a little bit more. And I’m pleased to say that I believe our students got a little taste of His love over the 15 hours.
Students dropped off their belonging in their rooms and then settled into the Chapel. After opening in prayer, students were asked to take off their socks and shoes and place them at the altar. Historically, sacrifices were given to God as a display of love and to make us in right standing with God, forgiving us of our sins. Whether it was an animal, incense or wheat it didn’t matter. It’s that one was given. Our students’ shoes symbolized a sacrifice of love to God and for our neighbor.
Our students searched high and low for 3 pieces of paper which had three scripture references on it: Galatians 6:2-3, Philippians 2:2-4 and Matthew 22:37-40. It was important that our students began their fast knowing that we’re not only doing this to have fun, but more importantly, to share the burdens of others across the world, that we should be humble, not thinking of ourselves better than others and loving others as we love ourselves. That was the premise of why we went shoe-less. Our group then answered various questions about what shoes mean to us, how we try to impress others and what burdens we’re currently sharing with others.
We learned about three specific diseases that are commonly diagnosed in people who do not have shoes, “Jiggers,” “Mossy Foot,” and “Hookworm.” Depending on what type of shoe students came to the church in would determine what disease they were diagnosed with for the evening. They learned the ailments that coincided with each disease and took it personal, knowing symbolically they would “have” what many children and adults suffer from in real-life. It was both sad and hopeful to know that shoes could prevent many of these diseases in people’s lives.
We watched videos about what Samaritan’s Feet is doing all around the world and how their revolutionary “World Shoe” is making a difference. It is made in the US out of anti-microbial agents that can curve and every cure disease overtime as the shoe is worn. It is biodegradable, perfect for school and the athletic fields and has ample amount of space in the toe to accommodate swelling. We were excited to know that all the money raised would go towards purchasing and sending these shoes all over the world.
For the rest of the evening we participated in various games and activities that challenged us and made us think outside the box. We picked up beans with our feet, had a scavenger hunt where we ran around the church finding specific items and facts and had a relay where we had to step on seashells, moss and oil. We also took some time to write letters of hope to children who would receive a pair of shoes. We told them about our experience to raise money, how it must be challenging to live without shoes and that we love and are praying for them.
As it grew darker, we went outside and had a bonfire. The only catch was that we had very little wood to start the fire. It was time for our students to go out and find the wood, all while being barefoot. This was probably the best way to acclimate them to a life of shoelessness. They walked on all sorts of surfaces: rough cement, grass, gravel, dirt and brush. As everyone returned with their branches, they mentioned how they stepped on something that either hurt or disgusted them (yes, we’re talking about poop)! The whole night you could head “ow,” “ouch,” “ugh” from the students and adults, stepping on something that they’re not used to stepping on. We gathered around the fire, telling stories and playing charades. When it died down we went back inside, got ready for bed and watched a movie. By now, feet were getting diiirty. We had all walked throughout the church in the bathrooms, kitchen, etc. and outside. Too bad they couldn’t clean their feet before going to sleep (on the floor mind you).
Although in the morning our feet were hurting, beaten up and dirty, we worshiped. We opened in a time of prayer, allowing us to communicate with God about our feelings, confusions and ways we could make a difference after the fast. We read John 13:1-17 where Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and how we should do likewise. By this time, I assumed our students knew they were going to have to wash one another’s feet, something they’re definitely not eager to do. But, with a little help of real-life photos of children in trash dumps, sewage and stagnate water, there wasn’t much resistance, knowing that each others feet weren’t as bad as they could be.
Washing one another’s feet was potentially the most humbling thing they did all weekend and I hope the most meaningful for them. Remembering that our Lord and Savior did/does likewise for us. We broke our fast with Communion, put our shoes back on and had breakfast together. And just like that, it was over. We left a little tired and sore but returned to our regular schedules, but hopefully, not quite the same. Hopefully thinking twice when we put our shoes on in the morning, knowing that it is a blessing to have multiple pairs to choose from. Hopefully thinking twice when we walk quickly on rocks or gravel, not feeling a single effect of their sharp edges. The deposit has been made in them and I pray it continues to move in them over their lifetime.
Because of the very generous support of our Congregation, our students and their extended families, we raised just shy of $2,400 and donated 27 pairs of new, athletic shoes. That means we helped 143 children! Which is so incredibly amazing! The overnight also wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of Henry Brown, Cherylann Randall, Tim Cline, Lorretta Croft, Gary Bernhardt and Larry & Karyn Briggs. Thank you so much for pouring into our students, loving them, going barefoot with them and having fun with them, it means so much!
Most Meaningful Part of the Fast: knowing that I can help, that people need shoes, being able to help children in developing countries, writing to kids who are really in need, socializing around the fire, meaningful worship service, stepping on shells and feeling hungry
Most Shocking Thing I Learned: how many diseases a person can get without shoes, that kids have to go everyday without wearing shoes, that shoes are very important, that 1.5 billion people get diagnosed with diseases, Mossy Foot, Hookworm, Jiggers, we Americans take some much for granted
Gross-est part of the Fast: learning how not having shoes can make you get diseases, washing feet, the different diseases, seeing different foot fungus’s, when I stepped in dog poop
What gave you HOPE during the Fast? knowing that kids do this every single day and not having an option to have shoes, friends, other kids, knowing that others go through more hunger and pain (than me)
What did you learn about yourself/culture from the Fast: how people can help people in need, how hard it is to walk with no shoes, kids feel helpless and not cared for, how much people suffer everyday, lots of people don’t have what we take for granted, that we’re well off, we’re lucky
How will YOU respond? by helping children get shoes, pray for them, I will donate shoes, be more thoughtful, through donations