Revelations: Barefoot Sunday shoes delivered
BY JENNIFER PREYSS
Today, my heart is full, and I'm so excited to tell you why.
Do you remember Barefoot Sunday? The event was held in February at Renegade Church with a goal of collecting 1,000 pairs of shoes for children in Malawi, Africa. Elementary, middle and high schools; colleges and churches; a synagogue and mosque; The Victoria Advocate, and individuals from all over the Crossroads gave their time, money and resources to help collect shoes that would later be sent to African families in need.
On Barefoot Sunday, Feb. 27, we didn't just meet our goal of 1,000, we surpassed it by 4,000 pairs. And St. Joseph's Keaton Warren contributed more than 1,200 pairs of socks he collected throughout the city to complement the shoe drive.
Well Victoria, your shoes and socks have been delivered. Children and adults in Malawi are right now walking around in a pair of shoes you donated. For many of them, it's the first pair of shoes they've ever owned. Think about that for a minute.
Last month, a team of missionaries from The Grove Church in Arizona flew to Malawi with more than 7,000 pairs of your shoes, and distributed them to two villages and The African Bible College.
If you remember, The Grove's senior pastor Palmer Chinchen was Barefoot Sunday's keynote speaker. He was also the inspiration for the event. Barefoot Sunday was his brainchild, starting a similar collection two years ago at his church in Chandler, Ariz.
A member of The Grove, Dan Angermiller, who also founded Lightfeet Project after visiting Malawi on a mission trip more than a year ago, flew to Victoria with Palmer, and helped orchestrate the reception and delivery of the shoes post Barefoot Sunday.
With a team of 20 people, Angermiller flew to Malawi for two weeks, and helped distribute the shoes and socks.
"We went with 7,000 pairs, but we could have taken three times that number and still not had enough," he told me. "It was really encouraging to give out the shoes, but at the same time, you saw there's such a great need."
Angermiller said the first village they visited had a population of 200 people, but word spread immediately throughout the region of free shoes being given out. On foot, without shoes, thousands of people in neighboring villages walked more than 10 miles to receive a pair of shoes.
"One man said, 'This is the happiest day of my life," he said," describing the excited reaction of an adult man who received his first pair of shoes.
Later in the trip, Angermiller's team distributed shoes in one the villages I worked in when I was there in 2009. When he told me they were handing out shoes to those children, I felt like I was there with them again - or at least I felt like my heart was there. I wish very much I could have been there handing over shoes and socks to kids I was holding and playing with only two summers ago. I hope someday I'll return.
Toward the end of our conversation, he thanked me for organizing the Barefoot Sunday event in Victoria. But I quickly reminded him that I had nothing to do with collecting 5,000 pairs of shoes - the thanks belonged to the people of the Crossroads (and many generous donators back home in Atlanta).
And I certainly had nothing to do with delivering the shoes to Africa; that thanks belonged to Angermiller and his team.
But the greatest thanks goes to God because He put shoes on the feet of 7,000 people in one of the poorest countries in the world.
So, if you helped make Barefoot Sunday a success in any way - prayed, gave, donated, counted, whatever - let me say one more time, "THANK YOU!"
You are responsible for making the world a little better today, and that's pretty darn awesome, people.
Jennifer Preyss is a re porter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.