DALLAS—As Buckner International expands its ministry into new areas, Shoes for Orphan Souls usually is the first program to tread on new soil. And whether they are used to spread the gospel directly or indirectly, it opens doors for Christianity.
“Meeting people’s physical needs allows us to share the gospel,” said Rachel Garton, director of Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls .
“And whoever delivers these shoes to our kids does it in the spirit of God’s love. The shoes are prayed for many times before they ever reach a child.”
Shoes for Orphan Souls has allowed Buckner to initiate ministries in other countries, Garton said. And once Buckner sets up ministries, long-term staff and volunteers can commit to a more committed form of evangelism.
“This is ideal in that we are able to make our evangelistic efforts a commitment rather than a one-time thing,” she said.
Garton recalled her meeting with a councilwoman representing the president of Honduras.
“Her face lit up. I knew that by meeting one need for them, it allowed us to sit down and discuss with them further how we could help meet more needs for children in their country, which means we’d be able to have a number of developed ministries there that give us a chance to talk about God,” she said.
Randy Daniels, vice president of Buckner global initiatives, said shoes gets Buckner into new countries and allows the ministry access to government authorities and orphanage directors.
Offering something practical
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“They talk to us because they know we can offer them something practical that the children have a need for,” Daniels said.
Leslie Chace, director of Buckner in Latin America, said the first thing Buckner does when it enters a new country is send humanitarian aid and shoes.
“This immediately gives us a favorable introduction, as shoes usually are a huge necessity among children in Third World countries,” Chace said.
“In Honduras, when we first walked into the Nueva Esperanza Home, we were surrounded by young children who were all barefoot. I thought that perhaps they were having a swimming activity. But when I asked the director of the home why the children were barefoot, she said, ‘They don’t have shoes.’
“Immediately, Buckner put an order in to send 5,000 pairs of shoes so that the children living in the orphanages in Honduras could have shoes. Because of the lack of resources, shoes don’t seem to be a priority in these countries.
“Jesus gave us the example of his own ministry by supplying the physical needs of the people he was trying to reach. It’s a manifestation of the Lord’s love to give. And it opens opportunities to bring them to receive Jesus.”
A lot of celebrities today are “throwing money at developing countries,” Garton observed. “But they don’t have the same message to give that we do. We have more inside of us that’s burning, which is what sets us apart from other humanitarian organizations.
Will you remember me?
“The first thing every child will ask you is, ‘Will you remember me?’ That’s our opportunity to tell them that there’s always someone with them—that Jesus is with them always.”
In 2007, Buckner’s Shoes for Orphan Souls program distributed 166,751 shoes. This year, 900 shoe drives already have been held, often sponsored by churches.
“Because we know that this works so well, we also encourage churches that raise shoes for us to keep some of the shoes they collect to use on their own evangelistic mission trips,” Garton noted.
Shoes for Orphan Souls also shares shoe collections with other Christian organizations, including Campus Crusade for Christ, Family Legacy, Convoy of Hope, Mercy Ships and Operation Care.