It started out as an opportunity to serve. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a foot washing ceremony on Good Friday to demonstrate our love for Jesus by doing what He did just before the Last Supper? After all, Jesus said that we should follow His example, emulate Him by serving others in lowliness of heart with great of humility and love. Could anything be more humbling and loving, even condescending than washing someone’s filthy feet? I figured that was the least I could do to show my love for Jesus. Easy? No. Heart wrenching? Yes.
So on Good Friday, as they always do, Orlando Union Rescue Mission opened their doors to the homeless community in Central Florida for an Easter banquet. This year the Mission added a foot washing ceremony with brand new sneakers and socks for all. The promise for free food and new shoes drew around 500 hungry and homeless individuals.
Right before those precious people were to line up to have their feet washed, we realized that the water at the mission had shut off for no apparent reason. Foot washing, no water. How was that going to work? Plan B. We were to use hand sanitizer and wet wipes. The enemy would not have his way! No, Satan! Not today.
One by one, each volunteer washed feet and talked about the love of Jesus. We were all feeling pretty blessed. About the time I was washing my third “client,” I realized a challenge had come my way. A 67-year old gentleman limped to my station. He was around 6’4” and pretty hefty. Big, beautiful “Lloyd” had difficulty sitting on the bench and taking off his shoes and socks. Time seemed to stand still as I observed his swollen legs and feet. I tried to talk to Lloyd as we struggled to pull off his dirty socks. As I assisted him, it became evident that he probably hadn’t had clean socks in perhaps months. His feet were peeling and covered in fungus. His legs and feet looked like those of an elephant and were hard, stiff to the touch. There was infection throughout his extremities. The stench was overwhelming, reminding me of the smell of death. My heart stopped as I knew he needed more help than I could offer with a simple washing of his size 15 feet.
I asked Lloyd when he had last been to the doctor for his feet and legs. He said he was hospitalized a couple of months ago, but he’s back on the streets. I gently rubbed his feet with hand sanitizer as we continued to talk. He asked for water for his feet. I said we had none. But Pastor Andy Searles who was seated next to me working on his own “client” offered bottled waters to pour over Lloyd’s feet. Lloyd said it felt so good to feel the cool water on his feet.
I then called for someone to assist us…Lloyd needed a doctor. Two ladies came and asked a lot of questions hopefully paving the way for Lloyd to get medical help. Otherwise, the one lady told him, he’d have to have his feet amputated. Lloyd left with clean white socks and new shoes, which we could barely get on his swollen feet. I shook his hand, watched him limp away, and prayed for Lloyd, but truthfully, I felt a little hopeless. Would he go to a free clinic? How would he even get there? Or would he die on the streets?
As I lay in bed last night and tried to find rest, Lloyd’s image continued to haunt me. The foul smell of his feet lingered in my mind. Lloyd is one of so many who are out there with no one to help them. OURM can only do so much, and that’s a lot! But how many more are there who have lost their way and have no one? Jesus knows the “Lloyds” of this world, and He loves them. There’s a better life for them one day in heaven if they know Jesus. But I hurt for their earthly journey fraught with pain and loneliness.
So, I went to wash feet on a sunny Good Friday. I was to be a blessing and serve. But I came away changed, broken hearted… committed to pray for the lonely, disenfranchised “Lloyds” of this world. And to remember. To never forget what Jesus did for me… and for Lloyd.