As tough as old boots – not these!

A little over six months ago my wife Mandy and I stayed at a hotel outside Whitstable in Kent with some very dear friends of ours, Jes and Fiona and Marcus and Sue. Jes and Marcus are both Senior Pastors at two churches in Dover and Deal. During the evening a gentleman approached us while we were all enjoying some wine and laughter in the bar of the hotel. He asked us what we each did for a living and what we were celebrating. He said that he was over from Australia on business. He then said he had to make some calls and wished us a pleasant evening.

Some time later the gentleman returned and asked us whether we could find a use for some boots if he were to gift them to us? His name was Mark and he was the marketing director of Redback boots – Australia’s biggest boot manufacturer. Mark was in the U.K. to sort a tiny manufacturing issue which had been identified in some of their boots meaning they were not up to their own 100% standard of perfection. Mark was also from a church near Sydney. He had been outside praying about what to do with the boots knowing that commercially the only option was probably to put them in landfill. He told us that in his heart he knew this was not good stewardship. He told us that God had “kicked him up the backside” (paraphrased! He’s an Aussie after all) while he was praying and told him to speak to those people back in the bar. As soon as he’d asked us what we might use them for we had made several suggestions as to where we could distribute them including street connect in Glasgow and Deal, a Dover outreach project and a charity we work very closely with in Romania.

Mark then told us the boots were nearby in a distribution warehouse and he would help if needed to shift what he thought were approximately 1000 pairs of boots. Amazingly, that very morning, myself and my wife Mandy had bought a van. We didn’t know what we were going to use it for and had never had one before, but it was so cheap an offer we couldn’t refuse. It was without doubt another miracle; a van under 10 years old in good and fully working condition for just £500!

The following day we visited the store and met with Mark who showed us the boots (still haven’t been able to this day to find anything wrong with them). Shortly after they had gone through the stock with us we used our new van to make around 16 trips from Faversham to Sandwich, where we stored them. By September, we’d received approximately 3250 pairs of boots, all different styles and sizes retailing, on average, at over £100 a pair.

For the weeks that followed I focussed on generating funds to send 1000 pairs of boots to Lovelight Romania who work with those in poverty and with HIV. In order to send them by freight we needed to raise £1100. After sharing the story with colleagues at work, dozens of them helped to raise funds by purchasing inexpensive boots for themselves and people they knew who might need some, with the full approval and blessing of Redback.

All of this has proved too be the easiest way I’ve ever known to share my faith at work. Even the doubters couldn’t deny that where a man prayed, God answered and put in place people with hearts and relationships to find homes for these boots. My team at work even wanted to load the lorry in their lunch break to go to Romania. You can imagine the surprise of the truck driver when a team of Customs Officers turn up and start loading his lorry for export!

All the non Christians I have told want to hear the story and want me to share it with their friends. My neighbours see other people wearing Redback boots and talk to them about the story. Most people in my office and our church have a pair of Redback boots now. 

Amazingly, we had never stayed at the hotel before, neither had Mark, what’s more we were all only there for one night. As I write, we have found uses for over two thirds of the boots and still continue to raise funds for other projects we are involved in through this blessing. I reflect at times about the impact of the prayer of one man here and all the things that God put in place to see this happen. What an amazing God!

Photo by Jenny Rollo from FreeImages