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FOOT JOY: Shoes for Russian Souls_122203

Posted: 12/19/03
Nancy Plotts of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas helps a girl at Veritsa Orphanage decorate a Polaroid photo. Donna Wallis of Sulphur Springs plays with a child at Orphanage No. 40 in St. Petersburg.

FOOT JOY: Shoes for Russian Souls

By Russ Dilday

Buckner News Service

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia--Putting shoes on the feet of Russian orphans brought both joy and sorrow to Nancy Plotts, a member of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas.

"There was one little girl who was so anxious to get her shoes on, but they had to be laced and they were funkily laced," she said. "I was trying to get her to slow down and unknot them. She couldn't wait. She had to get her foot in there. She was so eager and excited to get them on her feet.

That excitement was a confirmation for Plotts, whose participation in a November trip with Buckner Orphan Care International was her first-ever mission trip.

"I had high expectations," she explained. "My husband's been on a lot of mission trips and comes back and tells me how he feels, and I've always wanted to come back with that same high."

Jan Kirkland of Carrollton, Ga., fits a new pair of shoes on a resident of Orphanage No. 40.

But excitement for the mother of two was tempered by sadness for the parentless children she met.

"Doing this has changed my perception of being a mother. I'll cry when I see my kids. I'll look at them differently. I may be even more loving to them, knowing there are kids out there who don't have anyone to love them.

"Toward the end, I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders," she said. "I wanted to do something for all of them, and I can't. They need a family, and I felt so bad I couldn't provide that."

Plotts was among 32 volunteers who distributed new shoes and coats and conducted Vacation Bible School programs in 10 St. Petersburg-area orphanages. The shoes were collected during this year's Shoes for Orphan Souls shoe drive, which gathered more than 220,000 pairs of new shoes that will be distributed to children in 40 countries.

In addition to one Tennessean and a majority of Texans, 11 team members were from Georgia, a response to the recent international adoption partnership between Buckner and Georgia Baptist Children's Homes & Family Ministries.

The group also distributed winter coats in two orphanages. The coats were featured items in this year's Buckner "Making Dreams Come True" gift catalog.

While the children loved the shoes and coats, they also found warmth in the embrace of the American visitors.

Betty Boothe, a member of Western Hills Methodist Church in Fort Worth, said many of the children responded to the show of volunteers' love with affection.

"There was a young boy, about 14 or 15, and he and I just kinda made eye contact, and I hugged him," she explained. "When I left, he reached over and hugged me and kissed me on the neck.

"I never will forget that, because he was of the age that, at home, they wouldn't of have dared hugged you and kissed you like that, a stranger particularly."

The Vacation Bible School program provided not only programming but a context for sharing God's love. Nancy Heard, a graphic illustrator from Dallas, was a natural choice to lead a craft session in which children decorated frames around Polaroid portraits of themselves.

"I wanted them to know that they each are special in God's eyes," she said.



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