Hope Shines Brightly in Guatemala - a post-COVID-19 international trip to Buckner Guatemala
Updated: Sep 7
The last time I traveled out of the country on behalf of Buckner International was January 2020 with a group of donors. We traveled to Guatemala to visit two Buckner Family Hope Centers™ and our foster care ministry there. The first international trip I have taken post-COVID-19 was last week, once again to Guatemala. This time, though, I had a group of Texas leaders with me to experience the ministry firsthand: Dr. Tony Celelli, President of Stark College and Seminary, Dr. Abe Jaquez, President of Baptist University of the Americas, Dr. Brian Hill, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Corpus Christi, Tamiko Jones, Executive Director of the Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas, and Dr. Irene Gallegos, Director, Hunger and Care Ministries, Center for Cultural Engagement for Texas Baptists accompanied me for a blockbuster week with Buckner staff.
Scott Collins, Senior Vice President of Communications, Russ Dilday, Vice President of Creative Services, and Tim Miller, Associate Director of Visual Media, traveled with me to capture stories, photos, and videos of Buckner ministries in Guatemala. Roberto Tejada, Executive Director of Buckner Guatemala, led his team to give the group a hands-on ministry experience. Rocio Lopez, Senior Director of International Operations and Strategic Initiatives, supervised the week of activities with immaculate planning and execution.
We visited the Buckner Family Hope Centers™ in San Jose Pinula and in Jocotenango. The families at San Jose Pinula were in a for a day of fun, games, and training sessions by a professional chef, a distribution of food, a shoe distribution, a distribution of school supplies, music and worship, and devotionals led by Tamiko and Irene. We had a worship experience and the Lord's presence was evident. I had the privilege of placing shoes on a little girl as part of our Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls® program. I will never forget the look on this child's face when I revealed a brand-new pair tennis shoes from her new school backpack, also part of the Shoes for Orphan Souls program for back-to-school supplies. Her eyes lit up and I could tell she was smiling, even behind her face mask. Among the flurry of activity for these first-time families experiencing hope through shoes, we conducted interviews and took pictures and videos. I had the privilege of sharing with families that our goal was to serve them and help them succeed.
On the way back from this event, we stopped by the humanitarian aid warehouse and saw the amazing organization and inventory of relief ready to help those in need. The next day I hosted 60 pastors from the Evangelical Alliance of Guatemala led by Pastor Cesar Ayala. The pastors were very engaged and interested in leading their churches to serve vulnerable children and families. The Evangelical Alliance made it possible for Buckner to ship humanitarian aid and food to needy families from the USA to Guatemala. Aixa Lopez, board member of the Christian Alliance for Orphans and the Alianza Cristiana de Huerfanos in Guatemala joined me for the breakfast as well. I also enjoyed a lunch with officers and pastors of the Convention of Guatemalan Baptist Churches to share information about the Baptist World Alliance and the many opportunities to connect in the coming years. That evening I managed to provide an interview on Azteca TV, which has also provided support for our ministry in Guatemala. Later than evening I enjoyed a fascinating dinner with Alex Lopez, an Executive Coach, and former Executive Pastor of Iglesia Confraternidad.
Our visit to the Buckner Family Hope Center™ in Jocotenango, near Antigua, was full of school-age children and their parents who were ready to receive shoes and school supplies. We served more than 200 children and enjoyed our time with them. Our team also interviewed several families who have participated in the Buckner Family Hope Center™ ministry. Valentina made a big impression on me. Valentina's mother told us what she learned improved parent-child communication skills to enhance her relationship with her daughter. Valentina now has a mom who supports her dream to become an engineer. I can tell you, firsthand, we are shining hope brightly into homes that need support, encouragement, coaching, and hope for a brighter future.
The ministry of Buckner never stopped during the pandemic even though there were hurdles to overcome, and it continues stronger than ever. Why? Because our families were already facing challenges before COVID-19. We were able to provide children and families support, and we can continue to provide the support they need to be healthy and thriving because of donors' generous support.