Patty LaRoche: Changing Children’s Lives with Shoes

Then the little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them; and the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them. For the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these. And after He had placed His hands on them, He went on from there… Matthew 19:13-15

Andrew and I had driven to Urias, Mazatlan’s poorest colonia, to work with the ministry team there. Andrew was frustrated. Placing his hands on the shoulders of Estelle, a mother of five, he translated to me in English the scolding he was giving her in Spanish. Two of her sons, Paco, 10, and Miguel, 11, stood by her side. They are part of Andrew’s Bible study/soccer program.

The mother’s life is not to be envied. As a dump scrounger, she works 10 hours a day sifting through trash, looking for recyclables. Five children depend on her $8.00 a day wage. Paco and Miguel are not in school, and Andrew was warning their mother that the drug cartel would find them if they continue to walk the streets all day. The police had already been called to stop the boys’ gang fights, so this was not going to end well.

“Paco has no school shoes,” his mother explained. Andrew turned to the youngster and asked if he would go to school if he had shoes. He would. Andrew told him to meet us by his car when the Bible study/soccer match was over. When questioned about her oldest son, the mother insisted he attends school. She had “found shoes in a second-hand store.” Andrew asked to see the shoes and the boy’s report card. She hustled across her dirt road into a house no bigger than a single car garage, and within a few minutes, returned with the ragtag shoes and the paperwork.

Cecilia, her older daughter, joined our conversation. She, a senior, wants to be a cosmetologist and works with her mother at the dump. I made a mental note to contact Debbie Rodriguez, owner of the local beauty salon, who dedicates her life to helping others. I asked Cecilia if she would stick with cosmetology if someone sponsored her to attend. She would.

Andrew then pointed to Roots and Wings, a two-story, under-construction, adobe building on the corner. It is a ministry started by Robin and Rochelle, 25-year-old American, Christian women. They came to Mazatlan on vacation four years ago, saw the desperation of the dump scrounger families, and opened a small day care for six children. Because of others’ generosity, within two years a 1,600 square foot facility was built, and now a second floor is being added. Today they—and local volunteers—teach more than 20 young children about Jesus Christ. The two women, like Andrew, live out Matthew 19:13-15.

As our day came to a close, Andrew and I packed up our things and headed to the car. Waiting there was Paco. “Jump in,” Andrew told him in Spanish, and he did. Paco contained his excitement. I couldn’t. Once we were in the shoe store, even the attendant seemed to catch on. She said nothing about Roberto’s dirty feet, but instead handed him a sock, telling him it would help the new shoe go on easier.

Within ten minutes we were driving Roberto back to his colonia. If we heard “Gracias” once, we heard it five times. A pair of shoes would change Paco’s direction forever. The Christian volunteers in Urias know the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these, and, putting feet to their faith, live sacrificially for these children to end up there. I owe them a huge thanks for allowing me to tag along and be a part of their ministry. So here it is: Gracias, Andrew, Robin and Rochelle.

But most of all, Gracias, Jesucristo.

2 thoughts on “Patty LaRoche: Changing Children’s Lives with Shoes”

  1. Patty, it’s great to connect with you this way. What a remarkable experience. Which Spanish country were you in? You are always such an inspiration to me.

  2. The United States directs an average of $320 million worth of aid a year to Mexico for various programs – too bad it’s not going to help their own citizens.

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