Sharing Hope & Love

Written by Teresa Dennard.

Brandon Swift felt a true anointing

It is a phenomenon hard to explain. One man, on his way home to Shreveport, made the decision to take a different route than normal thru Carthage. Traveling around the southwest loop, he saw something out of the corner of his eye that caught his attention. He turned his car around and was amazed at what he saw.

Brandon Swift was looking at Pippen Memorial Park, the site of the 14-foot statue of Jesus carrying an old man, portraying the words to the poem, Footprints in the Sand. Project Manager Phil Soape happened to be at the site and pulled Brandon over to tell him “the story.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

In his amazement and awe, Brandon took a 4-minute video with his phone and posted it on Facebook. The hook line began, “Coming through Carthage,TX and I couldn't believe what I saw out my window!!!!” Out of curiosity, his followers began to view the video. They shared it, their friends shared it, then friends of friends shared it and on and on till after 10 days, the views were over 650,000. That’s six HUNDRED and fifty THOUSAND views! “I was so excited…I couldn’t take my eyes off my computer,” says Foundation member Teresa Dennard. “The ‘views’ were coming exponentially!”

Who was this man and how could he have that much influence on all these people? Foundation Board Members Phil and Lanelda Soape contacted Brandon and asked him to come to Carthage for the “Panola Pride” program on KGAS Radio to share his story. With Jerry Hanszen conducting the interview, Brandon relayed his experience. “When I saw the monument, I immediately knew I had to share this with someone. I just felt compelled to document what I was experiencing at the sight. Phil stopped for about an hour and told me about it. I asked if they had gotten the news out about this project, and Phil said, ‘Well, we’re all over 60 and we’re not too good at all that technology stuff,’ so I asked if I could make a short video. When I finished I thought, well, I will just put this on Facebook.

“When I posted the video, I thought maybe 10-15 people would see it. But the comments I’ve gotten from this are unbelievable. People have contacted me on Facebook and I’ve tried to respond to each and every one. So many people have been compelled to share their story with me.

“My story starts in California. My older brother got signed to play pro baseball in the early 90’s. His teammates decided to throw a big celebration for him. They all got together—it was around the 4th of July. I’m in the backyard playing basketball with my other brothers when the phone rings. Mom and dad start yelling. They got a call that my brother had been shot. It was a random drive-by shooting. While he was lying there, the guys that shot him took his shoes. We found out later the shooting was part of a gang initiation-–do a random drive-by and bring back proof. Right after that, Los Angeles experienced the Rodney King riots. My mother also had a bad experience on the way home from work. As children we thought Los Angeles was paradise with so much to do, so much fun, but my parents decided it was time to go. It was too dangerous with five boys growing up in Southern Los Angeles. My parents were originally from El Dorado, Arkansas, but we ended up settling in Shreveport.

“For years, I struggled with my faith. In a sense, I questioned just about everything. How could this be? Why did this happen? I would read a scripture and immediately try to find doubt in it. I thought back and realized all I had been thru, how did I get thru it? I’ve come to learn the miracle comes from the struggle. Sometimes it’s not just you. There’s no way my family got thru all that on our own, and I think that’s what this monument stands for. As I stood on the grounds of the Footprints Monument, taking a photo, I felt a true anointing. You immediately get a feeling of hope. And to stand in the presence, and to experience what I felt. I was almost at a loss for words in that video.”

As Hanszen’s interview was coming to a close, he made the comment that the Footprints Foundation had been working on this project since 2012 and had done everything possible to make this project known, but someone just passing through puts a video on Facebook and it get thousands of views. “God works in mysterious ways.” Mayor Lynn Vincent wrapped up the segment by presenting Swift with a key to the city.

Since his visit to Carthage, Brandon has been busy answering messages and commenting to almost every one of the 800+ comments that people have made from all over the United States. Most are thanking him for sharing and commenting how beautiful the site is. Just a few examples of comments made: “This gave me chills because I know God carried me through some horrific times when I knew I couldn’t do it on my own.” “My granddad used to set on the porch and sing this song about footprints when I was a kid,” and “This is so amazing. I can’t wait to take my boys to see this.”

After the blitz of views on Facebook, people began driving to Carthage to see the monument for themselves. Several hundred people within a 100-mile radius have stopped by the park and many have had the opportunity to visit with the Sculptor, Bob Harness who visits the site regularly. Also, Foundation members quickly set up convenient methods for donations to accommodate the many requests for viewers wanting to help complete the project. Donations have been received from as far away as Ontario, Canada, Idaho, and Massachusetts, with an influx from the ArkLaTex area as well. The projected completion date for the Pippen Memorial Park is the end of June, with a grand opening ceremony planned for Sunday, July 3, 2016.

Humbled by all the attention, Brandon says, “I’m no hero; I give all the glory to God. I take no credit at all. I just wanted to share this and let others know this is here. Just being there, there’s hope, there’s true love at that site. I envision the runaway child stopping there, the husband and wife struggling with their marriage, anyone that has a trial in their life, I see them leaving there with a sense of hope and sharing love with others. I’m just so honored that God chose me to spread His word.”

Visit the website www.footprintsmonument.com for a complete history along with photos of the process from the beginning stages and also ways to donate to help get the project completed. To view Brandon’s video, visit www.facebook.com/footprintsmonument