February 5, 2015

Size six sneakers

Written by  Mary Boll

As we prepared to go to Albania in the spring of 2014, I checked what clothing and shoes we needed to bring. I was told since we would do a lot of walking, having good walking shoes was really important. I had a good pair of size 5½ sneakers but they were a little short; my toes hurt after I wore them even a short time. I decided I would buy size 6 sneakers. One evening my husband Nevin and I went to Weaver's Store in Fivepointville, Pa. I bought a nice pair of white slip-on Skechers with memory foam insoles. They fit great with or without socks. I hesitated about buying them because they cost more than I planned on spending.

When we arrived in Albania the beginning of April, we found it was still winter with snow and cold weather. It was not the weather in which to be wearing white shoes. So for the next 6 weeks or so, I wore my older black sneakers. I even wore them to church because of the distance we had to walk. Finally, the weather warmed up and one afternoon I got out my new sneakers to wear. But when I tried to step into the first shoe, it wouldn't go on my foot. I was shocked. I checked the size to make sure I had the size 6 and I did, but it would not go on my foot. I took my sock off and finally got the shoe on but it was very tight and short for my foot and hurt my toes. I finally figured my feet must be swollen a bit as I had walked to the market that morning. So I put my new shoes away and planned to put them on first thing the next morning.

The next morning, I tried to put them on again and I had the same experience. They just were too little. I could not get my feet into the shoes. I repeated this same routine several times a day over the next couple days but the shoes never fit. I talked to Nevin and he checked the size of the shoes, found they were size 6, and wondered why they did not fit. Finally I was convinced I could not wear them, so I put the sneakers into one of our empty suitcases and wondered what I would do with them. I got out an older pair of white sneaker clogs that I had brought along in case I might need them. They were so near worn out that I did not plan to bring them back home.

About the beginning of June we realized because of the delayed delivery of the milk processing equipment, we would need to stay an extra month to properly train the workers at the milk plant. As summer and warm weather finally came to Korce, I continued to wear my old white clogs and a pair of sandals, wherever I went.

As our time of service in Albania was coming to an end, we visited different friends and received a number of gifts to bring along back to the U.S. We had also purchased some gifts for our family. When we started to pack, we found we had more to take home than what we had brought. When I opened one of the big suitcases, I found my new sneakers. It was no use taking them home because I could not wear them. We decided to also leave behind Nevin's jacket as well as some kitchen items, food items, and some cleaning products. We told the two other team couples and our pastor to come by our apartment and to pick out what they could use or take anything they thought someone else could use. When Ori saw the sneakers, she said she thought maybe she knew someone who could use them.

About a week or two after we were home, we got an email from Ori. She has a neighbor, Majlinda, whose husband left her and her two small children. Because of the children she could not work outside the home and she had no income except what her husband gave her or what she earned from selling produce from her large garden. We had met Majlinda several times; she was very friendly. I had been amazed that she smiled often considering her circumstances. I often thought I wished I could help her in some way. You can probably imagine how God helped me fulfill the desire I had! When Ori offered Majlinda the shoes, she said she really needed shoes but did not have money to get a pair. And would you believe - the size 6 shoes that fit me in the U.S. and that didn't fit me in Korce - fit her perfectly! She said they were the most comfortable shoes she ever had. Nevin's jacket fit her brother. He lives in a remote village that gets very cold and he did not have a jacket.

In Albania, we had to buy a washer when we moved into our apartment. We were able to get a used one. It had a broken latch and had to be opened with a screwdriver, but I was thankful to have a washer. Since Majlinda did not have a washer, Ori offered her our washer. They carried it down the 70 steps from our apartment and took it to Majlinda's house. Now because she saves time by not having to wash clothing by hand, Majlinda was able to get a part-time housekeeping job. She can earn a little extra money to help cover some of her needs. Isn't God good? I had complained at times about the broken latch, but she was so thankful for a washer even with a broken latch.

At times while we were in Albania, I almost wondered if I was making any difference in people's lives. I couldn't share the gospel in words because of the language barrier. I didn't have a defined job description. All I could do was pray and smile. After hearing the story about Majlinda and the shoes, the jacket, and the washer, I am convinced that we share the gospel in many other ways besides using words. Ori says many of the people we befriended, smiled at, and interacted with in our limited way, are now willing to talk to her on a deeper level than before. We praise God for the opportunity we had to serve Him in Korce, and we're thankful for the way our service continues even after we are not there. Only He could make this happen. Oh, and I did bring my old white sneakers home again. They don't seem as worn out as I thought they were. I wear them almost every day and I remember to thank the Father more often for all our blessings.

Mary and Nevin Boll served on a 4-month GO! assignment in Korce, Albania. They are retired and live in Lititz, Pa. The Bolls are members of Millport Mennonite Church.

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