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When you’ve got nothing left to give

Shanda Dodd, one of our racers, shares the following blog of her experience in Swaziland. Shanda is built for speed. She takes on what the race dishes out with equanimity. But God has a way of getting past our defenses…   We were expecting around 250 children to show u…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Shanda Dodd, one of our racers, shares the following blog of her experience in Swaziland. Shanda is built for speed. She takes on what the race dishes out with equanimity. But God has a way of getting past our defenses…


We were expecting around 250 children to show up. The plan was to
divide them into twelve groups, line them up, and then one by one begin
the process of distributing new shoes. Each of the stations had
swashing bins filled with water, a couple bars of soap, wash rags, and
willing hands. Our goal for the day was to wash the feet of, pray for,
and give new shoes to all the children. Our supply of shoes, which
looked large at first, consisted of donated Nikes, sandles, and Croc
like shoes.



And so our day began, with crowded lines backed up everywhere and our
clean water quickly becoming brown. I was partnered with Dre at one of
the washing stations. As she washed and prayed over a child, I tried to
find a pair of shoes that would fit, and then we would switch roles.
The washing and praying was extremely moving, however, finding shoes
that fit each child proved to be challenging, especially when we began
to run low on the middle sizes. Despite the difficulties, we prevailed
saying it’s just one size to big, he’s a growing boy, if they’re a
little big they’ll last longer.

As the hours went by, the act of washing the hundreds of dust covered
feet was tugging at my heart more than I thought it would and our
middle size shoes went from scarce to non-existent, the other sizes
dwindling as well. With emotions running high I sat down at the washing
basin and asked Dre to find someone with little feet that would fit
into the remaining shoes. She brought back a barefoot, little girl with
precious eyes and feet just the right size, or so I thought.

I began washing her feet, scrubbing the mud of the bottoms, and even
getting the dirt from in between her little toes. She smiled at me as I
silently prayed that she would know God’s love and grow up to be a
beacon of light in her community. When I finished drying off her feet,
Dre handed me a pair of shoes. I tried to put them on, but they were a
size to small. I tried again, praying that God would make the shoes
grow just the little bit needed. They still didn’t fit. As the tears
began to slide down my cheeks, I tried again. I prayed harder than I’ve
prayed in a long time, God please just make these shoes fit, please
God. It’s not out of your abilities, please just make them fit. But,
the shoes remained too small.

I completely broke. We were out of anything remotely close to her size
and this adorable little girl sitting so patiently in front of me
waiting for something I couldn’t give. She had walked I don’t know how
far barefoot on the hot ground with the promise of shoes and I couldn’t
do anything for her. I just held her feet crying. I must have looked
crazy to her… this strange white woman sitting on the floor, bursting
into tears, still holding her feet. Yet, I couldn’t let her go empty
handed. I asked Dre to get whatever the next size shoe was. It was at
least 3 sizes to big, but I didn’t care. I put them on her feet and
buckled them as tight as I could. 

Dre took over communication with the translator and the little girl as
I continued crying. She explained that these were the only shoes we
had, but at least her feet would be covered. As she prayed a final pray
over the girl I sat there asking God why? Why didn’t you make the shoes
fit? Why didn’t you make them just a little bit bigger? Why God? She
had no shoes, it wouldn’t be that hard for you? You fed the five
thousand, I only asked for one pair of shoes? Why didn’t you provide
for the little girl? But I didn’t hear an answer.

We finished distributing what shoes we could and took down the names
and sizes of those that still needed a pair. We had given away over 500
pairs of shoes that day. With our supplies cleaned up and our energy
levels low, the majority of our group piled back into the van and
headed home. I waited at the site until the last of us were finished
and the van return to pick up the remaining few. I needed the time to
think without the being crowded in a 22 passenger van with 35 people.
When it arrive I hopped in the front, looking out the window, enjoying
the wind and the silence of the van, but not the silence of God. And
then I heard it clearly…

God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good.

I was still teary as we pulled into our campsite, but I had a sense of
peace that was lacking before. Even though I couldn’t see the purpose,
even though I didn’t understand why, God was still in control. He was
still good and He will always be good, no matter what my perception of
a situation is… God is good.

Comments (9)

  • I needed to be reminded of this that god is good all the time. I find myself so broken lately specifically for the orphans that I am hearing and reading about in Swaziland. How can God be good, yet allow this? I do know that God and His word is the same, regardless of what we see, hear or experience in this eathly life. I continue to read God’s word about suffering and pain, and it seems like it is creating more questions, not answers. Is this alright as a Christian? This is where I am at, and often times if I admit my struggles and questions to others then I feel judged for asking hard questions. I do know in the bible there were godly people that asked tough questions and trusted God with the answers and faith was key. All I know is to pray and claim God’s promises for the people he loves in Swaziland. Right now, I am going to trust God’s promise that he is good! Thanks so much for the blog.

  • Abba is my first thought, after crying through Shanda’s broken heart. I wanted to write something here. I felt I had to write something here, but I don’t know what to say…. The word ABBA is hard pressed on my heart, as I write through tears. Then I remember that my own daddy didn’t always give me exactly everything that I wanted, but he did indeed give me absolutely all that I needed. In this we can say Abba to our loving God…indeed He supplies our every need. Perhaps the little girl in Swaziland will not have opportunity to have a new pair of shoes until 3 sizes from now. What good would it really do her to have a tight fitting pair of shoes to rapidly grown out of and be back in the dirt. God’s wisdom is supreme. The main thing is the main thing, to keep their feet from constant contact with the soil where endless deseases and worms are transmitted to the human body. I would venture to estimate that this little girl will be protected for an extended period of time by God’s wisdom and grace and she certainly will not easily forget the big white hands that reached out to her in her time of need. Be blessed. Seth and Shanda, Thank you of sharing this.

  • Hi Shanda and Seth,

    Really interesting story as I am in South Africa right now, soon to be in Mozambique. Why I find it so interesting is because last night our South African hosts were telling us a story about how their church tried to bless a bunch of orphans with shoes cause they saw them running around without shoes and were concerned about the worms, diseases and glass…. So, they got them all shoes, and 2 weeks later, hardly any of them were wearing those shoes, as for them, it was not a perceived need. My hosts talked about the lesson they learned about letting the people determine the need more than some outsiders coming in and telling them what they need. Understand, I’m not saying your kids in Swaziland didn’t need shoes, as I have had to pull worms out of Mozambican orphan feet one too many times, but maybe it wasn’t as big a need to them as it was to Shanda. I only offer this in case it brings some measure of comfort to Shanda and her compassionate heart, and to realize as well, that maybe God Himself didn’t perceive it as such a big need, but what He thought that girl could most benefit from was the tears of a white woman that cared.

  • Note to Melinda:

    Melinda I think we need to look at this a little differant. The Lord is directing these outsiders to come along and train and teach these kids ways and means to improve their lives and health. Yes we use are American brains and we sometimes miss the mark but remember it IS the Lord who is directing us and it is He who gaves us much so we can share to those in need. So the first time they try, the kids protect their feet for only two weeks, we try again. The next time around they learn to wear them a little longer and one day we stop picking worms out of their feet. It not just shoes, there are many others things we need to model and train this generation of kids to do. We start with shoes then we can move into hygiene, nutrition, clean water, abstience, safe sex, AIDs antivirals and so much more. Remember these are also new an strange to them but will save lives just like the shoes.


  • As someone who was there at the shoe giveaway, who prayed for the kids and for the gogos, and put shoes on their well-worn feet, it was a great day, a hard day, a hot day, a chaotic day. But as Shanda says, God is good and it was a very good day! Just like in Genesis 1, God looked at it and saw that it was good.

    The look in each gogo’s eyes when their foot slipped into a new shoe will forever be in my memory. They were both grateful and amazed. I remember Shanda giving us miscellaneous instructions throughout the day and my thinking, “Geez, she’s calm, cool, and collected. Wow.” She was very impressive, and I’m grateful to read about the inner-journey happening in her heart as I witnessed her outer-journey.

    I miss those Racers!

  • What an important realisation to have and to remember…GOD IS GOOD.
    Reading Shanda’s story about how she prayed for the shoes to grow just that little bigger and how she questioned God for not making it happen reminded me of myself and my struggles with God when He doesn’t answer those prayers we perceive to be important. It made a huge difference in my prayer life to always remember that GOD IS GOOD, He knows what’s best and He knows all, we only know in part…
    We can speculate about why it wasn’t a need for this girl to have shoes that fit her just right…or we can just thank God for providing, and for providing for the 100’s more that had shoes that fitted, maybe this girl’s need was to be touched and showed that she is loved, and Shanda did that by washing her feet and crying for her, and praying for her. Those shoes will most surely be in her life for a while still and when they finally fit what a happy day it would be for her…

  • This post touched me so deeply.

    Does AIM take shoe donations for this kind of outreach? New? Slightly used, but outgrown?

  • Dirt and shoes, abundance and want, water and tears, brokenness and peace… it’s sort of the poetry of the universe all played out on a muddy platform in Swazi. In the moment when Shanda was holding the childs foot and cried for her, she was holding her heart and the place became Holy ground.

    My first instinct yesterday was to cry for the child with no shoes and the young woman with “nothing left to give”… then anger and tears for us with so much more than we need and for a world where injustice is what we have the most of. Like Shanda, it washed over me last night…It was not about the shoes.

    I love Racers and the rich pictures of Kingdom that come to into my life through their (and your) eyes. Thanks, Seth!

  • God’s goodness and compassion was oozing all over the place that day…and I am so grateful I could be a part of it!! As I washed one little boy’s feet, I told him (through a translator) how Jesus washed the feet of His friends too. The boy looked puzzled for a few seconds and then his eyes lit up and he smiled a half smile and said to me “Am I your friend?” “YES! My very good friend!” I told him.
    Oh yes…God is GOOD! Always…

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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