I was speaking at a college church event in Waco, Texas, in October when my host mentioned that a guy named Jeremy Courtney was going to be there. Jeremy had once attended that church before moving to Turkey — and later, Iraq — where he eventually started a nonprofit organization called Buy Shoes, Save Lives. I had heard about BSSL just a week or two earlier and thought a) the shoes were cool; and b) the idea of selling handmade, traditional shoes to Americans in order to fund heart surgeries for Iraqi kids was a brave, brilliant concept. I was looking forward to meeting Jeremy, who was stateside with his wife and daughter in preparation for the birth of their second child.
th of us arrived early at the event to set up tables. He was selling t-shirts and shoes. I was selling t-shirts and my books. We introduced ourselves and chatted for awhile, until he looked over to the side and said, “Hey, let me introduce you to my wife, Jessica.”
So he did. And — smallest of small worlds — it turns out I already knew Ms. Jessica Courtney. Jeremy had ended up getting married to Jessica Bond, my sister’s best friend from high school, whom I hadn’t seen in ten years. We looked at each other, with mutual I-know-yous etched on our faces.
That? Was weird.
Jeremy and I spent some time together that weekend and met up again in November. He told me more about his organization, I bought some shoes — and, yes, they’re very cool — and I ended up putting together an interview with him for the January/February issue of RELEVANT. It’s called “Introducing the Klash: An Interview with Jeremy Courtney of Buy Shoes, Save Lives.” The article isn’t online anywhere yet, so to read it you’ll need to find a copy of the issue. It’s worth reading whether you care about the shoes or not, because Jeremy has some provocative things to say about community, peacemaking, and the difference between klash and TOMS shoes.
Anyway…Jeremy emailed me yesterday to inform me that his organization had tracked $6,000 in sales as a direct result of the RELEVANT article — which means RELEVANT readers helped fund $3,000 toward heart surgeries for Iraqi kids. So this is to say thanks on behalf of Buy Shoes, Save Lives, and especially on behalf of children like 9-year-old Baveel, 2-year-old Juliana, and 4-year-old Hussein who are now fully funded toward heart surgeries and preparing to have their lives changed as a result of anonymous Americans (and, of course, international readers) who bought a t-shirt or a pair of funky shoes.
The Buy Shoes, Save Lives story is an interesting one that combines profit with philanthropy, fashion with social justice, capitalism with humanitarianism. It brings Jews and Christians together to help Muslim families. It utilizes the power of the interwebs to sell ancient hand-crafted footwear. It’s weird and beautiful. Kind of like the Gospel.
If you’re new to Buy Shoes, Save Lives, and haven’t read the article in RELEVANT, you can get all the facts you want right here. You can watch a video of the shoes being made right here. You can even buy them right here from the Relevant Store.