By Connie Belciug, PhD, CERI Executive Director
As we enter shoe mission season, I am compelled to tell you the story that inspired us to conduct shoe missions to Eastern Europe and the entire world for nearly two decades. The story began in the winter of 1999, when a group of church volunteers, led by Dr. Dearing Garner, at that time lead pastor at Kingwood First Baptist Church, were ministering to children in one of Moldova’s orphanages. The team was getting ready to leave, when a volunteer noticed signs of frostbite on children’s hands, ears and feet. Responding to the immediate need, the volunteers took off their own gloves, scarves and hats and placed them on the children. That was the moment when the idea of the shoe mission was born, a mission that would keep children safe during winter, year after year, displaying the steadfast love of Christ during Christmas time.
The shoe mission is a perfect reflection of CERI’s mission – working with children, families, communities and governments worldwide to provide a family environment as the first and best option for children to grow in. It is one of our most effective ways of reaching out to and serving children who live in orphanages and residential institutions. Through the provision of winter boots and Christ’s message of love, we can connect with children, orphanage directors, the community at large and the local authorities, building trust and partnerships that help us move children along on their path to a loving family.
The story of the shoe mission does not end with volunteers placing a pair of warm winter boots on the feet of children. Together, we made sure that children living in orphanages not only stayed safe during the winter, but also received a chance to live with a family – one of the greatest gifts an orphan can receive!
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…” Psalm 68:5-6
We at CERI, know that in addition to boots and the message of the Gospel, one of the greatest benefits we bring to the children we meet during the shoe mission, is our continued presence in their lives. Our 20 years presence and work in Moldova, resulted in hundreds of children being restored to a loving home and thousands more receiving life-saving services that helped them reach a healthy adulthood.
Therefore, as we start our fundraising efforts for the shoe mission this year – the Shoe Raiser 2018 – we will dedicate 50% of the funds that will be donated to purchasing boots and the other 50% to services to children without a family.
The Shoe Raiser 2018 will provide more than a pair of boots to children living in orphanages. It will provide the gift of family to children we serve worldwide. Donations made to the Shoe Raiser 2018 will buy winter boots for 5,000 children living in Ukraine’s orphanages AND services to thousands more in need of a family. Every dollar you give will be split in half to provide winter boots to children in Ukraine and services to children worldwide. Due to your compassionate gift, many children without a family will experience the power of a new pair of winter boots and will have a chance to grow in a family. We appreciate your partnership in our mission of working with children, families, communities and governments worldwide to provide a family environment as the first and best option for children to grow in.