DALLAS—Nancy Horton and her daughter, Rachel Haas, walked around the Buckner International campus in Dallas. They came to see the place where so many children found a home in the early part of R.C. Buckner’s ministry.
A guide took them through the heritage center, showed them around the campus and ended in front of the log cabin in which Buckner was born. There, they listened as the guide explained how Buckner began his ministry to orphans in Dallas. Tears began to streak down Nancy and Rachel’s faces.
“At that moment I felt the power of the Holy Spirit in a single room,” Rachel said. “As we looked at each other with tear-filled eyes, I grabbed my mother’s hands, and I said, ‘It’s because of R.C. Buckner that we’re standing here today.’”
Rhonda Horton and her sister, Rachel, grew up listening to Nancy tell them about their great-grandmother, Rebecca Barker Trent, who grew up at Buckner Orphans Home. Rebecca and her siblings were orphaned after their parents were killed during a robbery.
“Even as small children, we always knew our great-grandmother was orphaned and that she was raised at Buckner,” Rhonda said. Because of that, “there was always a feeling of appreciation, love and thankfulness. Since I was a little girl, I knew about Buckner, and it always meant the world to me and my family.”
At the Buckner Orphans Home, Rebecca found a home, Nancy said, but more importantly, her faith was formed and molded by the ministry of R.C. Buckner and the caregivers at the home.
At the orphans home, Rebecca was trained as a telephone operator. Eventually, she married Henry Trent. They moved to Houston, where Henry operated a grocery store, and Rebecca cooked at a café in the same building.
The couple instilled the importance of faith in the lives of their children, which has impacted generations.
Nancy’s father became a pastor and was in involved in ministry 73 years. Even now at a senior retirement community in Houston, he continues to lead Bible study once a week.
Nancy also married a minister. For more than 40 years, she and her husband, Ron Horton, served in churches. Ron now has Parkinson’s disease and is in assisted living, but like Nancy’s father, he also teaches Bible study once a week.
Buckner played another significant role in the Horton family through Rhonda. She was working on her graduate degree, and she felt lost. Her classmates were looking for prestigious internships to help advance their careers. Rhonda felt pressured to do the same, but her heart wasn’t in it.
“When I thought about it, and talked about seeds that are being planted, I thought about my grandfather, who was a minister, who did all these things in Christ’s name,” she said. “My father is also a minister, and he’s gone out and done wonderful things in Christ’s love. I looked at myself and, … I asked, ‘What have I done in Christ’s name?’”
Rhonda cried out to God that night and felt compelled to open her Bible to James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
The verse reminded her of Buckner, and she remembered the ministry had summer programs for college students. That summer, Rhonda served through Buckner on a month-long mission trip to Russia, where she ministered to orphans. Her time in Russia healed her heart, she said.
“Through that experience, that’s one of the true times I’ve ever felt the Spirit in my life, and it was such a feeling,” Rhonda said. “I remember not wanting it to end. I would chase after this feeling every day of my life into eternity. That’s how wonderful it felt, and through that experience, it has given me hope.”
To the Horton family, the ministry of R.C. Buckner that started with Rebecca at the Orphans Home carried through to their entire family, and they count it as a beautiful legacy.
“The life of Dr. Buckner is a beautiful illustration of how God can do great things through one person with an obedient heart,” Rachel said. “As described by Jesus in the parable of the sower, the seeds of faith that Buckner planted in the heart of Rebecca produced a crop yielding many times what was sown.
“We are standing here today as living proof of how Buckner’s ministries bless lives, and we’re just one story.”
“And it’s not just about the past,” Rhonda added. “It was great that Buckner was there for my great-grandmother, but if Buckner had closed, what would my story be today? I’m one of those seeds that were planted generations and generations ago, and Buckner is giving opportunities for people who really need to experience God and have their hearts filled in a way they never thought would happen.”