Shoe trip veteran recounts favorite mission trip moments

By Lauren Hollon Sturdy

Sonja Fowler is a mission trip expert. At 74 years old, she has 10 international trips under her belt since 2004, and has taken half of them through Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls®. She says God called her to international mission work, and that He has been faithful to use her in unique ways on each trip.

“I go on these trips because the Lord speaks to me and tells me what He wants me to do,” Fowler said. “If I tell him I don’t have the money to do that, He tells me, ‘I don’t know about that; I own the cattle on a thousand hills, and I can make a way for you.’”

Through Buckner, she has served in Peru, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Romania and Russia, and says she has seen God’s hand in every trip.

She recalled kneeling before one little boy in Ethiopia whose feet were completely crusted in a thick layer of dried mud.

“I asked God for water to wash his feet, because I couldn’t put the shoes on him,” she said. “The Lord said, ‘You’ve got water.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t.’ Then I looked down and saw my water bottle at my feet. I dropped just a few drops on his toes and the mud fell off like a puzzle piece. The water didn’t run out all day; every time I picked it up, it seemed like it had the same amount.”

She said she also saw God move during her trip to Vietnam, even though the mission team wasn’t allowed to evangelize during their time with the kids.

The team was assigned a government guard, Mr. Chong, who accompanied them everywhere, even staying with them during meals.

Each morning at breakfast before heading out for a day of ministry, a different team member would lead a short devotional during breakfast. Fowler felt led to teach from Acts 19 about the miraculous healings that Paul did, even healing people with “handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him” (Acts 19:12).

“Later on that day, I’m standing outside the orphanage swinging the kids on the playground,” she said. “Mr. Chong beckoned me over to where he was standing and said, ‘I want to hear more about the handkerchiefs.’”

Fowler remembered that their team leader told the group that Chong’s son was sick and asked the team to pray for him. She asked him if he had any handkerchiefs and told him to “use them.”

“He asked, ‘Sonja, how should I pray: in English, or in Vietnamese?’ He was really listening to the devotional during breakfast. If nobody else was, he was really listening, and he didn’t know how to approach God. God said, ‘You tell him,’ so I said, ‘Listen, our God invented every language. It does not matter which one you use to talk to Him.’”

Before she left Hanoi, Fowler gave Chong her cross necklace and a note of encouragement.

Fowler’s most recent Shoes for Orphan Souls trip was this past October, when she and a team went to St. Petersburg, Russia, to deliver shoes to seven orphanages.

“These kids, some of them are repeat kids so they know what’s coming or they’ve been told what’s going to happen,” she said. “They are always excited and grateful. They cherish their shoes.

“God is in this program. Whatever Buckner is doing is definitely under the spirit and fellowship of the Lord. I’ve seen it, and my faith has increased because of it.”

Do you feel called to serve through a shoe delivery trip this year? Click here to view the 2014 mission trip calendar.

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