Manny didn't own a pair of shoes (besides flip-flops that would often break) until he was nine years old.
He grew up in Nigeria, a land of great poverty & lived with a first generation christian mother & an alcoholic, abusive father. His father would get in a rage and scream at Manny telling him that he'd never amount to anything. Sometimes he believed it.
He had big dreams but as he said, "sometimes when you live in a Forest so long, everything starts to look like a tree." Young Manny would look around & see the severe amount of poverty & wonder if there would every be a way that he could leave the poverty & do big things. He would beg his mother, "why did he have to live there?", "why did they have to live amongst such poverty?" And his mom would take him over to the window & tell him to look out. She would ask him what he saw. He would describe the shacks & the kids playing."Look higher", she'd say. Well, he would say the trees and the animals in them. "Look higher." The birds. "Still look higher" The sky.
& she would say Manny, "God made the sky so high so poor boys like you can dream big."
She would come behind his abusive father and tell Manny that God created him for a purpose.
One day, when Manny was out selling 'minerals' a group of Americans came on a mission. They wanted to give the African kids hope & also give them a day of fun & love.The people brought a basketball with them - something that these kids had never seen.They taught the boys how to dribble & shoot & at the end of the day, they gave them a pair of tennis shoes. Manny said he ran away like he had just gotten gold. It was one of the best days of his life.
So every time Manny's dad would get out of control or he just wanted to get out of the house, he would head to the basketball court. When he was 18, he got a scholarship to play at North Dakota University. ... A place he says is far too cold for Africans!
He played & he worked. He got a degree and then went on to Grad school. He got married, had 4 kids, he was happy.
Manny's father went into liver failure because of the alcohol abuse & he went back to Africa for his funeral. While he was there, he saw kids getting shoes just like he had & he felt a call to do the same.
In 2003, Samaritan's Feet got started with the goal of
10 on ten in 10.
ten million shoes on ten million kids in ten years.
Manny & his team go together to different places around the world & do shoe drives. They sometimes give out as many as 5,000 shoes at once. & the best part? not only do they give these kids shoes, but they wash their feet. They give them a type of love that they most likely have not ever experienced before.
Manny went on a trip to NYC because a well known artist was going to be on NBC & said that he was going to promote Samaritan's Feet. Well the guy got on NBC & talked & talked but never said anything about Samaritan's Feet. Manny was upset. "You mean I froze my tail off & this guy didn't even mention Samaritan's Feet?"
But the next day, the reward came. Manny got invited to an awards ceremony for Maya Angelou, one of his hero's. When he asked her who her favorite role model was & why she said Martin Luther King because he did something brave for other people. She told Manny that in order to do something really good, he must be really brave.
Manny & his co-worker went back to their hotel room that night discussing what they could do that would be really brave, but do a lot for Samaritan's feet.
They decided that there were going to ask Division 1 basketball coaches to coach barefoot. Ron Hunter, IUPUI's coach was the first one to take on the task. Manny asked him to raise 40,000 pairs of shoes - which Ron thought impossible & by the end he had raised over 100,000 pairs of shoes.
Butler's coach Brad Stevens has also jumped on the wagon & coached a game barefoot.
Samaritan's feet does 30 - 40 percent of its work domestically & the rest of it in Africa. Who knew that so many kids in our country were walking in shoes unfit for their feet or barefoot?
And so Manny left us with this question, "what is God asking you to say yes to?"
I know that from now on, I will be a huge supporter of this mission & hopefully one day I will be able to join them on a trip. Maybe I will be able to do something brave to help others.
Think about it,
What is God asking you to say yes to?
If Samaritan's Feet is something you would like to know more about or get involved with, you can check it out here. Just 10 dollars will buy a kid a pair of shoes - a pair of shoes that could be the hope for a kid who didn't have any before.