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Elementary Students Receive Donated Shoes

Arkansas church accepts challenge to become more involved in practical community outreach.

In January, Jeremy Bull, lead pastor of Centerville Assembly of God in Arkansas cast a vision for the congregation of 170 to go outside the walls of the church and share the love of Jesus in a practical way. Four months later, church attendees of the unincorporated Yell County community distributed nearly 400 pairs of shoes to students in grades K-4 at Two Rivers Elementary School in nearby Ola, Arkansas.

Bull, who drives a school bus for the district, came up with the idea after seeing many students wearing shoes with holes in them or that were duct-taped together. His wife, Rachel, is a paraprofessional at the elementary and saw the need firsthand as well.

The economic struggles of the rural community have forced many families to make tough decisions, Bull says.

"Some people have to choose whether to put food on the table or buy shoes," he says. "A lot of times, shoes are a luxury versus a necessity."

Upon receiving approval from the Arkansas District, Bull contacted Randy and Kathy Cartwright of Rural Compassion. He met the missionaries last July at a training they held in the district to equip and encourage pastors to develop outreach strategies in their community.

Randy says he and his wife rejoiced when they learned of Bull's exhortation.

"In a rural community, the schools are the focal point," Randy says. "We try to help the rural churches really wrap their arms around the local school system."

The organization has a connection with a major shoe manufacturer that donates shoes. Bull placed the order after third and fourth graders measured each student for a math project to ensure correct sizing.

The shoes were delivered to the church, sorted, then placed in bags donated by Yell County Farm Bureau agent Josh Buchanan and the Arkansas Farm Bureau. The shoes were blessed during a special prayer service on Palm Sunday, and then distributed by Bull and two members of his ministry team on Good Friday.

In keeping with the vision of community outreach, the church also has partnered with the school's backpack program, which sends students home with food on weekends.

"We want to let our community know as a whole that we're here for them," Bull says. "This is a simple way of going the extra mile to share the love of Christ."


Shannon M. Nass

Shannon Nass and her husband, Greg, are credentialed ministers with the Assemblies of God and live in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, with their twin daughters, Naomi and Charlotte. Shannon is a freelance writer and special education teacher who also serves as coordinator for Beyond Survival Ministries, a Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading the gospel.