Barefoot Sunday event aims to send shoes to Africa

Feb. 8, 2011 at 8:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 8, 2011 at 8:09 p.m.

Two Malawi men sharing one pair of shoes sparked a conviction that Palmer Chinchen would carry back to his Arizona church, The Grove, and that would eventually reach the Crossroads.

A few years ago, the pastor took a basketball team to the southeastern African country as part of an outreach program.

"One guy showed up barefoot, and he had no shoes," Chinchen remembered. "And so his friend didn't want him to be embarrassed when (the) Americans got here, so he took off one shoe, so at least he'd have one shoe when (we) got here."

The situation was one of many Chinchen had experienced in several trips to Africa.

"I'd be in villages with the people from our church, and literally, if there were 100 kids, 98 of them would be barefoot," he said.

After learning that 350 million children in the world go barefoot every day, and hundreds of thousands more adults, Chinchen encouraged his church to take action.

With that, Barefoot Sunday was created.

"I told them I wanted them to wear their best and their favorite shoes to church, leave them here, and we would take them to Africa and give them away," Chinchen recalled. "And I challenged them to spend the rest of the day barefoot, no matter where they went, so they could empathize."

Chinchen said drawing awareness to the people who live every day of their lives barefoot is nearly as important as the drive itself.

"A lot of it is the shame of going barefoot," he said, also mentioning diseases that can be caught without wearing shoes. "When I see grown men in Africa going to work barefoot, you sense their shame ... You really give them dignity."

Two years ago, the first Barefoot Sunday's worship service saw record numbers, and more than 2,000 pairs of shoes were collected and delivered by The Grove volunteers to children and adults in Malawi.

Since then, Chinchen's effort has taken on a grassroots movement.

From across the country, his vision inspired Advocate Reporter Jennifer Preyss to take action, as well.

She stumbled upon Palmer's website,, and watched a video of the shoes being delivered to an African country, much like the one she'd visited a year earlier.

"I was so moved, and I cried, and I thought, 'Man, there are people around the world doing amazing things. I promised myself I would do amazing things for these people in Africa, and I'm not,'" Preyss emotionally recalled.

She sent Chinchen a Facebook message thanking him for his inspiration and vowed to do a similar collection in Victoria.

"When you spend two weeks with people who have nothing, even the worst thing you own, the most tattered thing that you own, is something so coveted over there," Preyss said.

She began throwing the idea around with people in town and quickly realized a Barefoot Sunday event, complete with music, a guest speaker and the shoe collection would be possible in Victoria.

"Because the environment in Victoria is so hospitable, people were thrilled to jump on board," Preyss said. "It was surprising and really humbling to see that they were so willing to help."

To her surprise, Chinchen wrote Preyss back and said nobody had ever attempted to do a community-wide Barefoot Sunday before. And he wanted to be here to see it.

Chinchen will speak at the Feb. 27 event, which is sponsored by the Advocate and will be held in a space donated by the Renegade Church.

"This whole thing is because of him, because of his heart, because of his model and his example," Preyss said. "There would be no Barefoot Sunday if it hadn't been for Palmer just living a life that's for other people."



Powered By AffectDigitalMedia