WATCH Liberty alum who collected over 20,000 shoes to donate speaks at convocation following book release
“God has done so much for me, and I am here to testify for his goodness,” Emanuel Ntibonera said during a virtual convocation released Nov. 25.
An alumnus and familiar face to many at Liberty, Ntibonera is known for his compelling story as a refugee and his heart to provide shoes to those who are struggling in his homeland, culminating in the collection of 20,000 pairs to send to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2017.
The road to this moment of giving was not easy. Ntibonera, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, escaped one of the nation’s deadliest wars – a time of strife that claimed 6 million lives.
Ntibonera remembered the moment that everything changed – he was eight years old and getting ready for dinner with his family when war broke out in his country. In a matter of moment chaos ensued.
“It was one of those moments when you don’t know what to do,” Ntibonera said. “You can just run back into the house and lock all the windows and doors and just stay quiet and believe that God is going to get you through the night.”
Bombs exploded and gunshots rang through the night. His father, a pastor, gathered the family together to pray for peace and protection.
“He said, ‘We are not going to allow fear to consume our lives, so let’s just pray and invite God because we know that he is going to protect us,” Ntibonera recalled.
A few days later, Ntibonara’s family fled by foot to a village.
“The message was, ‘keep moving forward but don’t look behind,’” Ntibonera said.
Periods of peace are extremely rare in the Congo, and because of the constant strife residents were frequently displaced.
“We became refugees in our own land,” Ntibonera explained during the Convocation.
Soon after the move to the village, the family decided to leave their homeland and move to Kenya. Ntibonera remembered the many things he asked God for during that time, including shoes.
In July of 2009, Ntibonera was granted a visa to come to the United States. He remembers that as the best moment of his life. In 2016 he returned to the Congo for the first time, realizing that while he had the opportunity to get an education and grow in a comfortable, safe environment in the U.S., not much had changed in his home country.
That was when he saw struggling kids with no shoes developing infections and diseases as a result and realized how many extra shoes he had in his closet unused. Recognizing the immense need, he began to gather as many shoes as he could to donate.
Back in the states, Ntibonera – a musician and member of a band comprised of his brothers, started out asking attendees to bring shoes as admission for concerts to build his collection in hopes of sending a substantial amount to the Congo. After meeting with campus pastor and Vice President for Spiritual Development David Nasser, a bigger vision came to fruition.
Professional basketball player Steph Curry and his wife Ayesha also joined the effort, and at a 2017 convocation where students were asked to each bring a pair of shoes. Additionally, partnerships with Nike and Underarmor, 20,000 pairs were collected and sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Ntibonera has returned to the Congo and has been a part of the distribution process and was able to watch the joy on the kids’ faces as they put on a pair of shoes for the first time ever. He identified with the children as he recalled getting his first pair of shoes at 10 years old.
“That was the greatest joy of my life,” Ntibonera said, “being able to put a smile on those kids faces.”
Ntibonera has been continuing efforts to aid his homeland and bring glory to Christ through the process as the president of his nonprofit The Ntibonera Foundation, run with his brothers John and Baraka.
Ntibonera also recently released a book called “Congo Sole: How a Once Barefoot Refugee Delivered Hope, Faith, and 20,000 pairs of shoes.” The book, a two-year effort, tells his story – a message of hope and the fulfillment of Gods promises.
Information on the Ntibonera Foundation can be found at Ntibonerafoundation.org.
Kayleigh Hamer is a Copy Editor. View her LinkedIn profile here.