Family is what we do at Buckner. We are all about building families, strengthening families, and celebrating families. Family is where we come from and represents who we are. David, the King of Israel, once wrote (Psalm 68:6): “God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing, but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” The basic truth is clear that those without a family are lonely. They are by themselves in the world. I cannot imagine a life without a family. The family is God’s design for where we belong, become, and blossom.
We work with vulnerable children, orphans, families, and seniors to move them toward healthy, Christ-centered family environments. We focus on Child Permanency and Family Preservation to serve children and families in difficult circumstances.
In my last blog about Family, I wrote about My Baptist Family. Buckner International is part of a larger family. I failed to mention that My Baptist Family reaches across the nation the globe through churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and the Baptist World Alliance. In reality, My Baptist Family is a global family.
In this blog I would like to focus more specifically on telling you about my Buckner family. The Buckner family can be traced back to England. The Buckner’s, a Baptist family, migrated to New England for a new life and participated in the War for Independence. They later migrated to the Southern part of the United States settling in Madisonville, Tennessee where Robert Cooke Buckner was born. His father was a pastor and at the age of 17 Robert Cooke Buckner began serving as pastor in Tennessee then moved to Albany, Kentucky to pastor the First Baptist Church. He met his future wife, Vienna, in that church and the couple moved to Paris, Texas to answer a call to serve as pastor. The day he crossed the Texas State line in 1859, a man was running for Governor by the name of General Sam Houston.
Dr. Buckner served the First Baptist Church of Paris for many years and also served as the President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas for 19 consecutive years. He started the first home for African American children, the first graduate school of theology for women, the first high school for African American students, and the Dallas Humane Society. He served in many denominational roles and started the first African American Baptist association of churches. He was a man ahead of his time. He was one of the founding board members of the Baylor Scott and White Healthcare System (originally named the Baptist Sanatorium) and he wrote the Texas Child Labor Laws. He dealt in real estate and started a newspaper called the Texas Baptist. He ran this venture and generated a profit. Each issue had a column written by Dr. Buckner with comments about the plight of orphans whose fathers went off to fight in the US Civil War but never returned. He also cared for widows who were struggling. He was captured by the vision of 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 zone of work for those of us at Buckner is distress. It’s messy, complex, complicated, not for the faint of heart, imperfect not perfect, and a long process to help to shape people into the person that God intended. So we shine lots of hope and we aspire toward our own excellence in our task realizing that progress does not come easy. We also move into our zone of distress with the belief that whatever God allows, he also redeems (as my former pastor, Dr. Jim Denison used to say).
Our Buckner family stretches all across Texas from Amarillo to Lubbock, Midland, San Angelo, Dallas, Longview, Lufkin, Conroe, Houston, Beaumont, Austin, and the Valley. We also serve children and families in Kenya, Peru, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic serving about 400,000 people each year. It is a big family. I am so proud to be a part of this ministry. Its where hope shines.