One day last year while Lance Lanning and other Provision International volunteers worked on building a school in Santa Ana, El Salvador, a young girl injured herself.
The 11-year-old Santa Ana native was barefoot — she didn’t own any shoes, said Lanning, president of the faith-based Billings ministry. The girl stepped on a piece of quarter-inch rebar that pierced her foot.
The wound, treated with antiseptic and bandaged, eventually healed. A few months later, on another trip to El Salvador, Lanning was able to give the girl a pair of shoes “so that won’t happen again,” he said.
The pair of shoes is one of many given away in a new program Provision is calling Share-A-Pair. The ministry is collecting used shoes in good shape to ship, with other items, to people in the countries it serves.
A fundraising dinner to help Provision International do its work is set for Oct. 26 at the Montana Convention Center-Montana Grand Holiday Inn. The dinner, which will feature nationally known physician and
author Dr. Benjamin Carson, is nearly sold out.
Provision International was founded in 2000. Since then, it has helped thousands of people in multiple countries around the world with the basic necessities of life. Its motto is: “Feeding/Clothing/Loving one life at a time.”
Originally the organization started by collecting and shipping used medical equipment to Slovakia, said Lanning, who has been with Provision since 2004. Everyone that works for the ministry is a volunteer.
“We have 83 volunteers in this area alone,” said Lanning, also a volunteer who earns his living traveling to schools around the country as a motivational speaker.
Provision works in 20 countries supplying food, medicine, clothing, electronic equipment, school supplies and other necessities, as well as sending out medical teams and building orphanages, schools, worship centers and safe houses for exploited women.
The ministry partners with residents of those countries to do the work. The key thing for Provision, Lanning said, is to have people on the ground who know what they’re doing.
“That’s what brings about sustainability,” he said. “We have to have someone there who has the work ethic, has the focus, has the calling, who will work even if we’re not there. The world doesn’t need more of America.”
In El Salvador, that man is Kenton Moody. Moody, with Provision’s help, bought land to carve out a new walled community for people who had been displaced. In an area where gang activity is rampant, he built a safe place for people to live.
Provision helped build a town center, houses and, most recently, a school for children in grades kindergarten through sixth. Moody will continue to add a grade each year.
“(Moody) was hoping to have 50-plus students, but he had 153 the first day” when the school opened in January, Lanning said. “It’s something else to see all the kids.”
It was while building the school that the young girl injured her foot. After that, Lanning was inspired to start Provision’s newest ministry.
“The Lord put it on my heart to collect used shoes,” he said of the outreach whose motto is “One sole at a time.” “Before we could blink we had 2,800 pairs of shoes from Glasgow and 2,000 from elsewhere on the Hi-Line.”
Provision also has received new shoes. Thomas’s Apparel in Butte gave hundreds of pairs of fur-lined Crocs, Lanning said. Early next year Provision plans to hold a used-shoe drive in Billings.
The first donations went to children in El Salvador in April. Two-hundred kids lined up to get a pair of shoes.
“The amazing part for our team was taking dirty feet, a lot of them that had been wounded, cleaning them and being able to fit them with a pair of shoes,” Lanning said. “I know it sounds little, but it’s not.”
A team plans to take another 2,000 pairs to Slovakia in late October. That is only part of what Lanning calls a way to minister to people in the U.S. and around the world.
“Honestly, we believe as ministers that nothing is more sustaining than a relationship with Jesus,” he said. “But we don’t care if they have faith or have the same faith we do. If God puts them in front of us, we’re going to help them.”