For the most part, I am strong – but I am not afraid of crying. If you know me well – you know that. Somehow I keep it together when hearing stories, when sitting across from a wounded spirit in my office, when being in the midst of pain in Africa. In the middle of working with young and old who have been the victims of war, Jake and I filmed and researched and asked questions and pondered and listened. And listened. And listened some more.
We heard stories of children being taken from their homes at night by rebel leaders, forced to torture their own siblings, childhoods being stolen away. We heard stories of intense pain. We heard stories of great strength. We heard stories of unthinkable forgiveness. God was truly in the middle of their greatest pain.
“How can they not blame God for the suffering they have encountered” I asked.
The answer: “They do not blame God for being abducted. They praise Him for allowing them to be set free.”
We were interviewing Rose who runs our partnering orphanage in Uganda – Village of Hope Uganda. She was a counselor at the World Vision trauma center for those children who were formerly abducted or former child soldiers. She has slept with the children in the streets. She has run from the rebels when she was a little girl. She has wept with them and cared for them and loved them well.
And then there was Richard. Richard used to work for GUSCO, an organization that works at rehabilitating these children after they return from the bush. I asked questions and I listened and I learned. More than I wanted to.
“What happens after the rebels abduct them? How soon after they are abducted are they forced to kill again?”
“They are often forced to walk to a training camp to Sudan for days. That is where they were trained to fight. They are forced to walk barefoot. Sometimes carrying the bodies of the family members they were forced to kill. Or their body parts. If they stop walking, they die.”
Then he said this…. “Sometimes their feet get so wounded that the flesh becomes infected. But they must keep walking”
I felt the tears begin to swell up. I knew if I started to cry that he would stop talking. He would know he had struck a cord and, out of politeness, he would stop. He did strike a cord. One deep in my heart. Why?
A few months ago, we got a donation of THOUSANDS of shoes from The Standard Restaurant in Nashville. It was unexpected, but perfect. What a wonderful way to begin meeting part of their physical needs!! Then the idea came of washing their feet! Of course! We could talk to them about Jesus washing the disciples feet. Then wash their feet before giving them the shoes. What a wonderful way to symbolize a new beginning for them. Washing away of pain and sorrows. Maybe even encourage them to do a drama about it…..”
I sat there listening to Richard realizing that this whole shoe donation and idea about washing their feet was not my idea at all – it was God’s idea to wash the feet of HIS children. He just used our hands to do it : )We were honored to do so.
He knew. He knew how many scars we would find on their feet when we were washing them. He knew tears would come as we looked into their eyes -one by one -to tell them how much God loves them. How much He believes in them. How great the plans are for their lives. He knew because He was there. He was there when they were in the bush, walking mile after mile under horrible conditions and with horrific memories running through their heads. He was there beside us, smiling as we were washing and rinsing and drying and placing new shoes on wounded feet.
He knew that one day there would be a group to get a donation of thousands of shoes that would tell His children of the newness that Jesus can bring. He knew we would wash their feet as a full expression of our love.
He knew that I would look into the eyes of my sweet Ugandan sponsored son who was forced to kill his parents in unheard of ways and to tell him I loved him and was proud of him. He knew we would both start crying as we looked at each other. That moment. That one…..I will never forget.
“No” Peter protested, “You will never wash my feet!”
Jesus Replied, “But if I don’t wash your feet, you will never belong to me.”
Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, Not Just My Feet.”