International (MNN) — When you're an orphan, nothing is yours. You share everything from the clothes on your back to the bed you sleep in.
But shoes are personal, and so is their message, says Heather Weathers of Buckner International. A pair of shoes is often the only new item orphans will ever receive.
"We really communicate [that] you're worth this pair of shoes, that you were beautifully and wonderfully made, that you have a purpose," says Weathers. "When we put the shoes on the kids' feet, there's always a component along with it, like a Vacation Bible School-type message."
According to Weathers, believers get to share the hope of Christ with orphans when they go on a delivery trip through Buckner's Shoes for Orphan Souls project.
Shoes for Orphan Souls is the largest humanitarian aid project of Buckner International. Since 1999, over 2.3 million pairs of new shoes and socks have been distributed to needy kids in 74 countries.
"Some of them stay domestically; a lot of them go internationally to our Buckner-supported programs," Weathers explains. "Anytime we're sending shoes overseas, it's always to kids that normally wouldn't have bought a shoe.
They might to "a grossly-underfunded government orphanage, or a community program that's coming alongside those families and saying, 'We want to help the family to not break down so those kids aren't in an orphanage in a year or two.'"
In 2012 alone, 150,000 pairs of shoes were given to orphans and other vulnerable children worldwide. This year, Weathers says Buckner is aiming to provide 170,000 pairs of new shoes and socks. You can pray, give or go to get involved.
"We are always asking people to come with us to deliver…shoes in those countries," says Weathers. There's a mother/daughter shoe trip to Honduras in June; find details here.
Does the thought of talking about your faith in front of people make you nervous? No need to worry, says Weathers. Buckner prepares faith-sharing materials and talking points ahead of time.
"It's a good starting point for those people that are a little more gregarious and want to share a little bit more as they feel comfortable," she says.
And if talking isn't your thing, "Washing the kids' feet and putting the shoes on them, praying over them, playing baseball with the kids: there's a range of duties to be done on a shoe trip."
Pray that those who go on the shoe trips will remain healthy and effectively serve the kids they meet. Pray that more adult-sized shoes will be donated to Shoes for Orphan Souls.
"A 14-year-old boy wears an adult-sized shoe; but when people think of putting shoes on orphans, they think of a 5-year-old girl," Weathers says. Click here to find a shoe drop-off location near you.
Pray that through the gift of a new pair of shoes, kids will see that they are loved and will come to know Christ as their Savior.