“Tomorrow, your character, smile, and everything you carry is going to be about God and immolating the aroma of Christ to wherever you are going to serve,” said Jo Dubs, founder and director of the God in Shoes ministry, to hundreds of women receiving orientation for a day of service during the 2019 North American Division (NAD) Women’s Convention in Orlando, Florida, United States.
“Tomorrow is all about serving; it’s not about us.”
Since 2009, God in Shoes ministry, based in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, has been the official organizer of community service outreach for the division’s women’s convention, which is held every five years.
“Many conventions have similar formats, but what makes this convention different is the unique outreach done through God in Shoes,” said Carla Baker, director of women’s ministries for the NAD.
Participants came from the Cayman Islands, the Philippines, Guam, Bermuda, and all across the United States. The 625 women who registered to serve on Friday, September 27, received a God in Shoes belt bag to carry their personal items while on assignment and a God in Shoes button to pin on their clothing. The women had a dozen projects to choose from that aimed to meet a wide range of Orlando’s societal needs.
“In going to an area, it’s always important to do the demographics and see where the needs are and then start making phone calls and looking online to see areas of need,” said Dubs, who had been securing locations for the day of service throughout the previous year. “[I was] finding places where different organizations and programs are already doing the work, then setting up appointments to hear their stories and say, ‘How can I help you and affirm what you’re already doing?’” Dubs said.
As a result of those meetings and months of planning, the women’s convention participants volunteered at several locations, including organizations that address homelessness and combat hunger and food insecurity, and safe spaces for girls and women and their families. Volunteers also visited Clean the World, an organization that addresses systemic problems related to hygiene health by repurposing and distributing soap and other hygienic products; and New Hope for Kids, a center for grieving children.
In addition, each location received a donation of supplies that had been accumulated in the months leading up to the convention, each one geared specifically to the organizations’ services.
“For something like this to happen, it takes involvement on many different levels,” Dubs said. “For months, my team worked to get the supplies by … putting the organizations’ wish lists out to the attendees.”
“I did not know a place like this existed,” said Juliet McFarlane from the Greater New York Conference, who volunteered at New Hope for Kids, an organization in Central Florida that has helped children since 1996 to deal with grief and pain associated with illness and death. “I decided that as soon as I go back to New York, I am going to find one of those centers, and I’m going to be a volunteer. It impacted me that much.”
The same sentiment was echoed by the director of women’s ministries for the Allegheny West Conference, Shirley Benton, who also volunteered at New Hope for Kids.
“I’m going to set this as a mission. My team is meeting next month to talk about 2020. I’m going to bring this to see if this is something we can do or find out who we need to talk to pursue that,” Benton said.
The type of work the volunteers participated in varied from sorting clothing and food to preparing meals and from providing spa-services such as hand massages and manicures to writing thank-you notes and even doing some landscaping.
Heidi Melton, who was the leader of the group that went to the Orlando Union Rescue Mission — which offers housing, meals, and education to men, women, and families — said her group was a lot smaller than expected, so she thought they wouldn’t do the outdoor work that had been assigned. However, when they got to the location the mission’s liaison told her, “We just had 40 yards of mulch delivered,” to which Melton replied, “We’re on it!”
“There were women who volunteered to do it. They were excited,” Melton said. Many of the women who helped spread the mulch were in their 60s and 70s; some were even wearing heels and dresses. Melton said they spread the mulch in less than three hours.
“I was very impressed,” Melton said. “The two gentlemen [who work for the mission] said they’ve never seen such hard workers.”
Louise “Lulu” Sanders, director of women’s ministries for the Northern New England Conference, helped give a “spa day” to women who were part of the behavioral health treatment center through ARISE Health Partners. Members of her team polished nails, gave hand and neck massages, cut and styled hair, and offered words of encouragement and prayers.
“It was so enlightening. The people were so receptive and thrilled we were there,” Sanders said. “When they came out all done up, they were so thankful and glowing. We just take everyday things like that for granted.”
Behind the Name
God in Shoes ministry began in 2004 in response to a challenge issued by the president of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference to ministry leaders to find ways to make their ministries more evangelistic. Dubs fasted and prayed for three days, after which, she said, God put it on her heart to have the women of women’s ministries serve women in their area.
“God in Shoes is the opportunity for us as Christians to represent God in our shoes. Often we think as Christians that the world can see who we are. But they cannot see us unless they see us involved in their lives, entering their world, and doing those acts of kindness that demonstrate God in the flesh,” she said.
“I would truly like to encourage everyone to prayerfully consider how God might want to use them to make a difference for someone else,” Dubs continued. “God wants to give us the blessing of serving others. I would challenge everyone to step up to that challenge.”