On Holy Thursday, my daughter and I inched our way in line in our church toward a foot-washing station.
There, anyone could have a foot washed and then wash that of another in a hands-on symbolic act representing service to others.
It’s become something of a tradition for the kids and me. This year, though, my mind jumped back two months to a remarkable journey I was privileged to undertake with about a dozen parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in West Des Moines.
Through the Urbandale-based Blessman Ministries, we traveled to South Africa to provide new shoes, eyeglasses, Days for Girls kits and show love to some of the poorest of children. Poverty is rampant in some parts, and the effects of AIDS and HIV have taken their toll on children who have lost one or both parents, children who live with grandparents or older siblings, aunts or uncles.
Many of the children have only one pair of shoes. Saving them for school, often they go barefoot when not in class. I watched several children play soccer in bare feet.
The ticket out of poverty might be education, yet some girls miss a week of school each month because they can’t afford feminine hygiene supplies and some students can’t see without glasses, which they can’t afford. These are children who dream of being doctors, lawyers, engineers and financial planners.
After securing new shoes on the feet of one little girl and praying for her, I gave her a hug and said, “I love you.” She smiled and said, “I love you, too.” She became blurry as I sniffed away a tear. It suddenly occurred to me that I was in South Africa not only to love, but to be loved.
Countless people across our diocese have traveled as close as a local food pantry or homeless shelter and as far away as El Salvador, Guatemala, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Tanzania, Togo or South Africa to show God’s love. Often, they return having experienced a blessed moment when they realized God may have brought them there to be loved.
The next time your parish announces it’s offering a mission trip, consider that he might be inviting you. If your parish doesn’t offer mission trips, maybe God is nudging you to consider organizing such a journey for your parish.
Blessman Ministries was founded by Des Moines Dr. Jim Blessman, who felt called to South Africa. He invites us to spend a week with him to see the good work already being done in his adopted homeland and the work that lays ahead to make sure all people’s lives and dignity are treated with respect and love. If the spirit moves you, he has opportunities for nine-month-long mission opportunities as well.
If you've been waiting for God to point you in the right direction, you just may find yourself heading to South Africa.
Click here to read my blog about the trip.
To get more information on Blessman Ministries mission trips, call 515-343-5920 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.