DALLAS—People who are hurting need hope more than anything else, and they need it right away, Albert Reyes believes.
“Love seems to be in the present. Faith seems to come from our experiences of the past. Hope is really about the future,” said Reyes, president and chief executive officer of Buckner International.
Do it now
Desperate people who wonder if they have a future don’t tolerate delay when someone offers a ray of hope, said Reyes, author of a new book, Hope Now: Peace, Healing, and Justice When the Kingdom Comes Near.
Reyes recalled an incident at David G. Burnet Elementary School, in a low-income, predominantly Hispanic neighborhood near Bachman Lake in northwest Dallas.
He participated in an event to distribute shoes to children in need and to announce his agency’s plans to build a Buckner Family Hope Center at Bachman Lake to offer services to strengthen families.
A woman approached Reyes holding a brochure that described the Family Hope Center, saying, “I know where this property is, but I can’t find this building. Where is it?”
When Reyes explained the brochure was about a center Buckner planned to build in a couple of years, she responded in despair, “But I need these services now.”
“After we finished the conversation, I thought something is not right,” Reyes recalled. “That’s when I made up my mind. We needed to do something about this now.”
Consistent care earns credibility
He determined Buckner needed to pursue a two-pronged approach. On a long-range track, the agency continued its efforts to raise funds and make plans for a permanent structure to house its Family Hope Center. On an immediate track, Buckner hired a director to begin ministry to families in the Bachman Lake area.
Working in cooperation with schools in the neighborhood, The Village Church, Primera Iglesia Bautista and another nonprofit agency in the area, Buckner began by providing backpacks and school supplies to students. That opened the door to offer parenting courses, English-as-a-Second-Language classes and job-skill training for parents.
“We began earning the right to be in their lives, and it gave us credibility to offer classes they were willing to respond to,” Reyes said. “Through the sheer force of consistent care, investment and concern—expressing the love of God in their lives without asking for anything in return—we gained a reputation that Buckner is here to help.”
Respond both to physical and spiritual needs
In part, Reyes wrote Hope Now to bring to light the need for Christians to bring hope to desperate people. He also wanted to help followers of Christ gain a clearer understanding about the holistic approach Jesus modeled in his ministry.
“We have become polarized in so many ways. There seems to be a lot of fog—a lot of confusion and despair. The one place where we need clarity and certainty is in who we are as bearers of hope,” he said.
Reyes acknowledged his early ministry focused almost exclusively on meeting spiritual needs, without seeing the importance of responding to physical needs. After he began work at Buckner in 2007, he became increasingly aware of the importance of both.
“It’s a critical issue in Christianity today, because we seem to have lost our credibility,” he said.
‘Showing up’ to serve
Christians earn credibility through incarnational ministry—“showing up” to bring peace, healing and justice to people who are hurting, he observed.
“People know what they see, and when they see you doing something nobody else is doing, with compassion and concern and the love of Jesus—then credibility is restored,” he said. “It’s not much more complicated than just showing up.”
Reyes views biblical justice, righteousness and the kingdom of God as closely related concepts.
“Things are made right when the king shows up,” he said. “When the king shows up, he is going to make sure his subjects are protected, are respected, are provided for, and that everything in the kingdom is done according to the will of the king.”
The “kingdom of God comes near” to hurting people when Christians enter their lives bringing hope, he explained.
“We need to do it now,” Reyes said. “Society needs so much hope, and we need to provide real live solutions.”