By Lauren Hollon Sturdy
Mount Pleasant Baptist Church is home to about 50 worshippers on an average Sunday in a tiny community near Monroeville, Alabama (population: 6,862). Their Sunday School attendance usually hovers in the 30s.
“We’re small but we’re not small-minded,” said Becky Cornelison, church member and longtime supporter of Shoes for Orphan Souls. “We found out a long time ago that although we’re a little bitty church, we can do big things whenever we try. We just have a heart for the Lord and for children.”
Mount Pleasant Baptist has completed six shoe drives since 2006, collecting more than 3,000 pairs of shoes and 1,500 pairs of socks for children. Their seventh shoe drive is winding down now, and over the years they’ve taken steps to be even more involved in the process of getting shoes to children who need them.
In the first few years, they shipped their donations to the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid in Dallas, Texas. Then, they began personally driving their shoes and socks more than nine hours from Alabama to Texas so they could help process and box up shoes for shipment.
“It’s been my dream to go put the shoes on the children,” Cornelison said. She saw an ad this summer for a one-day shoe delivery trip to the Rio Grande Valley and knew it would be a perfect fit. “I said, ‘That’s just a one-day thing, but that may be a way for us to get a feel for what it’d be like to go on a longer trip.’”
Cornelison recruited five others and they took turns at the wheel for the 17-hour drive down to McAllen, Texas. Here’s what she had to say about their trip:
This one little boy was between 9 and 11 years old and he was very quiet, reserved and cautious and didn’t engage in much conversation. I put a pair of shoes on him, but they didn’t fit. I went and got another pair and put them on him, and I knew they fit, but he said, ‘No, they don’t fit.’
I began asking him where he felt like they didn’t fit – in the toe? In the heel? On the sides? Eventually I realized that this little fella was the sort who wanted a cool pair of shoes. I thought, “There is my grandson right there. There’s my son, Adam, right there.”
We finally found a pair he really liked that fit him. It just made me know that they are just like every other child you come in contact with – they want to feel loved and special. They deserve to have something nice and something that makes them feel special, especially the older ones. Whenever you see the smile on their face and know that was a home run, that makes it all worthwhile. And being able to pray with his mother and to know that she understood me, which was difficult, it was just very special. I enjoyed everything about it. Everything. I would have done it for a week.
That’s what God does for us, you know? He doesn’t just give us what we need; He blesses us abundantly. He wants to delight our hearts and He delights in us and wants us to delight in each other and give our best. That’s what I shared with my congregation.
We have a mountain of shoes growing in our church from this year’s shoe drive. We can’t send thousands and thousands of shoes like some churches can, but we can send hundreds. My daughter went over to the pile of shoes last Sunday in front of the congregation and picked up a pair, and with tears in her eyes said, “I saw the little boy that would wear these shoes.” She picked up another and said, “I saw the little girl who would wear these shoes. Just like every kid, they wanted to show their mama, ‘Look how high I can jump and how fast I can run in my new shoes!’”