Welcoming new friends with hope and a new pair of shoes so they can take the next step towards their new lives.
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The mission team was just a mile from the Mexico border. They were setting up a shoe distribution at Good Neighbor Settlement House in Brownsville, TX for around 150 people. Those 150 people had left everything behind in Mexico in search of a safer, better life.
“These shoes are marvelous; this is the first gift [immigrants] receive as they come into the United States. After their long journeys, someone sits and shows how much they care by washing their feet. It means so much and how much they care as they begin their new journey,” said Oswald, Good Neighbors Settlement House.
Upperclassmen from Charlotte Christian High School were serving along the Texas – Mexico border with Samaritan’s Feet and Border Perspectives, an organization that provides service-learning experiences along the South Texas border.
“Serving together with Samaritan’s Feet has been a very pleasant experience because through this action, this activity, we see many smiling faces,” said Eunice Moya, Community Partner, Border Perspectives. “Truly, my heart was filled with joy. I had an experience with a single mother who has six children. She was happy, she was crying with pleasure, she was crying with happiness, because she said her children were going to go to school and they had no shoes.”
Over the week, the team would serve around 1,000 individuals along the border, most who have just arrived to the United States. They would give these individuals a new pair of shoes—a welcomed gift, as many had traveled so far and so long by foot in search of safety and security.
“I am a single mother of 8 children, and I cannot financially provide for my family. Today we feel very blessed and thank the Lord for providing shoes to our entire family,” said a mother who was served in South Texas. Another mother said, “It feels great to have a basic need like shoes provided. Thank you, Samaritan’s Feet and Border Missions, for making today happen.”
Many recipients told those who served them that they had walked so much recently and were so grateful for their new, comfortable shoes. Even the leadership team for Border Perspectives, a partner of Samaritan’s Feet, knew the significance a new pair of shoes could have on families.
“I grew up without shoes. My family was very humble and only bought shoes once a year for all my brothers and myself, there were 8 of us. My father was a pastor and the pastorate life is always difficult when it comes to meeting the needs of the family. But I had a warrior mother who always looked out for us so that her children had what they needed, and through her sacrifice we could obtain one pair of shoes per year. When we received that pair of shoes, per year, we were happy,” said Moya.
Not only does the physical item of shoes mean so much to those who were served in South Texas, but the manner in which they were presented did as well. The humbling act of washing feet for these new neighbors can certainly be an incredible way to welcome them to their new home and their new life.
“Here in South Texas, hope is such an important message because a lot of the people here are leaving everything they have behind. They’re leaving everything they have to come here [to the U.S.]. And now they’re somewhere they know nothing about. To them, it’s an opportunity. Their lives were in danger, their family, their children. They’ve taken a leap of faith to bring their family to a place where they feel like they can have a better life.It’s that message of hope that lets them know that no matter what it took to get here, that there’s hope for a better future,” said Jessica Simmons, Teacher, Charlotte Christian.
Many of the students serving during this trip had eye-opening experiences through their kind gestures to these strangers-now-friends. They served wanting to give back to others, but received so much in return.
“One man in Brownsville, Leroy, sat in the chair in front of me. In the middle of washing his feet, he grabbed my hand and said ‘you’re an angel. God bless you. You’ve changed my life. Thank you.’ It made me feel like I really made a difference,” said one team member, Ricki.
Another team member, Emma, said, “When I was washing a woman’s feet, she immediately began to cry. She kept saying, ‘God bless you. God bless you,’ and thanking me for washing her feet. I don’t think she was used to be served in that way. I think that interaction gave her some hope.”
Throughout the week serving in towns like Hidalgo and McAllen, just miles from the Mexico border, the team heard countless personal stories of hardship and uncertainty. It’s during transitional times like these when hope is critical and can make such a difference in someone’s life.
Hope can give perseverance and bravery during those hardships, and optimism and joy during the uncertainty.
As one team member, Lily, said, “Hope is like gas, it keeps things running and motivated that the future can get better.”