Samaritan’s Feet Travelogue: South Africa
By Tracey Stipp – SF Ambassador – Marketing & Volunteer Relations
A group of Samaritan’s Feet volunteers recently returned from a trip to South Africa. John Stipp, one of the team members, shared some of his thoughts and experiences from being on that trip.
The team spent most of their time in Limpopo which is one of nine South African provinces north of Johannesburg. They had the opportunity to distribute around 550 pairs of shoes to several churches with kid’s programs and to orphanages in Limpopo. Shoes were also given to the workers of the mission facility that hosted the team as well as the sister mission facility next door. The team also distributed shoes at another mission facility in Johannesburg while on their way back home to the United States.
Of all the special people the team came into contact with, John says their hosts, the people of Blessman Ministries, were especially wonderful to be around – very gracious and always making the team feel at home. As far as their work in the field, John had this to say, “There were several children who particularly touched my heart with their hugs and smiles. They were the ones who had no inhibitions about expressing their excitement to get new shoes. Their excitement about the message we told them of how Jesus loves them and has special plans for them was contagious.” John’s most memorable moment of the trip was with one special boy who kept coming back for hugs at one of the orphanages they visited. He remembers, “I wished I could have stayed all day and night giving him the love he wanted.”
Being gone eleven days to a foreign country while on a mission trip offers countless opportunities to learn and to grow as a person. As for the one thing that most impacted him while being in South Africa, John comments, “I realized the love of Jesus Christ is the one and only thing that can overcome the historical racial tension in South Africa. This was taught to me by Pierre, a wonderful Christian servant who is an Afrikaan (also known as Boer – the whites of South Africa of original European descent). I found the blacks to be totally loving and appreciative of everything we did. For blacks and whites alike to see whites washing the feet of blacks in South Africa was something they probably thought they would never see. What better way to demonstrate the love of Christ and how God intends for us to get along by serving one another?”
John’s impression of the South African people is that they are just like Americans in how they act and behave. He was more impressed by the similarities – white and black – than the differences. When asked if there are any lessons Americans can learn from South Africa and its struggle with apartheid, John observes, “I think it is the same lesson we learned while in South Africa: Jesus and love are the answers to racial disharmony.”
The trip to Limpopo involved long plane rides and car rides as well as time spent away from family and business. In answering whether the sacrifices are worth it, John passionately says, “When you do something you love, it is hardly a sacrifice. Certainly the long plane flight and sharing your space and facilities are sometimes inconvenient. The joy you get back in return, including surprises like going on safaris and walking with lions, reminds me of how God blows me away by giving back many times over when His people step out in faith.”
Samaritan’s Feet is obviously known as an organization that gives out shoes and offers hope to those most in need. However, John says there is so much more to it than that: “We give new shoes to people who need them, but it is not really about the shoes. The shoes are the means by which we show the love of Christ. The washing of the feet is a great ceremony to demonstrate Christ’s love and example of service. We hope to leave an impression on each person in a way that plants a seed and hopefully bears fruit later.”
John advises others who are considering a mission trip with SF to not ask why you cannot go or why you cannot afford the expense or the time away. He encourages others that “God will take care of your concerns – trust me. God loves those who step out in faith. Just decide to go and DO IT. You will not be disappointed, and your heart will open in a way you can never anticipate.”
Check out this page to see the mission trips Samaritan’s Feet is planning for 2013. Come join us on one!