Red Letters

Millions of kids in the world are walking around without shoes on.

Tim Lotz is just another kid in that crowd, walking to and from school with nothing to cover his feet from the elements. But Tim lives in Michigan where shoes are plentiful. He can afford them. He owns them. He just decided not to wear them any more.

For 100 days, Tim Lotz is going to walk around barefoot to raise money to buy shoes for kids at the Oditel CarePoint in Uganda.

Most of the kids at Oditel don’t have shoes. Sores and infections are common. Without basic medical care, there’s the chance that a simple cut on the foot could become a life threatening problem.

Since Tim is going to visit Oditel in January 2013, he decided to walk a mile in the “shoes” of those kids. That is, no shoes. I had the opportunity to interview Tim about his life and why he’s doing this. To find out more about Tim’s journey and to help him reach his goal of buying shoes for every kid at Oditel, just visit here.

Tell us about yourself. Who is Tim Lotz?
I’m a pretty quiet kid. Quiet enough that my teachers always say, “If only he would talk more,” at my parent teacher conferences. Hopefully this challenge will push me out of my comfort zone. Even though I am quiet I always have something on my mind.  I grew up in a wonderful Christian family, even though we are a little crazy. Our family’s motto is “Remember, to other people we are just a normal family.”  In first grade, my family sold everything they owned and moved to the middle of the Amazon rain forest for mission work.

What is “100 Days Without Shoes?”
There is actually a guy that my family knows in Gobles, Michigan that has almost completed a year without shoes. As my family and my friends were talking about it, they mentioned that this would be a great challenge for me since I love to go barefoot. Since I was already planning on going to Oditel with The River church in January 2013, I decided it would be a great way to raise money to buy shoes for the kids in Oditel. Since we don’t have a year we settled on 100 days. Our goal is to raise enough money to buy shoes and a Bible for every kid in Oditel (about 500 kids). We estimate this to cost about $4,000, but are still working on an exact amount.

What about school? Don’t you have to wear shoes in class?
School was our biggest concern because the rules say that footwear must be worn. We called my principals and got a pleasant surprise. He was extremely supportive. He happily said he would send a photo of me to all the teachers saying not to stop me in the halls, and that he wanted to put it in the school newsletter. I am really thankful for this.

What did your parents say? How did that conversation go with the principal?
At first, my dad was concerned that it would flatten my feet and make me worse at track, but my mom convinced him that it was okay. Since then, they have helped me out a ton. They even bought me some shirts that say “Ask Me Why I’m Barefoot” to wear. I am very blessed to have the family I have.

5. If you had 30-seconds to convince someone to give you $1 million for shoes, what would you say…
I would probably say “How many shoes do you have in your closet? Most of the kids in Oditel have never had their own pair. Please donate to 100 Days Without Shoes and help us buy shoes for each kid in Oditel.”


It was Abraham Lincoln who said (or perhaps wrote), “I’m sorry I wrote such a long letter. I did not have the time to write a short one.”  The discipline of brevity is not easily mastered. Distilling thoughts to their essence takes much longer.

A few weeks ago, we Children’s HopeChest asked sponsors to describe their sponsorship experience in 6 words or less.

A few weeks before that, the Clarity Group subjected our leadership team to a similar “6 Word Memoir” exercise as part of our strategic planning.  It’s something they might have picked up from the book Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.

I wanted to share a few of the posts here, as sponsors use only 6 words to sum up the experience of sponsoring a child through Children’s HopeChest.

Meets spiritual needs by providing physical.

It opened my eyes.

Fewer orphans.

Lets light shine out of darkness!

Hope for change in the world.

God’s love is shared.

Allows blessings to flow: outwardly; inwardly.

Gives hope to the hopeless.

Change: child -> household -> community -> sponsor. Repeat.

Defeats despair, creates opportunity, emulates Jesus.

Transforms communities. There and at home.

The greatest thing I’ve ever done!

Making lasting connections with a child.

The themes of change, hope, and transformation come through these individual experiences with the sponsorship program.  We’re hoping to add to this by asking the kids to write their own 6 word memoirs about being sponsored in a HopeChest program to see what themes come through in their writing.

If you have a 6 word memoir to offer, leave a comment. And check out the full series on the HopeChest Facebook page.

It’s a question we ask kids all the time. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

The most popular answers? Astronaut, doctor, super hero, veterinarian,  pop star, race car driver, secret agent, athlete, firefighter, pilot, zookeeper, and President of the United States.

On my very first trips to Russia, we would ask the kids what they dreamed about doing when they grew up. Most of the time, the answer was a blank and hopeless stare.

It was nearly impossible for kids to see what their future could look like, it was just too hopeless. The looks on their faces told us everything. They didn’t even know what their options were. And many felt so completely worthless that they’d never share a dream out loud for fear of being laughed at by their peers.

What these kids didn’t know is that we were there to help them discover those dreams. We were coming to restore the hope that had been robbed from them, and give them something to reach for in their future. 

It wasn’t until several trips later that these kids in Russia would now answer that question out loud, “I want to be a pet doctor!” “I want to learn English and be a translator!” “I want to be a teacher!” All of their hopeful answers came spilling out now.

What was the difference? In every case, it was a sponsor who loved, cared, and shared with that child. It was someone who said, “You are worthy. You are talented. And you will be successful if you work hard and stay focused.” It was someone who wrote letters, someone who prayed, and someone who visited.

It was someone who gave a piece of their life in pursuit of restoring a child’s hope and dreams–and giving them the resources to get there. 

That’s what sponsorship is. And I was reminded again of this this fact when I saw this post on Facebook from one of our partners in Uganda, Point Community Church.

“Meet Ivan. He use to say that he wanted to be a ‘driver’ when he grew up. But after getting to know his sponsors, Jenny and Mike through their letters, he now says he wants to be an engineer just like Mike.”

Sponsorship changes a child’s life in ways we can’t predict, expect, or imagine. All we can do is begin the relationship. Not every child will have a story like Ivan’s.  But every child should have the opportunity to know God, experience the blessings of family, and develop skills for independent and whole life as an adult. That’s our ultimate goal.

Thank you to Jenny, Mike, Point Community Church, and all the other sponsors who are making this possible.

One of the most fascinating passages in the New Testament is found in Philippians 2. There, Paul says that Jesus, although God, “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Jesus emptied Himself of divinity out of love for us. The Greek word for “bond-servant” is doulas which translates into English as “slave.”

When used literally, it means someone who belongs to another, who has no rights of their own. Metaphorically, it refers to giving ourselves up to the will, control, or dominion of another.

God took the form of a slave. He voluntarily emptied himself.

And Paul urges the church at Philippi to grasp that same reality by putting on an attitude of selfless love.

In this message, I explore some of the realities of becoming empty like Jesus. Why is God so present in our sufferings? Where is God when his people are hurting? What does it mean to become empty–like a slave–to a world in need?