By Lauren Hollon Sturdy
One shoe-collecting family learned that when it comes to helping others, a mistake can turn out to be perfect.
Bailey Johnson had counted and sorted every single pair of shoes for her mission trip – several times, in fact, because she kept losing count of the piles spread across her family’s lawn. So when she arrived with a mission team in Honduras and came across three left-footed flip-flops in three different colors, all the same size, she couldn’t believe her eyes. “Oh, great,” she thought in frustration, “That’s three girls who won’t get shoes!”
“But God, of course, had plans,” said Holly Johnson, Bailey’s mother.
Bailey and Holly are big “collectors.” They’ve gotten into the habit of stocking up whenever they see small toys, supplies or gifts on sale, because they love to send shoeboxes of gifts to children around the world at Christmas and give presents to children when they go on mission trips.
Two years ago they saw flip-flops on clearance and bought 40 pairs. They decorated the sandals and took them on a 2011 mission trip with S.O.S. (Seekers of Souls) Ministries – the same organization they’d seen the Duggar family of “19 Kids and Counting” travel with on television.
The next year they began collecting flip-flops again, gathering 200 pairs this time. Holly began researching ways to bless even more people with shoes and remembered hearing about Shoes for Orphan Souls, Buckner International’s largest humanitarian aid project.
Holly contacted Buckner staff to learn more about how to work together and placed a request for additional shoes to take overseas on the next S.O.S. Ministries mission trip. After getting approval for the request, the Johnson family visited the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid last October to pick up more than 1,100 pairs of shoes destined for Central America.
Back home in South Carolina, shoes littered their lawn as they sorted, counted and recounted the shoes and prayed for each child who would receive a pair. Neighbors came out to watch the spectacle and ask what was going on – “It was a great witnessing tool,” Holly said.
Bailey, her twin brother and their dad traveled to Honduras last December with S.O.S. Ministries, shoes in tow. During a Vacation Bible School program, Bailey was dismayed to discover the three single flip-flops that slipped past her family in their shoe counting.
Later that day, however, a young girl came to the mission team with her friend to get new shoes. Her right leg had been run over by a truck and amputated several years earlier. The three “orphaned” left flip-flops that had slipped past the Johnson family were exactly the perfect size.
“It was a reminder that God doesn’t need us,” Bailey said. “He’s got this under control; we just need to follow Him.”
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