“You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.” –John 13:13-15
Over the years, the faces of children have stuck with me. There’s Angel in Mexico, Ursula in Peru, Daniel in Ethiopia and Dulce in Guatemala. Then there’s Yulia from Russia.
After I graduated from college, I spent four weeks serving in various orphanages outside St. Petersburg, Russia, through Project Go. During our first day at Orphanage No. 2, Yulia was dropped off. Around 6 years old, she was playful and full of energy. I doubt she had any idea what was happening as she jumped in to play with the rest of the kids and can only imagine how confused Yulia must have been during those first few weeks.
The weight of witnessing that moment in Yulia’s life still sneaks up on me, and I ache for her and the millions of other children around the world who have lived through the same experience.
During the past four years, I have watched the Lord use the gifts of shoes and socks to work powerfully in the lives of needy children, like Yulia. I am constantly in awe of how he uses the project to transform their lives as well as the lives of volunteers, shoe drive hosts, mission trip participants, translators, orphanage caregivers and Buckner employees in beautiful and unexpected ways.
Shoes are by no means a solution to the complex problems faced by the children and teenagers we serve, but they are a simple need we are able to meet. As we wash their feet, we tell them how greatly they are loved. I pray each child who receives shoes will know they are loved by a God who will not leave them or forsake them as others in this world have.
Earlier this year, Buckner celebrated the collection of our 3 millionth pair of shoes. It is a milestone that testifies to the Lord’s grace and provision and is a reminder to our team of the names and faces of children whose lives have been impacted by this ministry in the past sixteen years.
Ashley Williamson is the director of Shoes for Orphan Souls®, the largest humanitarian aid project of Buckner International.
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