Julia Boykin and the Prophet Isaiah share something in common, they both believe feet can be beautiful. Isaiah’s observation about beautiful feet can be found in Isaiah 52:7 where he writes,
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Feet are beautiful when they bring a message of peace and goodwill from the Lord. Julia shares a similar view to that of Isaiah. She and her husband Earl have a passion for making sure children have a good pair of new shoes for the school year. Where did this passion for protecting feet come from?
Julia’s grandparents were farmers from Bedford, Virginia. They were hard working salt of the earth people. Her grandfather was named Harry Turpin and he owned the Lynchburg Cattle Market. His wife Lillian helped him with the business and the farm. She was know as Mamaw Lillian to Julia and Mamaw Lillian had some sage advice that she passed down to her children and grandchildren. She said, “Make sure you’re in church every Sunday, go to the dentist, and make sure you’ve got good shoes for your feet.”
Why was she so concerned about good shoes? She said, “You need to take care of your feet because they are going to take you on the path that the Lord wants you to walk.” This advice was well received by Julia’s mother Carolyn, also known as Mawmaw to Julia’s children. Mawmaw Carolyn felt so strongly about the need for good shoes that she made sure her grandchildren had a brand new pair of shoes at the beginning of every school year. Julia fondly remembers her mother going shopping for white, high top Stride Rites for her children every year.
Having new shoes each year has become so engrained in their family that when Julia’s son Brad got married his groom’s cake was in the shape of a boot! Mamaw Lillian’s life lessons have not only been a blessing to Carolyn and Julia and their family, but they’ve been a blessing to many others as well.
One day a couple of years ago Julia approached me with the idea of starting a ministry at Bethel called Soul to Sole Shoe Ministry. The Boykins donated gift cards for new shoes and we gave these gift cards to teachers to give to their students who needed new shoes. Mary Florence, who is a Bethel member and a teacher at Powhatan Middle School, told me about a student who only wore flip-flops to school. Mary asked the student about her flip-flops and learned that they were the only shoes she owned. So we provided the student a gift card and not only did that student receive new shoes, but her brother and sister did as well.
As time went on we introduced Julia to the community outreach coordinator at Crestwood Elementary School in Chesterfield. Through that connection Julia and Earl have not only provided shoes but they’ve donated clothes, backpacks and even a lunchbox to a child in need. One day Julia got a call from the coordinator that they had a student who had been using a hand-me-down lunchbox. His three older siblings used the lunchbox until finally it fell apart. The young boy was carrying his lunch in a Wal-Mart plastic bag and was being teased by others. Julia and Earl bought several lunch boxes and delivered them to the school.
I tell you this story not to put Julia and Earl on a pedestal, in fact I asked their permission to tell their story, but I tell it so we can be blessed and inspired by their story. I appreciate that Julia has taken the wisdom and legacy of her grandmother and has found a way to pass it down to her children and then outward into the community to bless others. Mamaw Lillian still lives on through Julia’s shoe ministry.
Secondly, I think the message behind the shoe ministry is one we should think about and embrace. We do need to take care of our feet because they walk the path God lays before us. This speaks to the fact that we have a path to walk and that God has a unique plan and purpose for our lives. But as we walk that path we often need the assistance of others. No one can walk the path alone. We all struggle and need help from time to time. The Boykin’s are lovingly offering their assistance to help others to walk their path.
Finally, I want to take us back to that scripture from Isaiah. The feet that Isaiah proclaims as beautiful are the feet that bring peace and good news. Let us think about our feet and the places we travel. Do our feet bring the message of peace to others? Do our feet herald the message of Christ’s love? I pray that they do. What about the feet of Julia and Earl? Are they not beautiful? Absolutely! Yes! Just ask the little girl who no longer has to wear flip flops to school or the little boy with the new lunch box. May God bless Julia and Earl Boykin and their family and may God bless Bethel Church as we continue to minister beyond the walls of Bethel to be a blessing to our community.