Saturday, August 6, 2011

Finding the perfect pair of shoes in Cuba

In my closet, I have 21 pairs of shoes, but I have been thinking about getting a new pair of cowboy boots, which would bring the number up to 22. Here in Austin, I would guess that I am a bit below average as far as the size of my shoe collection.

This summer I had the opportunity to participate with three other women from Covenant and many from the church in Luyanรณ with their vacation Bible school; it was an incredibly challenging and rewarding experience. As I think about the trip, I am overwhelmed in all the amazing works God performed in Cuba; deciding on a story to share has been difficult

I considered writing about Georgina, who in spite of her arthritis, and other life challenges sews purses and tapestries for those at church, and presented me with an embroidered hand towel upon our first meeting. Or sweet Roy, a fifteen year old kid who, in spite of a difficult family life and a lack of financial resources shows up every time the church opens it doors and has been doing so, on his own since he was four years old. I could share about Sylvia, who in spite of a kitchen that most of us would completely gut if we were asked to cook in it daily, created delicious meals for us each day and accepted with great enthusiasm and gratitude the most basic kitchen materials we brought. Or maybe I should share the shear joy and delight of the children when presented with a bag of balloons. Or about Poopi and the other young adults who gave of their time and talents to help out with vacation Bible school and found the church to be a great place to hang out and talk. I could also share about seeing my Austin sisters-in-Christ give so selflessly of their time and talents. I could write about Rosita and Begonia who extended such hospitality to us, nourishing not just our bodies but our spirits as well? All of these people displayed God’s love and faithfulness to me while I was in Cuba.

But the shoes, I keep coming back to the shoes…. Of my 21 pair of shoes, I brought 3 pairs to Cuba – my super cool brand new Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers that I scored for a great deal at Marshalls at the beginning of the summer, a pair of flip-flops and another pair of shoes to wear at the beach. I wore the sneakers most of the week. As I said before, they are cool and comfortable, functional and fashionable. I love these shoes. On the last day of vacation Bible school, Poopi, who spoke English very well, brought his young cousin to me. Poopi explained that Franklin’s shoes needed to be repaired. He showed me the entire sole of the shoe had come loose and was barely hanging on. Poopi was confident that I could solve this problem. He mentioned glue, thinking perhaps I might have some. We had indeed brought a hot-glue gun and I thought this could solve the problem. I ran up to our room and got the glue gun. I sat down with Poopi and Franklin and got right to work. But the glue wouldn’t stick. The shoe was beyond repair. To be honest, if this was my shoe I would have immediately thrown it in the trash, put on another pair and gone out to get a new pair (and maybe two, if I found a sale.) Clearly, this was not an option for Franklin. Poopi explained that shoes are very expensive in Cuba and difficult to come by. I looked down; I noticed that my shoes were about the same size as Franklin’s. Another feature of these fabulous shoes is that they are just as cool for a 10-year-old boy as they are for a grown-up lady. I took off my shoes and Franklin tried them on. They were a perfect fit. The solution may seem fairly obvious – but these were my brand new shoes. My favorite shoes. My good for every occasion shoes. Poopi and Franklin were tentative, but I insisted. Franklin smiled. Pleased with his new shoes, he ran off to join his friends. Barefooted, I went to our room and grabbed my flip-flops. I wore my flip-flops for the rest of our trip. I gave away one pair of shoes – about $25 worth of manufactured goods. But the lesson was invaluable.

I often wonder how I can serve God. I think about how to best use my time, my talents and my resources. Before heading to Cuba, I pondered what God wanted me to do while I was there. I don’t speak Spanish. I am not a gifted singer or a compelling speaker. I am not particularly outgoing and I don’t dance or craft. I often wish I had more. More talent. More time. More money. More shoes. But in Cuba, I realized I have enough. More than enough, I have been richly blessed. I have plenty of shoes (and time and talents) – enough to share.