By Lauri Ann Hanson
MISSION, Texas — More than 650 Rio Grande Valley children received new shoes Aug. 17 as a group of 54 volunteers from 12 churches came together to provide them with new shoes from Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls®.
The shoes were collected by Texas Baptist churches at the first-ever Baptist Family Gathering in San Antonio in July. More than 2,000 pairs of shoes were collected in total, most of which were delivered to children in some of the poorest counties in the country in the Valley.
Javier Perez, manager of missions and humanitarian aid for Buckner in the Rio Grande Valley, helped to coordinate the shoe distribution in the Valley at Doctor Javier Saenz Middle School.
“From beginning to end, it was such an eye-opening experience to watch God work through those who were faithful to answer His call,” he said.
“Starting with each pair of shoes donated by churches at the Texas Baptist Gathering, to distribution by the volunteers representing churches from across Texas, hundreds of children will start this upcoming school year with a sense of pride not only because of their new shoes, but because they were affirmed and reminded of their value in Christ.”
Churches from as far as Perryton, Texas and Uriah, Ala. helped with the event.
Alexis Turberville, 15, from Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Uriah met Edwin, a 4-year-old boy who was “on top of the world” because he was starting preschool in the fall, she said. It wasn’t until later, when Edwin’s mother told her about their hardships, that she realized the impact a new pair of shoes made in his life that day.
“The gift of shoes may not seem like a lot, but one pair was everything to these kids,” Alexis said. “The excited smiles and tight hugs around my neck reminded me there is always more that I can do to help the less fortunate – even through the simple gift of my time and shoes.”
The mission of Shoes for Orphan Souls hit home for Mission, Texas resident Noe Hernandez, Buckner volunteer and store manager for McCoy’s Building Supply Center in Mission.
“I worked as a migrant worker in my youth and distinctly remember receiving my first pair of new shoes from a service group,” Hernandez said. “Those shoes changed my life because they gave me confidence and a sense of empowerment. It is because of this same desire I saw in the children’s eyes we served that I am already signed up to help again next year.”
Last year in the Rio Grande Valley, Buckner served almost 60,000 people through community programs at the Buckner Family Hope Center in Penitas, Services to At-Risk Youth (STAR), Buckner National Missions and the Rio Grande Children’s Home.
Shoes for Orphan Souls® is the largest humanitarian aid project of Buckner International, a global faith-based ministry dedicated to transforming the lives of orphans, vulnerable children and families in the United States and around the world.
To learn more about Buckner and the ways you can get involved, please visit buckner.org.