Barefoot Sunday aims to send 5,000 pairs shoes to Africa

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

March 29, 2013 at midnight
Updated March 28, 2013 at 10:29 p.m.

Shirley Grantland ties a pair of sneakers together at Renegade Church for Barefoot Sunday. At the event, attendees are asked to sign a pledge to go barefoot the next morning. The shoes collected will be shipped to impoverished families in Malawi, Africa.

Shirley Grantland ties a pair of sneakers together at Renegade Church for Barefoot Sunday. At the event, attendees are asked to sign a pledge to go barefoot the next morning. The shoes collected will be shipped to impoverished families in Malawi, Africa.

When Barefoot Sunday ended last year - with a collection of more than 8,000 pairs of new and used shoes for children and adults in Malawi, Africa - I had somewhat submitted to the idea that the project wouldn't continue the following year.

I wanted it to, of course.

I'd been wholly invested in the project for more than two years, and nothing I've achieved in my lifetime has been more fulfilling than seeing Barefoot Sunday through to the finish line both years.

But it seemed my Victoria volunteer team was growing tired. It seemed I was growing tired. And the necessary resources to complete Barefoot Sunday weren't expanding - while the communitywide shoe collection itself was.

Could I do this another year? I wasn't sure.

Enter Dan Laughhunn, a second-grade teacher at Faith Academy.

Laughhunn has been an energetic supporter of Barefoot Sunday since its inception at Renegade Church in 2010. He also helped spearhead Faith Academy's Barefoot Friday project, which allows students to attend school without shoes while donating new and used shoes to Barefoot Sunday.

Laughhunn has expressed for many years that he, like Faith Family's senior pastor, Jim Graff, and Renegade's senior pastor, Bard Letsinger, has a passion for international mission work. He has a heart for the poor and an urgency for the forgotten.

And, Laughhunn knows the need to serve the poor and forgotten abroad because he's seen and touched and smelled the kind of poverty that only exists in countries like Malawi, where the average life expectancy is about 51 years old.

Malawi is among the world's poorest countries and listed 20th for lowest life expectancy alongside 19 other African countries.

That means is that almost an entire continent of people in Africa are in desperate need for basic human essentials like food, clothing, clean water, health care and education.

It's an epidemic so great and real that it's difficult to wrap my head around even four years after traveling to Malawi.

But what's beautiful about that trip is that it took a trip around the world to an undesirable location for me to understand my role in international poverty. It wasn't a problem happening to people on the other side of the world who didn't matter. They did matter.

And it mattered if I did nothing.

So it took me holding AIDS-infected babies in my arms and walking hand-in-hand with innocent children veiled in ringworm and infection; wearing torn, dirty rags who trekked around dirt, disease-infected fields with no shoes on their feet to understand the importance.

What if this were my life? What if someone else could help me, even in the smallest way, and chose not to?

Sure, I could pray for them. I could play with them and tell them God loves them.

But I realized there's only so much I can pray for and ask God to fix.

At some point, I must move. At some point, I have to work alongside God for anything substantial to shift.

And almost three years later, I know that decision to move has made an impact on communities in Malawi and in the Crossroads area.

I know today that's what Barefoot Sunday has become.

After participating both years, Laughhunn sought me out to say he didn't want to see Barefoot Sunday die or postponed for a year or two.

He knew the shoes were needed in Africa, and he wanted to see the children served in any way he could.

So, he urged Faith Family Church to get involved this year and keep Barefoot moving forward.

With the support of Renegade Church and many other churches in town who are graciously donating their space as a shoe drop-off location, Barefoot Sunday 2013 will kick off full steam ahead on Saturday.

So what can you do?

For the next three weeks, we're encouraging you to bring your new and gently used shoes to our designated drop off locations or start collecting shoes on your own at your home, business or church. Buy them, give them, whatever works for you.

New shoes will also be donated locally to children in the Crossroads area who need shoes for school.

Help us meet our 2013 goal of 5,000 pairs of shoes.

What's new this year is that Faith Family Church has adopted Barefoot Sunday as part of its Servolution Week, so it will tie into the church's heavy list of service opportunities during April.

Servolution will conclude April 21 at Faith Family's morning church services, and shoes will be counted, sorted and boxed later that evening in the Connection Center at the church.

There's also a $2,000 fundraising goal to assist with shipping expenses and an account set up at First Victoria Bank care of Barefoot Sunday, in which donations can be made at your leisure.

Let's make Barefoot Sunday bigger and better than it has ever been.

Your shoes could offer a sense of pride to someone in need and offer a chance for a longer life span and disease prevention.

You don't need to do much at all. You just have to make the decision to move.

Jennifer Preyss is the faith reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or or on Twitter @jenniferpreyss



Powered By AffectDigitalMedia