Missionary Feet

image (1)My daughter, like many others, loves to put on my shoes. Strangely my sturdy Tevas are not as picturesque as a pair of heels. The first time she tried them on, my pulse quickened with concern. My shoes are with me everywhere. The street. The dirt. Drop toilets. Everywhere. And in wanting to be like mama, suddenly my child is exposed to everything that was on, or near to, whatever I walked on…in a land where life threatening diseases are the norm rather than the exception, there are plenty of things a mama could worry on about, besides my daughter in my shoes.

“Would it have been worse,” I wonder, “If I was still walking the streets of the slums every day?” I would not have worn sandals out as often, especially during rainy season. Feet protected; heart exposed.

But both here and there, feet have little chance of making it out unweathered, with natural red dye in the earth, and heat that cracks the softest heel. Missionary Feet. I remember when I first noticed them on others that I met. They were a stark contrast to the many pampered toes walking the streets of Southern California. I used to have a strong aversion to even the softest of feet. A repulsion which could, and was, used against me in jest.

I’m not sure when it changed; the softness of my feet, and my sensitivity to them.

I think it was the day the dirt didn’t wash away. Seconds turned minutes of scrubbing and soaping revealed that I was turning black -beginning with a part of the body that rarely sees the sun. It was then that a pumice stone became part of my daily ritual.

It can sounds glamourous, moving to Africa. And then bit by bit, months wear on, and holidays come, and the excitement becomes routine and your feet begin to take on a smell and skin becomes thick.

It was a poor harvest last year for many, which means Christmas time (rainy season, when next years seeds are hopefully being watered) is one of the hardest times of the year.

Outside of my house leathered soles walk the streets, and my own callused heels cringe at both their own texture and at the disparity in between.

Feet that bear the brunt of whatever circumstance this body chooses to walk into. Shoes that protect the feet of the one that can afford them. Daughter that loves the shoes of the one she knows.

Advent season is here, and I miss… anything. Nostalgia is in everything, and in nothing as the familiar is different from memory, but the season still prepares our hearts to hope.

I hear Handel’s Messiah and the soprano voice floating through the church gently reminding “how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things…”

and I look down at dirt that won’t wash off, and think of the hardened feet of those outside and am struck with the humanity of it all, and the worth in the humanity.

One pair of feet – the only ones that could carry the weight of the one who preached the gospel of peace.

And we pray our feet, whatever weather we face, will be able to bear the same weight of love.

14 thoughts on “Missionary Feet

  1. Great article. Enjoyed seeing Ty at school today in Mbale. Looking forward to a meal together tomorrow evening!

    Merry Christmas and again congratulations on expecting #2!

    1. Thank you so much Mike! For the kind words, and for the congratulations. Glad you got to see Ty – we are looking forward to getting to see him as well soon! Merry Christmas to you as well – enjoy the time there in Mbale!

  2. Justine, Thanks for sharing part of your life with those who love you and your family. As you were writing about feet and shoes and dirt, I remembered a recent show on TV of “Shark Tank” where a man showed an “All Natural” hand soap. It’s primary ingredient was DIRT. Called Grip Clean, it is an Industrial Hand Soap That Fights Dirt With Dirt, The inventor said dirt is pure, natural, and clean and is the best cleanser there is for absorbing grime and grease. His product is prepared with some gentle oils. And, can you believe it , he got an $85,000 investment from one of the sharks. Blessings and a very Merry Christmas to you there in Malawi, in the Warm Heart of Africa.

    1. Hi Sidney,

      Thanks for reading and for the encouraging words! That is quite the interesting story as well! Blessings to you and your family (and the NBC family!) this Christmas as well. Love, The Hayes

  3. Blessings to you all. As we walk with Jesus the Holy Spirit changes us to be more and more like him. Perhaps for you the visible artifact of that internal change is the external change of your feet. God bless from Andrew Rachel and the kids (Kenya 2013)

  4. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Justine. I was thinking of you last week, and I don’t know why I just thought you might expecting a second child, such a random thought. It’s funny, I was reading through the comments this morning and noticed someone congratulated you on baby #2 on the way. I’m always amazed when things like that happen, nonetheless, congratulations to you and yours! How exciting! Be blessed, and know that I’m praying for you today.


    Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. – Jude 1:2


    1. Aw, thanks Ana! How sweet to know that you were thinking about us – all FOUR of us! 🙂 Thanks for your prayers and your words – you are always such an encouragement to me 🙂

  5. Justine after reading your post I was struck with how profound your message was. Profound is the only word that describes The wisdom and insight that God continually gives you. We love you with all her heart and miss you terribly.

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