In March 2010 I wrote a journal titled "Walk in My Shoes?" In that journal I told about preparing to go to Liberia and hearing clear verbal instruction in my mind, "Pack extra socks to give away." In all my travels I'd never had such a message as I was packing for a trip. But if you hear such a message, it's wise to obey! I had plenty of room in my bag so I tossed in a few extra pairs of socks.
In Liberia I conducted a series of conflict transformation workshops. The last workshop was a two-day training at Providence Baptist Church in the center of the capital city of Monrovia. During a break a young man came up to me to talk more intensely about some of the content in the training. We later had lunch together, and following the lunch we were hanging out in the workshop room. At some point he mentioned that he walked to church--he was a member at Providence as well as attending the workshop. I asked where he lived, and he said "New Georgia." New Georgia! I knew where that was, a community way outside of town. He walked two hours one way, then two hours back, twice a week. He'd walked two hours to get to my workshop that day.
Then he took off his shoes. In all my travels I've never had anyone take off their shoes to show me their feet. In many cultures people take off their shoes or sandals before coming inside a room, but this young man wanted to show me his feet. They were covered with sores. He had the hard leather dress shoes my parents used to make me wear to church decades ago--and no socks. I instantly knew why I'd been told by that voice to pack extra socks to give away.
The next day was this man's birthday. I was able to give him many socks, some anti-biotic cream for his sores, and bandaids to cover the wounds until they healed. I was stunned at the kindness of God to care for this man's hurting feet, a man who walked two hours to church on wounded feet with hard shoes and no socks. I was brought half-way around the world to meet a need. Just as God cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, God was caring for this man.
But I was haunted by what happened. I was training among people who had been traumatized by a vicious war that left over 100,000 dead and countless people homeless. How could God care about this man getting socks when so many were needing far more profound care? Was God straining out a gnat of need and letting a camel of misery go down the drain? My initial praise (reflected in that earlier journal) soured under these searing questions and the reality of the overwhelming suffering in Liberia.
Quite a while later I was in a worship service at my home church, just coming as I was into the presence of the Lord. Like that first silent voice, another message slipped very clearly into my mind: "You are the socks." God knew about the need of all those traumatized by the war. God had me take the socks to a man who needed them to show that God knows and cares intimately about our pains and our lives. But it was not about socks. It was about my call. God knows the profound scarring and damage from the war, and all the other wars on our planet. There are people in need, and I am called to be socks to cover those wounds, to aid in the healing process. I am the socks.
Of course, it's not all on me. Many other people are called to help in the conflicts in Liberia, Kenya, India, Burma, Georgia, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines and so many other places. Each person in their own way has felt a call, sometimes not even knowing the God who is calling them to be part of the project of redeeming and healing the world. Their call, initially or along the way, may come in a way totally unique to them. It may be something very mundane in how it comes clear, or it may have a dramatic encounter with the mysterious like the voice coming to my mind. But that call comes, and we need to go in response to it.
International Ministries is holding a special World Mission Conference at Green Lake, Wisconsin on May 18-25. It marks the 200th anniversary of Ann and Adoniram Judson responding to God's call to missionary service and leaving Massachusetts to head for Burma. The first few days of the World Mission Conference are especially focused on this matter of call. Is God speaking to you, nudging you, prodding you, pestering you in some way? Is there something that is bubbling within your spirit that needs attention? Then this gathering may be the perfect time and place for you to sort through it all in the Spirit and with a community committed to following God's call in the world.
We're all socks in some way. Do you know the need God has created you to cover and ease?
In joy and hope,