SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP)–A mission trip to Africa by a 10-year-old girl inspired two Illinois Girls in Action members to collect more than 300 pairs of shoes for impoverished children in Zambia.
Ten-year-old Rebecca Stallard and her mother Nancy, both members of Bethel Baptist Church in Troy, Ill., went to Zambia on a mission trip in the summer of 2007. The two led Vacation Bible Schools and shared Christ with orphans being helped by the Christian organization African Vision of Hope.
Their lack of what Americans see as basic necessities saddened Rebecca.
“I saw that I have so much, and they have so little,” she wrote in an e-mail interview. “It made me very grateful for all I have here in the States. It has made me want less stuff, and to give them more.”
She shared her missions experience with other girls at the Illinois Baptist State Association GA Day last October in Springfield. Rebecca’s story about her trip made a big impression on Katie Bohnenstiehl and Avery Reed, both 10-year-old members of Sterling Baptist Church in Fairview Heights.
They were particularly struck by a story Rebecca told about a young Zambian boy who stood in line for two hours to get a pair of shoes only to find there were no boy’s shoes left.
“She said he wanted shoes so badly that he went and stood in the girls’ shoe line and picked out a pair of bright pink shoes,” Avery said. “That’s how desperate he was for shoes.”
Katie and Avery, the GA group’s only members at the time, began talking with their GA leader, Gail Loeschen, about ways they could help the children in Zambia.
“On their own initiative, the girls went to their school principal in November and asked if they could have a display at school for collecting shoes,” Loeschen said.
Permission was granted, and they collected 318 pairs of new and gently worn children’s shoes.
Their teacher was so inspired by the girls’ efforts that she submitted their names to a program called “Do the Right Thing of Greater St. Louis,” which recognizes children for their community contributions. The organization honored them for their efforts at a ceremony in St. Louis in January.
When their school collection site closed, the girls opened collection sites at their church, a Christian bookstore and a warehouse shopping club until African Vision of Hope shipped the shoes to Zambia.
Their mission project has taught the girls how God can use people of all ages to help others.
“If you have time and really want to help somebody, you can do anything and it can benefit people,” Katie said. “Even if your friends don’t think it’s cool, you can do it, you can help people.”
It’s a message Rebecca hopes other children hear too.
“God can use kids for sure,” she said. “He has worked through me to talk to lots of GAs at camp and GA Day, and some of those girls got so excited about missions. One said after my talk she wanted to be a missionary when she grew up…. It is so neat to see God using all these kids to do work to help orphans in Zambia.”
Nancy, a veteran of 13 overseas mission trips, is pleased to see how Rebecca has inspired others.
“Even as a kid, God’s using her,” Nancy said. “It’s pretty cool for a 10-year-old to see God use her in that way.”
Lisa Sergent is associate editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.