Jeff Brodsky: Fighting the Sex Trade Barefoot (Part 3)

John FarrellBy John Farrell12 Minutes

John Farrell: Can you explain a little bit about why you made the decision to start going barefoot?

Jeff Brodsky: I didn’t make a decision to start going barefoot. I made a decision to be obedient to God asking me to go barefoot. That’s the difference.

When people ask me, “Why are you barefoot?,” I tell them one word, Obedience. I believe that on July 19, 2010, around 6 p.m. Cambodia time, God spoke to me and asked me to live my life barefoot for one year in solidarity with orphaned, abandoned, and trafficked children around the world.

When I was in the garbage dump in Cambodia, searching for children that were at high risk of being snatched by predators and sold into brothels, I noticed that they were almost all barefoot, except for a couple of them with old torn flip-flops. That night I had a conversation with God. I believe He was impressing on me to live in solidarity with those children for one year barefoot. I thought, “How can I do that?” I live in the mountains of Colorado at 9,000-feet elevation. If you were to walk out my house right now, you’d see a foot of snow. I thought, “How can I do that?” But God impressed on me that as long as I was cautious, careful, and relied on Him, that He would take care of me.

In almost 10 years, I’ve never had one infection, which is astounding because I’ve had so many cuts and bruises you wouldn’t believe. It was after one year when I literally sat on the edge of my couch, ready to put socks on my feet. In almost 10 years, I’ve never had socks on my feet. I could be in my house alone and I would not compromise. I won’t put a sock on my foot.

On the one-year anniversary, I went to put a sock on my foot and I put the sock on my toes to put on my foot, but I couldn’t get the sock past my toes. It was as if God sent an angel to do a tug of war and I finally gave up and said, “God, what do you want from me? I’ve already gone for a whole year.” And that still small voice spoke to me in a way that only God could, and these are the words I heard verbatim, “Keep going. Those children are still out there.”

I made a decision that as long as my going barefoot would motivate even one person a year to action in a way that would help me rescue even one more child a year, that I would go barefoot for the rest of my life. And it’s just amazing what’s happened since I made that decision.

It wasn’t until the third year that a small group of young people in a little town in Ohio came up with an idea after I spoke there. They wanted to do something in solidarity with me going barefoot. So, they came up with the idea of walking one mile barefoot to raise funds to help me fight trafficking.

Fighting trafficking is very, very expensive. Thousands of dollars just for one rescue. So they did that. They raised $13,000. I thought, “Wow, what a great idea.” I didn’t go barefoot it to use it as a fundraising tool. It was very deep, very personal to me being obedient to God. And it was this group of young people that came up with that idea and I thought, “Oh, maybe we can have more of these barefoot miles.” That’s where it’s at now.

I think we just had our 41st barefoot mile. We’ve had them literally all over the world now. Now we’re even looking at the possibility – because we’ve already had to cancel four or five barefoot miles because of Coronavirus – of having a virtual barefoot mile where people will be able to post videos where they can just walk right outside their house since the 10-year anniversary is on a Saturday. They can just take a walk for a mile as a family.

We’re looking at doing something like that and then people can literally do it from anywhere in the world. It’s something that our team’s looking at right now because it hurt us dramatically to not be able to do these walks.

Trouble Traveling?

JF: Has going barefoot affected your ability to travel or go to certain places? Are you met with resistance anywhere you go?

Jeff: You can’t imagine. My editor wants me to write a book just on my barefoot experiences over the last 10 years and I’m considering it. I really don’t want to have to write another book, but he’s pretty much convinced me that it would be good.

I have so many stories. You can’t imagine some of the things that I’ve experienced being barefoot. People with their snide remarks and rude comments and dirty looks and things like that. I don’t care about that. They treated Jesus the same way. I just do what I’m called to do and respond accordingly with as much love as I can no matter how rude somebody is.

I have a little card I printed up that I give to people when they confront me and it usually opens their eyes to why I’m doing what I’m doing. Sometimes people are very cruel and rude, but I don’t care about that. I’m going to do what I believe God has called me to do, regardless of the way other people respond. I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing it because I believe God asked me to.

Like I said when we first started the conversation, I’m barefoot for one word: obedience. It doesn’t matter what you believe. I believe on July 19, 2010, God asked me to do this. People will ask me, or they’ll say to me, “Why would God ask you to do this?” I say, “I don’t know. You’d have to ask Him. I just know what I heard.” And that’s why I’m still barefoot.

People think that because I’ve been barefoot for almost 10 years that I embrace the barefoot lifestyle. That I must really love it. I hate it. I hate being barefoot. I would give anything just to put a pair of socks on my feet. But no I hate it.

You can’t imagine some of the things that I have to experience being barefoot. Sometimes it’s extremely painful. Try walking in the snow barefoot. Try walking on 110-degree pavement in the heat whether it be in India or Brazil or Central or South America or here in America. Take your shoes and socks off and walk out barefoot in a parking lot when it’s 100 degrees out and you’ll see what I experience all the time.

I hate it. Just like the girls hate what they have to do. People say, “What about the pain that you experience?” When I experience pain all I have to do is think of the pain that these girls suffer every day and that they will continue to suffer until someone sets them free. Anytime that I experience any kind of pain and discomfort, I think to myself, “My pain is going to go away as soon as I go indoors or whatever it may be. The pain heals.”

These girls experience that pain every day and they will continue to. This is my reminder of what God has called me to do. It’s obedience. Totally out of obedience. If God told me to end my barefoot lifestyle, I would end it in a heartbeat.

JF: Is there anything that you’d like to share that I didn’t ask or something that you want to reemphasize?

Jeff: The only thing I would say to the people that are going to hear or see or read this is do something. Do something. I am here to make people aware of what’s going on in the world with the abuse of children in the most heinous, evil way imaginable since the dawn of creation.

When I tell people that I’m here to make people aware, awareness is good, but awareness without action is apathy. If people ask me, “What’s the main theme of your book?” That’s it: awareness without action is apathy.

If this interview with you doesn’t motivate anybody to action, then we’ve wasted our time. I’ve wasted my time if nobody is motivated to action. I don’t go on interviews, whether it be on the phone, in person, on television, radio, the Internet or a website, or in a magazine or newspaper. I do it for one reason: to motivate people to action.

Awareness without action is apathy. If I do this to motivate someone to action and nobody is motivated, what have I accomplished? Nothing. We’ve accomplished nothing with this interview if not one person is motivated to action. It’s the only reason that I’m doing this with you.

Order your copy of The Least of These: One Man’s Remarkable Journey in the Fight Against Child Trafficking by Jeff Brodsky