Shoes of Hope

Prayer time at Shoes of Hope. Photo courtesy of Heather Evans.

By Courtney Lott –

Of all the most profound and significant ways in which our Lord Jesus served those around him, cleaning the disciples’ feet is one of the most shocking and scandalous. The God of the universe humbled himself to do a job only the lowest of the low servants performed. Although it is a practice that is foreign to most people in our modern era, Jesus cleaned the dirty feet of men who he knew would abandon him a few hours later. As he so often did, Christ weaved together a lesson and an example, teaching us about how he purifies us, and showing us how we ought to serve each other.

Following in the curve of Christ’s humble and loving posture, Grace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in Southwest Florida, has been blessing hundreds of families through their ministry, Shoes of Hope, since 2011. This back-to-school outreach event invites members of the community into the church. Together, they celebrate the coming academic year with a carnival, food, and games. The church also provides children and youth with brand new shoes, school supplies, and their very own Bible. Yet Grace Church goes a step further in serving and affirming the dignity of those who come.

“Once it’s time for them to get their shoes, they have their feet measured, then they are welcomed by their own personal runner, who takes them into the sanctuary to a foot washing station,” says Heather Evans, Grace Church’s Age Level Ministries Director. “Once the child is seated at the foot washing station with their family, the foot washer removes their shoes and starts to ask them how they’re doing, gets to know them a little bit, asks them about their summer and the upcoming school year. And as they’re washing their feet, they tell them a little bit about Jesus and why he washed the disciples feet. And they pray together with the family.”

Through this ministry, dozens of children have made a first time commitment to Jesus Christ, but they are not the only ones who are reached. Single mother Lisa Johnson testifies that she had strayed from God. However, after connecting with Grace Church through Shoes of Hope, the Lord called her back to himself. Now she helps lead a Bible study she started with Evans.

A new pair of shoes does more than protect the feet. They can create a sense of dignity and belonging, something extremely difficult for children and teenagers to find at times. Amber Wellman, another single mom, talks about how difficult it is to find shoes that fit her daughter. With the new pair given to her by Shoes of Hope, she “was ready to show them off to everybody.”

People with every kind of gift help make this ministry possible, Evans says. “It takes about $20 to $25 to sponsor a child, to be able to supply the good quality shoes and school supplies that we provide. [We also have] people behind the scenes before the event ever happens, that help with registration and gathering supplies. On the day of the event, we need so many people to do so many things.”

Courtney Lott is the editorial assistant at Good News. You can learn more about this incredible service here: http://www.egracechurch.com/shoes/#.

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