VII. Flip-flops with holes worn through the heels
One of the main reasons I chose to attend Indiana Wesleyan University was because I hoped to join a ministry team. The teams who sang and traveled to camps each summer had been so instrumental in my own salvation, and I dreamed of having that kind of profound impact on other kids’ lives. So when I arrived on campus as a freshman, one of my first priorities was auditioning and interviewing for a team, praying fervently that God would grant my heart’s desire.
I wasn’t selected for the more prestigious/well-known team I’d been hoping for, but I did get to join a team. And while initially I wasn’t thrilled about singing all a cappella music instead of the cool Avalon and FFH tracks the other teams got to sing, I learned to love what we did (and I grew exponentially more as a musician).
|Brother's Keeper 2000-2001|
|Brother's Keeper 2001-2002|
In June, the university would send us on a ten-week tour of youth and family camps. I packed a summer’s worth of belongings in a giant Rubbermaid bin on wheels, and my team drove from Iowa to northern Michigan to New Brunswick and various places in between, serving as counselors, leading worship, singing our own music, whatever the camp directors wanted us to do.
A navy blue pair of $3 flip-flops hardly left my feet those summers, except at bedtime. They took me in and out of community showers, through recreation and fast-food runs and worship services and small group meetings. Those flimsy rubber sandals were, in a sense, shoes of the gospel of peace, and I wore them out. By the time I got back to campus in August, the heels had worn so thin that stepping on a sharp rock would cause me to yelp with pain. Soon an actual hole appeared, and they had to be thrown out.
The miles those flip-flops carried me were unforgettable. Along the way I learned to play the guitar and to beatbox; I cultivated some of my most significant relationships. I poured into junior high girls and soaked up teaching from phenomenal speakers. I leaned on my teammates when I was weak and at my worst; I laughed with them at 2AM Canadian border crossings. And again and again, I marveled at the faithfulness of God, at His profoundly generous answers to prayer, at His patient condescension to accomplish His work through flawed and messy me.
The highlight was when those flip-flops took me back to Lakeside, the beloved camp where God had first drawn me to himself four years earlier. On a humid July evening, as our team gave the traditional concert featured every year, I shared my testimony with kids who had been my fellow campers the summer before. I explained that I was living proof that a commitment made at camp could be real. It didn’t have to be a “camp fling” with God, experiencing a little taste of Him for a few days and resolving to "do better" at the Christian life, only to slide back into old ways after just a couple of weeks at home. God had transformed me permanently, I told them—and He wanted to capture their hearts, too.
I don’t know how many of those kids are walking with God today and how many have long since abandoned the façade of faith that they pretended to carry through their teen years. But I do know there have been few experiences in my life as powerful as watching two of my teammates perform the skit (“The Pretender”) that pierced my own heart at age fifteen, then proclaiming my own story of God’s glorious grace and singing Third Day’s “Love Song” with my team. I stood in those flip-flops proudly, humbly, overwhelmed at His goodness to me and grateful to have beautiful feet bringing good news.
A broken piece of cornerstone
A sharp pebble
A pastel index card
A Bible with a broken spine
A rainbow lanyard with a pewter cross pendant
Pages of prayers scrawled in a journal