Monday, March 7, 2011
I keep trying to tell people that their one life matters. You matter. How you live, what you do matters. If you’re not convinced, let me tell you about Jennifer.
Jennifer Preyss (pronounced Price) is a young, energetic reporter for the Victoria Advocate; Texas’ oldest newspaper. Last year Jennifer traveled to Malawi, Africa and spent several weeks serving with Children of the Nations (COTN), loving and caring for orphans.
In October -- still bothered by the extreme poverty, the lack of simple basic needs like shoes -- Jennifer read about The Grove’s Barefoot Sunday. She was captivated, compelled, and certain God wanted her to hold a Barefoot Sunday in Victoria, Texas and send the shoes to children in Malawi.
Jennifer says she “stalked” me on Facebook until I answered. Her urgent plea read something like, “Palmer, I want to hold a Barefoot Sunday for the entire city of Victoria! Can you help me?”
It sounded audacious. I told her I would do my best. But her plans seemed lofty, and South Texas was a long way from Chandler, Arizona. I was a skeptic.
Jennifer kept working. Her passion was infectious. Four more reporters joined her cause. A date was set, February 27th. A goal was established, 1,000 pairs of shoes.
On Victoria’s Barefoot Sunday I preached three services at The Grove, then hurried to the airport with Dan Angermiller. Dan returned from Malawi with a similar passion to Jennifer’s, and founded Lightfeet Project; his efforts to collect shoes for Africa and Haiti.
We landed in Houston and our good driver Erica kept her foot to the floor trying to get us to Victoria by 6:30. When Dan and I walked through the doors of Renegade, the appropriate name of the church hosting the event, Pastor Bard met us with a giant Texas smile, handed me a wireless mic and said, “Ok Palmer, you’re up, this is the bands last song.”
That night I saw how Jennifer had inspired an entire city. She and her team had rallied participation from 20 churches, 4 schools, 2 colleges, and a Synagogue.
An entire class of second graders insisted on going barefoot the whole day, when they took off their shoes to send to Africa. A high school junior, Keaton Warren, said, “What good are shoes without socks?” So he started his own sock drive. More than 2,000 pairs of socks came in on Barefoot Sunday. And I loved this, when shoes piled up all over the city, the Advocate newspaper sent their truck out to do shoe pick-ups -- after their newspaper deliveries.
When I spoke that night I had the privilege of applauding the efforts of everyone in Victoria. I told them about the places their shoes would go, like Liberia, Malawi, and Haiti. I told them how valuable one pair of shoes is to an African orphan. I told them how a pair of shoes moves a barefoot high school student in Africa from going to school full of shame, to walking to school full of dignity.
After the closing Barefoot Sunday event, as we surveyed the mountain of shoes, Jennifer gave us a count… “We’ve blown past our goal, Palmer, you’re looking at 4,700 pairs of shoes!”
Do you see why I say one life, like Jennifer’s, really can make a difference?
The next morning the shoe count jumped past 5,000… and counting.