I just recently returned from a yearly mission trip to Guatemala. This was my third trip, and most of the activities were feeling fairly “old hat.” I knew what to do, when to do it, and almost exactly what to expect. We visited two villages, spending two days in each village. We offered medical, dental, vision, and pharmaceutical services. We also did vacation bible school activities with the children. As for me, I served in the pharmacy this year. I have always been drawn to task-oriented activities, so this suited me perfectly. It was nice, comfortable, and safe.
But we all know how God works. Every mission trip presents me with at least one super uncomfortable experience, as it should. This time, that experience was foot washing. I hate feet. I hate your feet. I hate my feet. You get the idea. So you can imagine my initial thoughts about such a weird activity. Why would I want to touch feet that have been God only knows where? That’s ridiculous. Then again, God is pretty ridiculous. However, I have learned to trust His crazy ideas, as they always turn out to be amazing and well worth it, in the end.
In each village, the women on the mission trip set up shop in a large space for pedicures. We had stations with tubs of clean water and soap, pedicure tools, and an assortment of nail polish. Women from the villages sat themselves before their stations, and we began. One of our female Guatemalan friends spoke with the women of the villages, explaining the process of foot washing and the why of it. The women seemed excited and nervous at such an uncommon practice. Women in Guatemalan villages just don’t get pampered like that.
As I sat down before my first customer of the day, the most incredible thing happened. My revulsion toward feet just fell away, like an old snakeskin. Before me was not a pair of disgusting feet, but a beautiful woman. She was obviously tired and overworked. She was breastfeeding her child, and I know she had probably been cleaning or cooking before we found each other. As I scrubbed her feet gently, I listened to her talk with her friends around her, laughing and slowly beginning to relax.
Eventually, I moved on to a foot massage. We made eye contact for a brief moment, but I learned so much during that time. I saw gratitude in her eyes. I saw friendliness. I saw… myself and every other woman on the planet. Our stories were so very different, but we both knew what it was like to feel tired and overworked. We both knew what it was like to serve others, sometimes feeling recognized for our good deeds, sometimes feeling overlooked. And now we both knew what it was like to feel pampered. How often have I made an appointment for a pedicure? How often have I painted my own nails just because I had the time? Feeling beautiful is not just for privileged white women. I have always known that in my head, but I never knew it in my spirit until that moment with that woman.
The rest of the foot washing sessions in each village became more and more enjoyable for the women I served, and the same thing happened for me. Now feet are so much more than just feet. They carry strong women from all over the world to the places they need and want to go. Our feet take us to places we never imagined, all to the glory of a God who loves us so. One of the kindest things we can do is help each other take care of them.
Thank you for this beautiful story!
Thank YOU for reading it! Guatemala has become my second home. I can’t wait to go back next summer!
All your anxieties were de-feeted! I experienced foot washing once or twice in my fifty some years of Christian living. It is kind of awkward but always strangely meaningful. Perhaps the old biblical foot-washing idea has been replaced by a pedicure?
It is definitely equal parts awkward and meaningful, in the beginning. But I found that the awkwardness fell away after a few minutes. In a strange way, the process was at least as relaxing for me, as it seemed to be for the women I served.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 🙂