Do you remember the crisis at our border a few years ago when over 60,000 minors arrived at our Texas border? Shortly after that crisis, I stood in the office of Mr. Oscar Padilla, Vice President of External Affairs for Guatemala in Guatemala City. I remember his words as though they were said yesterday. He said “with all due respect, we are having trouble keeping our people here. North America serves as an economic magnet for our people.” He continued: “I’ve looked into the faces of mothers and fathers who said they would rather risk the lives of their sons and daughters, as young as 3 and 4 years of age, who they put on trains toward our border in the hopes that they make it, rather than watch them shot and killed on their front porches by gang and drug-related warfare or to live in a country with very little economic opportunity.”
Serving through Buckner over the last 10 years has afforded me the privilege of meeting desperate mothers and fathers from Peru, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. I have met people from these countries at our Texas border in the Rio Grande Valley.
From the Texas Borderlands like the Valley, people tend to migrate where the jobs are to places like San Antonio, up the I-35 corridor and end up in Houston or Dallas where jobs can be found.
The Buckner Vision
Vision for a better Texas is what captured the imagination of Dr. Robert Cooke Buckner, a pastor from Tennessee when he crossed the Texas border in 1859. A man was running for governor by the name of General Sam Houston. Texas was a new state plunged deep into the devastating U.S. Civil War. Buckner came to Texas to serve as pastor of First Baptist Church in Paris, Texas. He saw the impact the Civil War had on Texas. Many men who went to fight in the Civil War did not return. Children became orphans, and wives became widows.
Buckner was moved to compassion and then vision. His vision turned into a mission to serve orphans and widows, motivated by the writings of James, the half-brother of Jesus, who wrote “Pure religion that the father accepts is to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself undefiled from the world.”1
Over the past 139 years, Buckner has continued to serve orphans and widows in distress. Today, vulnerable children, orphans, and seniors remain at the core of what we do. While we were the first orphanage west of the Mississippi and the oldest children’s charity in Dallas, we have adapted our services to meet the needs of contemporary society. We have a major footprint across Texas and we serve orphans and families in six countries outside the U.S.A. primarily in the Western Hemisphere with an outlier in Kenya. The time has come for Buckner to expand in Houston. But Why Buckner? Why now? The answer is in next week’s blog.
1. James 1:27 NIV