At the entrance of the children’s home, there is a row of colorful sandals. Some of the sandals have cute plastic animals on them while others make up the color of the rainbow. They might just be a pile of shoes, but after hearing a story over lunch, I can’t help but look at these sandals differently.
With tears in his eyes, and noodles on our plate, our host tells us that he came home one day and noticed the children’s sandals were badly worn. Upon seeing the condition of the shoes, he cried as he imagined what it must be like for his kids to go to school with worn sandals. To remedy the situation, he went to his wife to see how much money they had in their personal account. At that time, they only had the equivalent of $10 USD to their name, but the desire to provide new shoes inspired them to take inventory of their most valuable possessions. Our host glanced at his wedding ring while sharing this part of the story. Sensing what was coming, both my sister and I used napkins to wipe up our tears. This precious couple sold their wedding rings to buy new shoes for over 200 children so that they wouldn’t get blisters on the walk to school or feel inferior or embarrassed while at school. We sat there in silence hungering for more of Jesus — a hunger superior to any physical hunger. And this is why it is impossible to look at a pile of shoes in the same way. These shoes are a display of sacrificial love and miraculous provision.
Two weeks after buying shoes for the children, a Buddhist man reported that there was a piece of land for sale near their house that was only available to someone who was part of the same tribe. Our host borrowed money to purchase the property and sold it a little over a year later for 30 times the original price. With this money he was able to purchase a bus, financially bless his parents, pay back the money that was borrowed, invest in other business ventures and buy a new wedding band. By now our host, beaming with gratitude, said, “When we give with our whole heart, the Lord always does a miracle… The feeling of giving those shoes to the children is my greatest joy.” While at the children’s home, my sister and I experience what it looks like to give with your whole heart. Every time we visit, the kids smother us with hugs. I almost fall over from all the love. For fun, they make us matching leaf crowns suffused with flowers. It takes a while to put in the flowers and we look positively radiant. To keep us from sweating too much, some of the girls grab large leaves to fan our faces. It doesn’t help much, because the kids are huddling tightly around us, but it is absolutely precious.
The children who loved so freely reminded me of the real price of those new shoes. It is worth infinitely more than monetary provision. Love has an exacting price on the human heart. And much like their heavenly Father, the children, and our host, simply share out of the overflow of the love that they receive. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This large family is a testament to the power of generous love and the truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
~ Courtney Werner