"If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet" (John 13:14, ESV).
By Karen Dyck, Household Water Program regional manager—Africa
September, 2013—Less than a week before one of my regular trips to Kenya, I was sitting next to a close friend at church. Out of the blue, I heard these words in my heart:
“Karen, when you go to Kenya, I want you to wash the feet of your staff” (the team of locals who manage our water projects in-country).
I had never washed anyone’s feet before. I wasn’t sure what to think, let alone what to do with what I felt God had spoken to me with such clarity. By the end of the service, I had decided I would wait for God to confirm His desire for me to wash the feet of my staff before I was scheduled to leave. Otherwise, I wouldn’t go through with it.
The night before my flight, I told my friend who was with me at church that day what I had experienced. Shocked, my friend shared with me what she had heard from God at the same service:
“I want you to wash Karen’s feet before she goes to Kenya.”
It was the affirmation both of us needed. At that moment, in the middle of her living room, she filled a basin and humbly stooped to the floor. She uncovered my feet and washed them, reminding me that just as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet so they might follow His example, she was washing mine so I could go out and do likewise.
Forgiveness extended and received
First in Kenya, then in Ethiopia, and finally in Uganda I repeated this same act of humility that Jesus himself first demonstrated to us. I continued this practice throughout the year until all of the water teams that I oversee had experienced it.
Each time I organized the foot-washing ceremony, the staff reluctantly presented their dirty, dusty feet to me. Kneeling in the dirt, I began washing the feet of the managers and then asked them to do the same for the other members on the team. Each time, I challenged them to take on the role of the humble servant, learning to “wash the feet” of those we serve, especially the disenfranchised, the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, and the outcast.
On one occasion, the foot-washing ceremony caused one of the staff members to highlight the prejudice that he felt existed within the team and needed to be addressed. Forgiveness was extended and received that day, and the team has undoubtedly become more unified and powerful as a result in displaying love, humility, and forgiveness to the communities they serve.